Saturday, July 23, 2011

Provincial Road Race

It's the eve of the Ontario provincial road race and I am relaxing at home, almost time to eat dinner and getting mentally prepared for the race tomorrow. It's my A race this year and I think I can pull off a top 5 finish, but going over the tactic is critically important as I'll be flying solo tomorrow. More on that later though--

It's been a few weeks since my last post, I've been incredibly busy at work as I'm shooting for an August 15th Thesis submission and my experimental probe keeps self-destructing. Since the Nationals, I continued to train hard, but didn't do any races with the exception of 2 editions of the Mardis Cyclistes, missing the July 5th edition with work getting in the way, but as it turned out, there was a bit of rain minutes before the start which turned the road into a bit of an ice rink. I was upset to miss it but when I heard of the crashes I was able to feel slightly better to avoid that kind of danger.

On the June 28th race however I was feeling really good and with my new goal of getting at least one point in the series in mind, was doing a good job of staying at the front for the bulk of the race. Finally on the 5th Prime I wound it up as I thought it would be the easiest way to take some points, as the major players would be saving some energy for the final sprint. As it turned out I won the prime from the pack, which I was ecstatic about, thinking I had won a prime, but a break of 3 formed up the road so I was 4th, but still! I got 7 points! Then I established a new goal of getting some points in the final sprint. In my experience so far, it's not entirely about your strength as a sprinter, but about positioning yourself in the right place at the right moment. Mardis is still a pretty small race and having full teams of strong domestiques to keep the pace high is not the case. When there are no guys dedicated to driving the front, the tendency of the pack is to slow down at the front (guys get to the front and don't want to bury themselves) so some movement from the back will come around. There is a bit of circular flow!

As a solo rider at Lachine, I don't have the luxury of a leadout train (nor do I think I would deserve one at this point) so I need to be a bit sneaky. Sticking on the wheels of the big sprinters is usually a good tactic, or paying attention to the breakaway artists and jumping with them can also work. I was hoping to employ this at the next race.

On the July 12 edition, after conquering the Vermont Six Gaps I tried just that. After an initial break went away with Veilleux once more, I tried to watch for guys making a move for the breakaway. I got on the wheel of a rider from Garneau as he attacked and we worked together with another from GTH to try to bridge up to the Veilleux group. Not more than a lap had passed when I found myself completely in the red zone and decided to head back to the Peleton instead of gassing myself completely. As it turned out, shortly thereafter a group of 8 formed and took advantage on the pack. This meant a stalemate against the top 2 in the series GC, J-F Laroche of Cycle Regis and Martin Gilbert of Spidertech which Laroche seemed happy with and Gilbert had no teammates to argue with. This meant for me that the race was mostly over with all of the points up the road. I regret not trying to stick it out with the break, even though they did get caught, because even if I blew a gasket the end result would be the same.

Tomorrow will be a big challenge with 4 big teams, JetFuel (6), Garneau (6), Ride with Rendall (5), Kallisto (4) and one guy from Spidertech. In my opinion, none of the teams are far superior to others, so unlike the case in Quebec where Garneau needs to be happy with the composition of the break for it to work, I think the teams will be able to neutralize each other if they're not represented up the road. Ryan Roth of Spidertech is also incredibly strong, so I think he'll just wait until a break seems to stick and then bridge up.

I'm not really sure how it's going to play out but I know what wheels I need to follow and I'll hope for the best.

Wish me Luck!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Nationals Report

I came across an article on one of my favourite cycling blogs, The Inner Ring, about how the weekend of National Championships in cycling is the strangest day of racing all year. I found myself nodding my head and even though I was prepared for a thorough beating on Saturday, reflecting on why the race was the way it was made me feel just slightly better about my result this past weekend.

If you have checked out the results from the race, you will see that I along with nearly 75% of the rest of the field DNF'd at the Canadian National Championship, primarily as a result of Team Spidertech throwing down all day coupled with one of the most selective courses the championship has seen in years. It wasn't just the climb at Rattlesnake that made the course selective, but the false flat at the top, and the long stretches of flat roads in the crosswind. Once you got separated from the charging peleton it was game over, and so went the story for me.

I was dropped in the climb, partly due to some guys falling over in front of me when the pack bunched up at the bottom, but mostly due to a lack of HTFU and not looking quite enough like this guy. All jokes aside, I am disappointed I didn't get very long to ride with the big boys, but I am hoping this is going to fuel my fire to train well going into the Ontario Provincial Championship and Cyclocross season.

