May 9, 2017 at 9:01 am #3726
Alright, it’s been a few weeks since P2A, I know. But I think we all needed some time to decompress and ensure we weren’t suffering from PTSD after a spectacularly cold and windy edition of Paris to Ancaster.
The days before revolved around folks coming by the shop and asking me two questions: “What tires are you running?” and “What are you going to wear?” Both excellent questions, really. I had no idea what I was going to wear until we got to the race and I attempted a few warm-ups. It was definitely a “pack the entire cycling wardrobe in my race bag and decide on the spot” kind of day.
With that in mind, I went to bed the night before fretting my fate the next morning. I awoke around 5:30 to the sound of substantial rain outside my window. “Oh great. It’s here” I thought. What I didn’t realize until checking the radar was that the rain had come early, and that we actually might NOT get rained on! In the planned three-degree weather! With the 50km/h headwind! Yay!
Several of us who carpooled together got to the start area in time to get great parking. I rode my bike around to make sure everything was working alright, then huddled in the truck trying to stay warm, and made up my clothing-oriented mind: thermal bibs, leg warmers, Icebreaker socks, SS wool base layer, LS wool base layer, arm warmers, jersey, neck buff, and neoprene gloves. Quite a lineup. Mike and I found good spots in the third (or so) row (Thanks Mike!) in time for the callups to happen.
BANG the weird historic starting-rifle goes off, and we are away! I hadn’t thought much about my starting position, and apparently my CX-racing instincts kicked in, because from three or four rows back, I found myself third wheel going into the first right-hander. “This is alright!” I thought, as we stormed up the road.
In the potholed frenzy, I remember thinking I had spun out my cassette, as we were doing around 50km/h. I soon realized that I wasn’t out of gears – my chain had come off on the outside of my chainring. *aside* I’ve had four bikes with 1X systems. Never once have I dropped a chain. Ever. Until P2A 2017.
I watched in horror as ~200 cyclists swarmed around me and past me. I was a sitting duck in the middle of the road, and couldn’t simply pull off without being barrelled into by someone else, also doing 50km/h. I tried my best to be patient, get off to the side, and get my chain back on. I did, and noticed when I started to pedal that I hadn’t done it properly and that there was a huge kink in the chain. “Welp”, I whispered to myself, “That was a good 2017 P2A”. As the last of the VIP riders passes me, I started to walk back to the start line.
“It’s got to be another 700m until I’m back there; maybe I should just try to ride the bike”, I think. So, I hop on and shift up the cassette. It’s “working” – not really staying in most gears, but at least I can pedal. I turn around, and think “I will catch *someone* as long as my chain stays together”. As I make the second right-hander on to the rail trail, I begin to pass the VIP riders who do the 70km for fun. A few minutes later and I’m catching stragglers who couldn’t handle the fast pace of the start.
It feels like I’m continuously barking “ON YOUR LEFT” to riders as I stormed up the grass sides of the railtrail. There was no time for politely navigating my way through the double-track. I had nothing left to lose, and went into full-on Monster Truck James Mode. Approaching the right-hander up onto the farmer’s field, I had caught the very back of what I could tell was the Elite wave. I recognized some riders that would be in and around the top 100. Everyone was yelling, “I’m going to ride it [the loose uphill to the field]!”. I figured it would get sorted out, and it did. Those who had just yelled parted for me while dismounting their bikes to run; I rode right up the middle.
OK, next section. I am seeing more riders I know now, and still trying to get a sense of where I am in the standings. I reckon around 60th at this point. I catch Aaron (Prieur), who notices me and tries his best to get a group together. Five minutes later, I see them, about 40 riders strong, all clumped across the entire road. I knew this was the front of the race, and that I had truly made it back on after the chain fiasco. We cross Brant Rd and head across the ditch and into the first real singletrack. When we come out, the leaders are gone. I settled in with a group of 10-12, and we get to work. I was with the same core 6-7 riders from there on out: Stu Alp (SRCC), Igor Dragoslavic (Pedal Harder), Patrick Kings (Sound Solutions), Todd Fairhead (Tekne), and Rebecca Fahringer, the eventual Women’s Overall winner. Others came and went, notables being a JamFund rider, Mike Garrigan after flatting, Leah Kirchmann, and Aaron Schooler, two of which I never thought I would “beat” in a race.
The core 6 (or so) of us worked like true teammates. Communication was on point. We rotated and echeloned like I’ve never seen. We even took turns being the one at the back resting while the other five rotated. In technical sections I would sometimes gap them, but it was useless to go it on my own, and we would all wait to re-group before rotating again. It was some of the best group work I’ve ever seen in a race, and I was very, very proud of us. In the end they all ended up beating me, but hey, I had started my race with a 20min ITT to catch the group. 32nd is what I would settle for after a day of very hectic racing.
Some cool notes and numbers:
– When I turned around to try and chase the group down, they had 1:30 on me (according to Strava Flybys).
– I averaged 374W for 10 minutes while chasing down the group, and averaged 365W over the entire first 30 minutes of the race, at which point I caught the lead group. That’s very close to FTP for me. Talk about burning matches early.
– When I dropped my chain, I also dropped my only water bottle. That means the whole race was done on nothing but maple syrup and a bottle of grossly-sweet Honeymaxx. I didn’t bonk, but DAMN was I thirsty.
– The weather was nuts, but it was still an incredible race. THANK YOU to everyone who makes it possible both in general, and for me. The support I get from both Speed River Bicycle and from club members (from driving me there and back, to pats on the back) do not go unnoticed. Thank you all for being so supportive.
And thanks for reading! That was a long one, so feel free to give your side of the race story below!
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