Recently, I lined up for the Master A National Championship Road Race, which took place in Lac Megantic, Quebec. On the start line with me, were teammates Greg Boileau, Gerald Chen, and Jason Valenti. 80 Riders rolled out of town to take on the 121km course, involving several steep climbs and some strong wind. The course involved riding out of town to a 14km circuit, which the riders tackled three times, and then the hilly return to town against a strong wind. On the way out of town, the pace was high, as riders tried to make an early move. The high pace saw several riders drop off the pack early on as the hilly parcours and high speed took its toll. As the pack went onto the circuit, a break had been established, and it spent most of the 3 laps with a gap that hovered around 1min.
Each time up the main climb, I was forced to ride my own pace, and found myself fighting to chase back on. Greg provided some assistance dropping back to pace me onto the bunch, having found myself gapped by a group of riders whose legs had had enough. Later on, I tried to repay the favour with some salt pills as Greg's legs started to feel some cramping creeping into the legs.
Exiting the circuit was a severe climb on rough roads, and it was time to really dig deep. It was here where Greg and I found ourselves yo-yo-ing off the back of the bunch, where he'd be on the tail end and I'd be gapped, or I'd be hanging on to the bunch, and he'd be gapped. Seven minutes later, most of which was spent at around a heart rate of 180 bpm, I was still holding on to the pack, while unfortunately I had become the only Nine2Five left in the group, Greg finally succombing to cramps and the sickness he had been dealing with leading up to the race.
With my survival strategy having worked out, I rolled into town still in the bunch, and ready to make the one move I had been waiting and hoping to make. A breakaway that got away on the return leg to town was dangling in front of the bunch, destined to be gobbled up. But when the pack hesitated with 1.5k to go, I knew that was my chance. Down the left hand side I accelerated, and one glance back told me two things: I had a gap....and a passenger....Another rider had followed my attack.
With so little road left before the finish, there was no time for games. I went full throttle, up to the break, and accelerated by them going down the main drag of Lac Megantic. A left, a right, and a U-turn into the final straightaway, and I had managed to be the first out of the final corner. Time to sprint.
I shifted down to the big gears, perhaps a bit premature, and started hammering for the finish. With 200m to go, my passenger that had followed my attack started his sprint, his finishing kick propelling him by me, while I crossed the line frustrated to have made the winning move, but not come home with the win....More fuel in the fire for next year....
All in all, a solid day on the bike, and a result earned mainly through sheer will power and suffering.
Check out the finishing sequence thanks to the fine photographic skills of Brian McFadzen: