Last night I got back from Burlington Ontario, host to the 2011 Canadian National Road Championships. This year would be my first time taking the start with the big guns, since I’m no longer a junior I now have to duke it out against the likes of Rollin, Veilleux, Meier, Tuft, etc. etc.
We had arrived in Toronto at the start of last week, and spent the first few days doing course recon, getting things organized for the weekend, and lots of driving (I coudn’t take the commuting in a big city)! After a lot of prep, Thursday was finally time for the first event. The individual TT was a 43km race, consisting of 2 laps of a tough course. It was tough to put a finger on what made this course so challenging – sure it had a small climb near the start, fairly strong winds, and mostly rolling terrain, but there wasn’t one section that was really key…nothing super difficult. I guess it was more just the combination of everything. The small climb got the lactic acid building in your legs, and then there was just nowhere to recover. It was the type of course where you could lose major chunks of time if you really blew up.
For me, everything was going great on the day of the event. My legs were great, brain was focused, and everything seemed to fall into place perfectly. After a good warmup it was time to roll down to the start line to get things underway. I was one of the earliest starters, so would have a long wait to see the final results. One plus, however, was that my minute man was a good friend of mine – Simon Lambert Lemay of Spidertech and there’s always a little extra motivation to catch a friend of yours.
My main concern was the distance of the race – the longest TT I had done prior to this was 27kms, so pacing this one properly would be key. In the end I played it perfectly, with both lap times nearly identical. Being only the 3rd starter I was able to set the fastest time and was sitting in the lead for a good while. However, as some of the other fast guys finished up I would bump back every now and then. When all was said and done I was the 6th U23 and 14th out of all the elites. I’m not going to lie, I was hoping for a podium but I am really pleased with my ride and can’t be too disappointed with the result either. I have a lot of confidence going into the future.
After the Friday as a recovery day, Saturday featured the big show of the weekend. Nearly 200 guys, 180kms of racing over a 13km lap with a monster climb up to the finish. On top of that, the start wasn’t until 4 in the afternoon, just to add the posibility of darkness to the epicness of this race. The start line was so incredibly crouded you could barely breathe…it was clear the first few laps would be very dangerous until the pack got whittled down a bit.
With 15 Spidertech riders on the line, it was their race to control. They certainly did that with their big white and blue train hammering the front. By lap one there had already been a huge selection, and every lap from there on splits were opening up left and right. The climb was way tougher than I expected, but my legs were really good. I made one mistake early on and it was a very costly one. The first few laps I was climbing near the front each time and not wasting much energy. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case on the lap where it counted though…I started the climb a bit too far back and tried to work my way up from there. I was passing lots of guys, but looking up I could see a group of about 20 guys separating from the rest. These 20 guys were not just anyone either, it was just about everyone who had a shot at winning the day. I killed myself to get across the gap when it was small, but it wasn’t happening…they took off as if they had an extra gear. Although the elite race was certainly gone at this point, and so was the U23 title, there were still many places in the top 10 for us U23s, and also a possible selection to the World Championships team.
With that in mind our group continued to race hard. We tried everything to distance ourselves from the others, and possibly catch anyone who would be dropped from the leaders. Each lap probably got slower, but also harder as our once fresh legs became heavier and heavier. It truly was an exhausting race and despite many attempts to get away, the riders who didn’t drop out from our group all pretty much came in together. It was only the final climb that would decide the finishing order. When the results came back I was 12th for the U23s. Again, some disappointment, but I knew I could also be proud that I finished. I think only about 20% of the starters actually made it to the line. I’m still replaying things in my mind so next time I can make that split, I guess you learn things everytime you race but it’s tough when you’re so close, just missing that extra little kick to get across.
In any case, for a 1st year U23 I think things went well. I know I can be up there with the best in the country, and as I become one of the older riders in my category I know the results will come. For now, it’s time for a short break to recharge the batteries. I’m home for a relaxing week and then head back over to France at the start of next week. Not sure when the 2nd half of the year looks like, but I’m sure there will be many great races to come! Thanks for tuning in!