31 May, 2011

TO Crit Race Report

Sunday was the Toronto Criterium in the St. Lawrence Market. This race has a long history and was once quite prestigious taking place at a prime evening time drawing large crowds, offering big prizes and attracting many pros. This year was much more low key, essentially like any other Ontario regional level race.

The course is a 4-corner block with Front Street and the Esplanade running parallel at slightly different elevations making for a fast downhill corner 2 from Scott St onto the Esplanade and a small rise between corners 3 and 4 on Market St. Corners 2 and 4 are just greater than 90° and proved to be the most important. I probably clipped a pedal in corner 4 about three times during the race, but never more than enough to cause the rear wheel to skip just slightly.

The race started pretty fast from the gun, though my poor warmup do to a trainer malfunction may have influenced my perception of this. It was not bad though and within a few laps I was sitting comfortably in the front half of the group. We were combined not only with the Juniors as usual, but also the Master 2 Men and Elite Women. With some strong crit racers among the M2s, there were a few wheels I knew I should follow in addition to those in Senior 3 I had to watch.

The race was largely uneventful with no moves going clear for any distance. I put a couple digs in on the front to help string things out when I felt like it, and never felt in any real difficulty. At about the halfway mark a prime was announced and I stuck to my plan of not going for it, but trying to go with any counter attacks that followed or to bridge to a break if one formed. Edgars Apse of the Darkhorse Flyers soloed away for the prime and immediately after the line a Senior 3 rider (David Grose, Bikesports) attacked and I was quick to follow hoping we could bridge to Edgars and get a rotation going. Ideally a couple M2s would have followed but that was not the case. We reached Edgars on the backside of the course but nobody was keen to get the move going. I pulled through and gestured for someone to come around next time down the start/finish, but they had sat up and we quickly reintegrated into the bunch.

Nothing much happened for the remainder of the race until 3 to go when Etzl and Zottl attacked and went clear (and eventually went on to win). Because the move only contained Juniors the majority of the field was happy to let them go and set up for the bunch sprint. On the backside one of the Juniors from a rival team was begging me to come around, but there was no way I was chasing down a couple of Juniors nevermind a fellow SCCC rider.

I came through corner 3 on the bell lap in a great position but mistakingly took a fairly central line through the last corner. I got up to sprint but quickly found myself boxed in behind 2 M2s and a Junior with 150 m to go, watching Scott (Lapdogs) ride up the right to take 3rd in Senior 3 while I sat down and cruised in for 4th. I am really annoyed at myself for poor line choice leaving me nowhere to open up the sprint, but this was the first real crit I had done in a couple years and I still have much to learn. Next time I will know better!

Mostly I was reminded how much I like crit racing and while different, how it offers many of the same stimuli as cross. Now I can't wait for the last few crits on the calendar, and then CROSS SEASON.

23 May, 2011

2011 Spring recap!

One advantage of not updating my blog in a long time is I get to post about months of racing and training at once, masking my laziness as simply trying to be concise.

Since the last update there has been a full spring of racing starting with the Tour of Pelham which served as a nice warmup and test of the equipment for the big show of Ontario spring "classics", Paris to Ancaster.

Both races went pretty well for me. I surprised myself with 12th at the ToP just falling short of making the group of 8th through 11th with some local strongmen. Paris-Ancaster was a big focus for me and I wanted to see just how much I could improve from prior performances. The top 10-15 are a very elite group, and I knew I would fall short of this but hoped to make the second or third group on course by the major selection which always happens after the turn off the rail trail about 20 minutes into the race. I did this, falling a bit short of the group I had hoped to make but working with Preston Wagler for much of the middle part of the race until we were caught by a fast moving group with some familiar faces. We worked with them to make good time on the last rail trail before the mudslides and hills begin at the end. I made it through the first mudslide cleaner than some, not as clean as others and found myself riding with a Niagara local, Alex Schmidt riding for team Liberty! Bicycles this year. We hit the last few hills at a good pace and I figure I was on track for a nice top 30 finish or very close when I heard some hissing from my front tire and saw a nice spray of sealant coming out. I stopped to let the sealant do its work and luckily it did, allowing me to ride the final climb with enough air, sprinting Stephane at the end and losing. Were it a road race he probably would have been called out for not holding his line but at that point I can't blame him - everyone is wrecked when they finish this race whether they are Mike Garrigan winning for a second year in a row or a cyclo-tourist completing the event for the first time. It is a tough race, which is why I like it so much.

