Ontario Road Race Finale (in June?!)

Ontario Road Race Finale (in June?!)

The Lead Up

That’s my tire up top. I found this Saturday night around 9:30PM. Not exactly appropriate to race 100km on. Truthfully, these tires are over a year old and owe me nothing. They managed the full season last year and (apparently) almost the full road season this year. I probably caused this particular issue when pulling into a coffee stop Friday afternoon. Whoops.

However, no one I know even runs 23mm tires on their race bikes anymore. My S5 has such a tight tolerance on the rear wheel that this is the largest tire I can run on my race wheels. Thankfully, Brad had a Conti GP4000 sitting around in his junk bin. Just in case, I still swapped out to my aluminum wheels (+500g) and made the call that I would change them out at the venue.

I hit the road at 9AM, registration opened at 11AM and staging was at 1PM. It was a 90 minute drive to the venue but road closures and parking were questionable. One year I had to park about 2km away from registration, marching the whole family with chairs, bike and kit overland to the registration center. While I was solo this year, I still wanted something a bit closer and I scored a spot about a block from registration with Brad grabbing a spot nearby. The tire was in great condition and I swapped it all over. Grabbed our numbers and chatted strategy with Dan Doddy from Tower who was nearby.

The Course

The Kitchener Waterloo Classic has taken a few different forms over the year. This year was a repeat of the 2017 version of the course, which I really liked. There are a bunch of rolling hills and one kicker. Wind was an issue this year, with 30kph winds - gusting up to 50kph - out of the NNW.

The Race

The KW Classic was set to be the biggest road race on the calendar. Weather was finally on our side and there were 65 riders in Masters Cat 1. All the big teams were well represented, including Real Deal, Faction, Tower, TechyKids, Sound Solutions and Ascent. We had four of a possible five (Dean was busy enjoying BC), with the right mix of horsepower to be effective in this race.

We kit up and grab a quick warm up, getting ready to stage at 1PM. Returning to the start line at 12:55, we find out that the next set of categories (E1/2 and M1) are postponed for at least 10 minutes pending the completion of the prior races. It seems that the wind is taking a toll on the groups. It’s rare that times are adjusted in such a fashion. On the plus side, one of the guys from St. Thomas who raced earlier in the day had brought his camping trailer. We rolled down to his front row camping spot along Broadway to watch the finishes of the M2/E3 races.

Finally, we get the go-ahead to stage and we get set behind the E1/2 field. A 4 minute gap was originally prescribed, they extended that to 5 minutes based on the conditions. This wasn’t enough of a gap as the race played out anyways. Tough to have these two groups on the road at the same time.

We roll out and through the downhill we pick up quite a bit of speed. Rolling through easily, I float near the last third of the field. As we turn into the wind the pace drops to under 30kph. There appears to be a wedding starting in the church on a small climb as guests are parking their cars on the shoulder and making the field nervous coming through this area. We narrow and drop even more speed. I make a mental note of this one as I get shuffled position wise. We head to the kicker, the primary feature on this course and yet again, we slow to a pedestrian pace. Repeat this pattern for the next few laps.


Yawn fest as we head up the hill. Yes, I pinned my number on backwards. Oops. Credit to Lauren Daniells for all the pictures (this and all following)

Yawn fest as we head up the hill. Yes, I pinned my number on backwards. Oops. Credit to Lauren Daniells for all the pictures (this and all following)

Off Goes Doddy

At some point, Dan Doddy takes off from the group and brings his main rival from Ascent, Sean Boileau with him. Sean is eventually dropped, like just about everyone else who has attempted to hold Dan’s wheel and returns to the field. No one else attempts to make much of a move until Demrtre Kalkounis (WoB), Mike Patty (Faciton) and Alan Kriss (Ascent) form a small group off the front.

The field continues to let them dangle. In fact, some really silly things start happening that dissuade any chase.

  1. We get close to the E1/2 field, as they also have a breakaway up the road and their pace has slowed down.

  2. The other big teams (Real Deal, Techy Kids, Sound Solutions) while strong in numbers offer no ambition to organize chase and bring back the 4 people now out front.

  3. On the fast downhill section, I spot Justin Rogers (2018 RR Champ, Real Deal) trying to superman and leaving a huge gap between groups. This happens on at least two laps. Marginal gains here for a less than three hour one day race. I don’t get it.

  4. We continue to have a pedestrian pace on uphills as the group of three hits them at a nice tempo

I don’t feel like racing for 25th in a sprint finish today. Even if I’m able to lead out teammates it’s going to be ugly getting them through the hills and Marty/Russ look like they are hurting. Brad is at the front doing a lot of work but he is marked and ultimately losing interest with Dan already long gone. Maybe I can shake things up.

Bridge Attempt

The trio is too far up the road but I can’t see exactly who is in the break. Knowing that Steve McKee is still in the pack, I’m pretty sure it is Demetre out there, along with someone from Faction and Ascent. As we near the wedding venue, I move towards the front to see if Brad has any info. Having ridden through the winter with Demetre on Zwift, I know he has the long staying power required to make that break stick but who else is with him? Brad, unfortunately has no idea.

I decide to give it a go and attack right before the wedding area. I see a Faction and Ascent jersey jump my wheel. My hopes to get across are diminished as neither of these guys are going to actually work but I was going to make them try. As I buried myself to get across to the trio up the road I also tried negotiating with my only remaining companion (the Ascent rider, Myers from Faction didn’t stick around). He didn’t see my reasoning that two Ascent guys in a five man break would be beneficial to his odds.