Retiring from the race early did have it's benefits though, I didn't have to eat any Gels which are pretty gross but a necessity, and I got to watch most of the race while enjoying free espressos from the guys at La Bicicletta, which was excellent. It played out more or less how I imagined it would. There were a few short lived breaks, and eventually one (that Spidertech was happy with) stuck for the rest of the day. Spidertech had 3 guys in the break (Kevin Lacombe, Zach Bell and Will Routley) with one other, Rob Britton from Bissell. The guys could work together and in the end, Spidertech could continually attack Britton until he ran out of gas and could definitely take the win. It turned out to be an even better day for Spidertech when Britton showed signs of weakness and was dropped from the break group, which had already dropped Lacombe, who I would say is most of the time considered a sprinter, and did well to stay away with the break on that course. Tuft was on form and managed to TT up to the break in the mean time, keeping the odds in favour of Spidertech, but ultimately resulting in a podium sweep. At this point I was really praying for an epic victory salute, such as this one:

But in the end we got a much more subdued salute, as the young guns gave old man Tuft a gift he has been wanting for many years now. Nice riding guys, see you next year.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

National Championships Primer

At this time last week I wasn't sure if I would be able to race at the national championship in Burlington this coming weekend. One of the probes in the lab broke and I needed to really do a lot of work this week to recover from that to have any hope of finishing my thesis by August 15th. I went home with Nic T anyway to celebrate the wedding of my cousin and my Dad's 60th birthday but had to return Sunday and spend the week at work. My coach David Jack gave me some training to do to get ready for the Nationals whether or not I would be able to do them.

I was not able to compete in the TT (which was today) due to work obligations but will be lining up beside the best in Canada on Saturday for the road race. The course is in Burlington on Applebee line, turn right on 14 Sideroad, right on Bell School ln and back to Applebee by Britannia road. Those familiar with the area will know that this stretch of Applebee road contains a nasty climb just after Derry rd known to all cyclists as "Rattlesnake". The road climbs 100m elevation over 2km of road with some sustained sections above 10% gradient. What this means in the race is, a high probability of pain and suffering for all.

In road racing, it isn't all that hard to ride in a group with others that are stronger than you on a flat road, because drafting behind someone at high speed allows you to save a lot of energy compared to the guys riding on the front. This is not the case on a hill where everyone needs to overcome their own gravity, and on such a steep hill the speed is very slow, and hiding from the wind really doesn't do much to help you in this instance. I predict that this hill will blow the race to shreds and only the strongest will survive, because the strong guys will know they can make a difference here. After getting dropped on the big climb in Charlevoix, I am not sure I am going to be one of those guys, but it's my first time at the Nationals and I am going to see if I can surprise myself.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lachine and Whiteface

June 7th marked the first race of this year's edition of the Mardis Cyclistes which takes place on 8 Tuesday nights at LaSalle park in Lachine on the island of Montreal. Mardis is the fastest crit in Canada typically averaging about 50km/h for the 50km distance of the elite men's race. June 7th was a special occasion not only because of it being the first race of the year, but some racers from the Coupes des Nations U23 were to be in attendance, and hopefully making the race even harder than usual. Additionally, the race organization announced that the prize money would be increased by $500 every week until the course record of 58m 52s was beaten.

My objective was to simply do better than last year, as I often found myself dangling dangerously off the back for portions of the race and wanted to improve in terms of positioning and pack skills. I wasn't sure how I would be in the fitness aspect because I had not done too many short intervals up to this point in the year, but it would be a wait and see approach.

I got a good start position in the 2nd row and got clipped into my pedal quickly enough that I was in the top 20 guys at the start. For a short while I was able to be at the front and even took a pull at one point, but as soon as the first prime came around I got swarmed like nobody's business and found myself more than halfway down in the pack. I had trouble moving up in the pack also, partly lacking strength and also not knowing where the best places to make up ground were, and it turned out more or less the same way as last year. I got stuck behind a crash and took a free lap which allowed me to get back in the group in a slightly better position, and at that time I really noticed how much easier the race is in the front... until the next prime came up and I got swarmed again! I finished in the pack but I learned a bit.

GP Pont Rouge was cancelled so I decided to go to Whiteface with Nic T. The skies looked ominous and on the drive down we were talking about the strategy for the race. Nic was going to try for the early break since he was feeling good, I wasn't sure with such a long race in the hills (142km, 8000ft climbing) that I wanted to be out front for too long, so I thought I would try to go with maybe 50km remaining. As it turned out, the early break was the right choice as a small group made it away, later to be joined by the strong men of the race (Oz, DSJ, Houle and Fillion) making a break of 10, and I was left holding the bag in the peleton. We dropped a significant portion of the peleton on the big climb, which was a reasonably steep climb followed by long false flat, each time we went around but lacked the organization and firepower to make up any ground on the break. I made numerous attempts to attack the peleton, which was more like the grupetto at this point once it set in that the break was gone, but they weren't having any of that and wanted everyone to suffer the same fate. After a number of failed attacks I just chilled out and practiced eating and drinking enough to stay strong for the whole race, one of my big challenges in long races! For some reason I didn't show up on the results but I came in 34th after blowing through the turn at the bottom of the climb when the marshalls failed to indicate the direction of the turn!

