“To whom speed means freedom of the soul. The question is not when they gonna stop, but who is gonna stop them.” – Audioslave
I was driving somewhere west of Barstow when the drugs kicked in. Oh no, wait, that’s another story. In this blogisode of my life on a bike, I’m gonna tell you a bit about a mountain bike racer at a road race. But first, before I do, I need to go shave my legs, wash my bike, iron my jersey, neatly pin my number(s) to said jersey and then I think I’m ready. Well sort of because for me it’s a whole new kind of lineup.
Since 2004 I’ve been racing MTB across western Canada and sometimes around the world. It’s fair to say it’s a pretty easy going culture and although I wouldn’t say it’s every man for himself, it is definitely a sport with a different level of mate-ship and support than many others. Simply put everyone is there to help each other for the most part given that we’re usually racing through gnarly, remote, bad-a$$ terrain.
In road racing, it’s a whole different story. Once you’ve got your stack and reach dialed in and chain cleaned to within an inch of its life – you’re off and running. Oh yes, and 3,500km of indoor training over the winter.
Contrecoeur was delayed from a few weeks back due to epic level nasty weather. I was disappointed at the time but in retrospect it was a good move – the roads are dry this weekend (if a bit lumpy) and the weather is clear (if a bit windy). It’s a short course (13km in a more or less rectangular configuration) and we do 6 laps for a total of 80-something km.
Anyway, I get there early after a quick detour up the road to Tim Horton’s for a bonus level bagel, and find a spot to park near the entrance to the event. I spend 20 minutes or so doing not very much, then get dressed slowly, keeping race face applied at all times J I take a little spin to pick-up my numbers and sign on.
I meet up with the rest of the gang – there’s 4 of us with Martin Swiss in the M2/H2 category. We take a quick inspection of the final corner before lining up. It’s pretty sketchy on the last corner – I think I utter the prophetic words “there will be blood here” and slowly roll up to the start.
We hang about a few minutes chatting, then it’s down to business. We depart just 3 minutes after the M1 group. From the start it’s basically full gas, something I’m used to from MTB racing, what I’m not used to is being surrounded by 140 other racers inches from me on all sides. Not gonna lie – for the first couple of laps it was a pretty unnerving experience. However once I realized to look up the road a couple of bike lengths and see what’s going on there I relaxed and settled in.
The pace is ferocious – we’re pushing 50km/hr on many sections, and the road is pretty narrow, enough so that there really aren’t any good lanes to come up on either side. So once you’re in position you need to muscle your way hard to get ahead. There’s also a lot of braking, over-accelerating, braking again. Which is a total waste of energy.
On the corners fair enough, but it gets pretty annoying on the straights. I take a peek up the road on the start of the 4th lap and to my surprise end up on third wheel. It’s eerily quiet up front, and there is a funny feeling that tells me, behind you are a shitload of riders all hell bent on devouring your position!
I experiment with the inside lane and the outside lane but I can’t find my way back up once I’ve slid back. I can see that I’m 4-5 lengths back from the front, but it’s pretty much impossible to get ahead. I select the outside lane for the final turn to the final sprint, feeling confident in my legs and confident that I can muscle my way ahead once the hard hammer drops.
Then a bomb went off. Before I knew it there were riders literally flying all around me, guys flying into the ditch – it was totally surreal. I have to brake, turn, brake – all of this happened instinctively – I’ve no idea how I managed not to get wasted in the carnage. Still, I’ve pretty much stopped at this point, and the sprint is happening already up the road.
I gas hard to get back in touch, but to no avail. Finished with the 2nd group 17 seconds back.
We take some time after and discuss the race, it’s definitely got the energy waaaay up! I’ll say this for road racing – the huge bunch for this long is very exhilarating. Looking forward to hitting the open road for some longer routes. I think that when the pack starts breaking up will be a whole new experience. So far so good – will be fun to take it back to high speed again real soon – 43 km/hr was pretty tidy for 80 kms!