As we were getting close to the lead group I figure I might as well try to drop this Ascent guy and get across on my own. I get up to attack and hear from behind me: “Heeeeeey! Wait up babe, Daddy’s coming!” I was too tired to laugh, but it was Brad coming across solo. We put in a few pulls each driving through the start/finish banner and into the downhill section but it looks like the field was starting to get organized with seven guys up the road and the thoughts of a podium vanishing. By the time we hit the small climb towards Three Bridges Road we were caught.

The frustration level in the group was high though, with Chris Pollett and Justin Rogers getting into it about who needs to be doing work. Unsurprisingly, the pace slows up as soon as we are gobbled up and they are back to a field sprint outlook for 5th place.

Bridge Attempt Again

The wedding seems to be over by now (or maybe the bride/groom didn’t show up and everyone left?) but there is no longer the bottleneck on Hawkesville Road. We still climb in a very slow and controlled manner. I see our sprinters are starting to suffer up the hills and it isn’t looking good. I roll to the front after the short climb through the wedding area along side Brad who has taken up a position as 4th wheel or so. I look up the road at the three guys still dangling out there.

“Do you want to bridge?” I ask. Brad shrugs his indifference but I really need to get out of the field if I’m going to make any difference in this race. It’s flat and we are just about to leave the shelter of the wood lot on the north side, which is keeping the crosswind to a minimum. There’s a turn up there that I know the field will definitely be slower at. I give it a shot.

Breakaway/Chase

Two minutes later we’ve put a split in the field and latched on to the three up the road. Brad and I have, unfortunately, brought with us a Faction guy, Gervais from Tower, Boileau from Ascent and Dorel Pop who was second place in Master B at provincials. With Doddy up the road still, Gervais is sitting in to make sure we don’t take the win from Dan. Otherwise we work somewhat well together, pulling free from the rest of the field and getting a minute gap. With good representation there is no need for any of the remaining teams except for Real Deal to work. They don’t and eventually Steve McKee crosses the gap solo, we are now a group of 10.

The nine man break!

The nine man break!

Finale

As we fly through the Start/Finish banner I glance down and see we are now 90km+ into the race. I guess this is the last lap, I say to myself. I begin considering finishing scenarios. With Brad still in the group, we have a great chance at second place. He can probably drop enough watts to outsprint all of these guys. I’ll be able to pull him into the last 100m then let him do his magic!

We come around to Hawkesville Hill for the last time and McKee is visibility irritated at folks not pulling their weight. “Just a little bit more work guys and we are there!” he shouts. Gaps are starting to form and wheels are getting lost. I ask Demetre to work and close a gap, he ignores me. I pull in to make sure we stay together.

Ascent attacks up the kicker. I’m 6th wheel back and I have to go into the gutter to chase. I’m about 4 meters back as the leader goes over the top. I tuck and pedal hard on the downhill to close the gap, Boileau flies past me on the outside, we head into the second last corner as McKee pulls around me and one of the Faction guys gets into position. I look back to check on Brad and… he’s gone. Well crap. There goes my plan, time to improvise. I latch onto the back of this train, fifth wheel going into the final corner.

Boileau jumps hard, not what I was expecting, but I have only seen him in action at Provincials where he followed Doddy. McKee follows and the other Ascent guy sits up. “I guess I have to sprint now,” I think as we get within 200m of the finish. McKee sits up, I hesitate, is it over? Is everyone else scattered? Then I hear the Faction guy coming hard on the right side - I push for the line, but it’s too little too late. He crosses just ahead of me. I settle for 5th, but what’s the difference, we’re off the podium either way.

5th! or is it?

5th! or is it?

As I stop by to congratulate Dan on yet another breakaway solo finish, I learn he may be disqualified. Apparently, you can’t catch and sit in on the E1/2 field. Per the Commissaires, he was warned multiple times but continued to take advantage of the situation. I wasn’t there, so I can’t comment on the official series of events. However, it was obvious that if Dan wanted to stay away he would have done so even if there wasn’t some E1/2 guys up the road.

So, in reality, I was sprinting for the podium and just missed out by a hair. That hurts.

Lessons Learned

Two major lessons learned in this race:

  1. You can recover well in a long road race. I only got 5-6 minutes off between being in the break and going again. It was enough time to get the MPA back up and make a serious bridging attempt, more or less the move that settled the contenders for the race. I’m happy about that, I can have a bit more confidence in being aggressive and not getting dropped.

  2. Always be prepared to sprint for the finish.

    1. (#2 Part A) Even if it is a spot off the podium, you never know what can happen afterwards. Give it your all and close the deal.

    2. (#2 Part B) Always have a back up plan in the event your initial strategy doesn’t work out. Brad hammered it to get back to the front but missed it by a few seconds. Had I been more ready with a Plan B, I may have been mentally prepared to get into that sprint finish and secure a podium. Both Steve McKee and Ray Lee (Faction) were beatable, but they were both committed where I was not until it was too late.

I won’t have another chance at a long road race until next year though it seems. The OCA has wrapped up the road season and will not focus on criteriums. That’s unfortunate for me but we will see how it all plays out.

Three Races in Five Days

Three Races in Five Days