Lachine #2 went forward with the objective of maintaining a good position in the pack for the entire race, hoping to be in the top 30 guys the whole time. This more or less worked by being more aggressive, hugging the curb and not letting guys by and generally paying attention to the movements of the group. Whenever I noticed I was drifting back I made some big efforts to move forward on a few spots I found were good for it. About half way through the race I realized I was holding good position so I established a new, ambitious goal! To get, ONE point! To do this I tried to sprint in the final prime, 5 laps before the end of the race. The positioning wasn't great going into the sprint but I would guess I came through 20th, so I think it's within the realm of possibility to get a point sometime later this summer. In the final sprint I got swarmed like crazy and rolled in 37th behind my friends Nic T and Jon VK.

Next race will either be Lachine #3 or Nationals, depending what time I can take off work

Friday, June 10, 2011

GP Charlevoix

Last weekend was GP Charlevoix. Initially I had reservations on heading out to this race because it was going to be expensive and I couldn't find any information regarding the parcours other than it was really hilly, the toughest race in Quebec, and generally things that made me not want to waste my money getting dropped in the first 20km. I have some new confidence in myself this year after some good racing in Collegiate A and back in Quebec at St-Raymond, and when I learned that McGill Cycling Team was going to support a small group to go I decided why not, at least I would get to do a TT against the guys of Quebec, and the Crit would hopefully be fun. Maybe it would end up being a 4 hour solo training ride on Sunday but only one way to find out-- give it a try.

After making it through Quebec city on the way to the race, we passed by all the landmarks we visited back on our Grade 7 trip to Quebec City including Chute Montmorency and the church at Ste-Anne de Beaupre. Shortly after Beaupre the hills really started kicking up and we all started to feel a bit nervous of the race that would await us on Sunday. The TT promised to be flat and the Crit as well, but Sunday would be a real test. We went to town to sign in, got some groceries and went to our chalet to eat and sleep.

Saturday morning we started off with the 16 km Contre-La-Montre. Ruth was first to start with the Elite women and she came in 2:51 back for 17th. Drew and Jeroen came in just before my start coming 25th and 22nd respectively. I had some doubts in my mind on how it would go. I started directly behind Pierrick Naud, I was told he was pretty fast so I would try to keep him in sight for pacing myself. It was really fast heading out with a slight tailwind and I felt like I kept it around 50, but at the turnaround it was a different story with a headwind dropping my speed to mid 30s. Ultimately I came in 22:07, 34th. I am really happy with this because for one, I did not have the full aero equipment and position which I think would have helped a little, and also it was my first TT in Quebec.

I got some lunch in Downtown Baie-St-Paul and watched the Women's race before taking a little nap before my race. I made the mistake of not pinning my second number on my skinsuit before the crit and only realized this at the last minute so I had to go back to the car and ended up starting at the back of the pack. It was a really hard race just to stay on starting from the back as it was very technical, 2 of the corners you had to slow down completely so I just suffered like crazy and couldn't move up at all. I finished in the back of the pack

Sunday arrived and we didn't have a whole lot of time to sleep since my crit was at 7:30 the evening before, and we were to race at 9am in the morning. We made it with a little time to spare and the pack was huge combining Sr 1,2,3 and Juniors all together. The pace was pretty comfortable in the start rolling around 40 and a small break got away very early. Garneau was represented and they were happy to go to the front of the peleton and keep the pace down. I had a thought of trying to bridge up however it was only maybe 10km into the race that they went and I had no idea what the parcours looked like so I decided to sit in the pack and save some energy. It was up and down all day with only a few minor incidents. The pack slowed suddenly at the bottom of this rolling hill and some people fell over onto me. I kept it upright but stopped briefly and managed to catch back up to the pack before the end of the climb. I heard one other crash go on behind me but didn't see it happen, and I did a little wheel rubbing with one guy who decided to swerve suddenly, but nothing at all disasterous.

I kept asking how many climbs were left and not really getting any good answers I just tried to stay calm. Jon VK said the big climb was at 70km and we did one short but steep climb around that time, so I figured that wasn't really it, though we did manage to split a few people off at that point. Finally we got to this major downhill which I realized meant the climb should be coming soon. I got up to the front on the descent but everyone was in a panic as we were down by the river and I found myself almost at the rear. I need to work on positioning! It hit the fan when the road went up and I saw some groups riding away from me, but I made it up to what seemed to be the second group at that time. At the top we had about 8 guys but when the road flattened out nobody seemed to know how to work together, or everyone was just tired out and we never made it back. I worked a little too hard with that group and got myself dropped from it when they went hard on one of the later hills and just rode in at a pretty relaxed pace. I came in about 8:30 behind the leaders and in the overall finished 34th (Same as my CLM placing). Here is a link to my Garmin file from the Road Race.