Between these two events I also kicked off my road season at the Tour of Bronte, a nice half dirt road half paved race without much elevation change. I hoped to do some damage here after a decent race but poor result the year prior, and followed some early moves in the first lap but nothing was opening up. At some point Rob Bruce and one of the M3s got clear but were not chased with any great urgency. I guess none of us expected Rob to solo away for 50km, but this is exactly what he did! We controlled the gap in the middle laps and almost had it under 30s, but it was really just the Team London guys and myself doing any real pulls so eventually the gap went back out and we were left sprinting for second. Geoff Power of Team London took this decisively with a nice leadout from his teammate, and I managed to grab the 5th S3 place. I'll take it!

Since then I've raced the next three Road O-Cups on the circuit: Springbank, Bike the Bruce and Nith River. Springbank was good if not a very chaotic race - pouring rain the entire time and with standing water on the fast back side of the course it was bound to be. The racing was fast from the start and I held my position in the middle of the group but wasn't really moving up. A few laps in there was a crash (on the UPHILL turn?) and I came quickly to a stop behind it, thinking I'd avoided any damage until someone slammed into the back of me (really?). Being a crit, despite nobody calling it one as such, free laps were given for mishaps so I cruised up to the tech zone and waited with a few Juniors including local Matt Hopkins to jump in as the pack came by. There was no break when the crash happened, but I guess it kind of split the pack because when we rejoined it was a pretty small group until some of the stronger guys from the main pack bridged up. Things were going well with this group and I prepared for a bunch sprint, until Tim jumped with about 700m left to go and before anyone expected it. Impressively, he held a gap of 4 seconds at the line over the rest of us - kudos Tim for doing it once again! We sprinted it out for second, which was taken decisively by Christian Jug over a fast charging Geoff Power and Russell Van Every, and I managed to pull out another 5th.

The next few races have started to go downhill as the training has been pretty steady and I haven't felt too fresh. Nothing I'm too concerned with, but it can be frustrating at times. Bike the Bruce was going well until a break finally stuck and I wasn't in it. On that course there was no way I was going to be able to bridge up to them, and I had spent too much to do anything in the finale. I positioned myself well avoiding a crash on the twisty run-in at the end, turning the final corner in a great position. I jumped to go with the train, but my legs were simply not there for the sprint, so I got out of the way and sat up as the rest sprinted it out. The Nith River RR yesterday was a continuation of this theme, with a different plot. I had a good first 2 laps, during which the weather went from sunny to rain so heavy it was impossible to see more than a wheel in front of you. A bit uncomfortable when the pack would jam the pace on the hills, I was hanging in and positioned well when the day's move went. I jumped to get on Tim's wheel and made it across the small gap that had started to open. All the right faces were there - the perfect combination to form a winning break, with a course and weather that made it likely to succeed. I thought it was all coming together, but once again my legs did not answer the call, this time spitting me out the back so fast I didn't even catch on to the pack as they went by. I gave the nod to Steve in the commissaire's car as he went by that I was done, and rode out the lap. Oh well, there is always another race!

That brings us up to date and with the Ontario calendar being laid out the way it is we're well over half way through the season. Likely just a couple more races on the road for me, maybe a mtb race or two and then we're into Provincials. I'll be making the trip to Ottawa for TT Provincials to see how I stack up, and the Provincial RR is a possibility as well. It is being held on the familiar Bamberg loop outside of Waterloo - my old training grounds.

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