This years Canadian National Road Race Championships was raced on the same course as in 2013, as well as the first stage of this year’s Tour de Beauce. It is 187km long, starting with a 30km series of short steep climbs out of Saint Georges on terrible roads to circuit where we complete 8 laps before riding the 30km back towards Saint Georges for the finish. There is a steep 1km climb on the circuit followed by a rolling road before descending to a long flat exposed road that takes us back to the start of the climb.
We left for Saint Georges the Monday before the race, driving to Bryan and DMs’ house up in Rideau lakes. We spent the evening there, going for a short ride and a long swim, and an early night after getting everything packed for the trip the following morning. The next morning we left at 6am, and made it nearly all the way to the end of the driveway before a tree that had fallen in the night blocked our path. Bryan called a neighbor, but in the mean time Peter, Braydon and I attempted to cut through the tree with a few dull axes and (briefly) a hack saw. Half an hour later we had made it nearly 75% of the way through the trunk, and the neighbor turned up with a chainsaw and had us moving again in the space of 5 minutes.
As we made our way toward the 401, it was now getting on 8am, and everyone was getting pretty hungry. We had spent a good 15 minutes discussing our fantasy breakfast, when we passed a church, and noticed a sign indicating that it was their monthly church breakfast, that morning! We pulled in, and we had a great breakfast of pankcakes with real maple syrup, eggs, bacon and toast. Satiated, we continued the drive to Saint Georges.
We arrived at the farmhouse where we would spend the week at 6pm in the rain.
Saturday finally arrived, and with good weather, and only a little bit of wind. Knowing how important the first hour of the race was I did a long warm up with some efforts to make sure I was ready to go from the gun. In the neutral section I moved myself into the first 15 riders, and stayed there all the way out to the circuit. The break went away about 10km into the race, a group of 3, with Adam de Vos bridging shortly after. Optum, Silber, H&R and Smartstop were all represented, so the pack let them go pretty easily. Far from the usual hour of chaos that starts most national championships the pace relaxed after 20 minutes and was easy all the way to the circuits. I was happy to have made it past the minefield of potholes and broken roads, and was feeling pretty good at this point. The roads had taken some casualties however; both Chris and Braydon were involved in a crash that would take Braydon out of the race.
The first time up the climb on the circuits that changed, the World Tour guys started hitting it, the gap had gone out to about 4 minutes. This would continue for the first 5 laps. The pack split several times, I was in the right side each time. A small group went across around the 5th lap, which included another Optum and Silber, so that was also allowed to go, and the pace let up again. After 2 easy laps, where the breaks gap remained constant, indicating that they were tired, Ben Perry attacked the last time over the circuit climb to kick things off again. At this point Kevin lost contact, and Chris had flatted several laps earlier, leaving me as the sole Jet Fuel rider in the group. A group with Zack Bell was allowed to go, and the bunch eased up again briefly, before turning off the circuit and onto the longest climb of the race. Christian Meier went to the front and just rode. Ben Perry, Ryan Roth and Ryan Anderson were the only riders who were able to hold the wheel. A small group of us chased behind, for a bit, but everyone was too tired, and the last group that would make contact with the leaders had gone. A few riders attacked in the final 10km, but the group was largely together and sprinted in the last 500m. I finished 25th, with our group about 5 minutes back, and Kevin rode home alone a ways back. It had been a hard race, and I wasn’t disappointed with the finish, but couldn’t help but feel as though I had been too conservative, and should have risked blowing up on or after the climb leaving the circuit to get across to the break.
After the race we went to the hospital for Chris to try and get a better picture of how badly injured he was. We left again after an hour of waiting, as more badly injured riders had been waiting since the crash several hours earlier without seeing anyone. We had dinner, packed the van and went to bed. Only Kevin would be racing the crit the following day. In the morning I made French toast for everyone and we drove out. Now 2 weeks at home before I fly to Belgium to try my hand at euro racing for the first time!