I would have of course liked to stay with the leaders but it went well for the most part shows me I still need to do a lot of training on the hills and more high intensity work.

This took much longer to write than I expected. The initial title was "Getting up to Date" but that will have to wait until after the weekend. I have the first edition of Mardis Lachine under my belt and I'm heading to Whiteface this weekend for an 85 mile race in the mountains.

Bonne Chance!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


It's been over a year since I started this blog with only one post, never having looked at it again in between, but I am going to try to get this thing up and running!

I upgraded to Senior 2 this year and the racing has been a big challenge. The level is of course much higher, and the talent goes much deeper into the field, especially in Quebec where a number of strong teams have a big presence at all of the races. Garneau has been dominant this year with Spidertech ineligible to participate as a full team in the FQSC circuit, but the likes of CIBC-Jean Coutu, GTH and Gaspesien have been keeping them honest to make sure they don't completely walk away with the race.

Being in 2 I have felt pretty outgunned compared to the more experienced guys so I have been trying to get in the breaks if the teams are well represented and it might succeed. Without a lot of guidance on the coaching front thus far, I feel like I am lacking any race winning strengths so I have tried to race smart and take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.

After some pack fill finishes in Collegiate A, this worked out for me by getting in the winning break at RPI. Unfortunately for me the break was intent on going pretty quick on the climbs and I got separated, riding alone for 2 laps-- It was a very hard ride mentally and physically! 2 riders chased and past me but I brought it home ahead of the peleton finishing 9th.

All was going well as my early season goals included the Tour of the Battenkill (Cat 2), Paris Ancaster and the Hell of the North but the wheels came off when I contracted Strep Throat three days before B-kill, and got a flat in the first 500m of P-A. With P-A and HOTN straddling one week including the Easter holiday, it wasn't too hard to take the time off my Thesis and do some work outside of the lab while I was home. It was nice to ride with the old crew in St Catharines and spend some time with my Family. P-A was a lot of fun despite this as I was feeling very strong and I was able to work my way through the field finishing 90th overall. At the Hell of the North, Colin was kind enough to let me crash with him at his folks place in Newmarket and it all came together. I made the split at "The Trench" and was with a group of 11 for the vast majority of the race. Erik Box made us all suffer on the rail trail working hard to catch Chown and Oz but to no avail. I didn't drink enough throughout the day and about 5km to go cramped my leg trying to jump over a fallen tree and just rode it in hoping nobody else would catch me. I finished 12th which was a bit short of the ambitious goal for top 10 amongst a talented pool of guys. Had I drank a little more, I hope it would have gone better.

After Hell of the North I returned to Quebec to learn about new levels of suffering in the Quebec 1-2 field.

At GP Brossard, I was barely hanging on for my life after staying out too late the night before, and the generally punishing pace set by the boys in pink.

St-Raymond was fantastic as I shared a cabin with some guys from Rockland MD and the forecast of Thunderstorms held off until we were off the road somehow. Day 1 was pretty short for a 1-2 race at 90km so the pace was incredible. I made the mistake of thinking I could use the neutral start to warm up, however it was a bloc from the gun which I suffered from as a result. Day 2 was much better after a few failed attacks, Garneau got 2 guys up the road with a big enough gap that the peleton became apathetic. I got in a chase group of 6 including some guys from Gaspesien and H&R Block with 70km remaining. This move unfortunately fell apart completely when 2 more Garneaus and 1 Spidertech came FLYING by and panic overcame us. I fell off and returned to the peleton, and watched all the others from that move do the same shortly after.

Grupetto Grupetto Grupetto!

I still need to write some reports for Criterium McGill and Charlevoix, which I will do on the next one. Tonight is the first Mardis Cyclistes of 2011. It's going to be big because some guys are here for Coupes des Nations and Tour de Beauce, it should be exciting!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Beginning is Easy - Continuing Hard

New Blog!

I decided to start a blog to keep old friends up to date on what is going on in my life, since I have moved away from many of them, and to keep track of my exploits on 2 wheels.

This is kind of a work in progress at the moment, but the blog is likely to include:
  • Race Reports
  • Ride Reports
  • Gear Reports
  • Cooking Expeditions
  • Music
  • Engineering and School
  • Occasional Rants (Hopefully not too many)
Stay Tuned