This race was fabulous. Absolutely fantastic. 7,000 people, with the likes of Bob Roll and Alex Steida. They had the entire Lions Gate Bridge closed down and as we went over in the opening moments of the race... the sun rose. It was beautiful! The energy of the event proved just how big cycling is here in Southwestern British Columbia post-Olympics so I am stoked to experience the day after missing the energy of the Olympics with University.
The Giro field was not as deep as last year's race: three professional riders in a 75 man field compared to the 300 rider peloton seen in the inaugeral 2010 event. Sebastian joined me to represent Exergy (rocking quick legs after crushing the Tour of Colorado) & Nic Hamilton of Jelly Belly; Nic rode very well at both of the Tour of Utah and Colorado despite severe crashes, he also split Will Routley (Spidertech) and Sebastian (Exergy) at the historical Tour de White Rock hill climb earlier this summer, so he is a solid all rounder and a strong climber!
There was also a large stack of local riders who have been training for the race since early July, many of the local amateur teams started with solid teams of +5 riders so with team tactics coming into play, it would be a challenging day. Plus...there was of course a slew of international starters to fill the 100 rider peloton whom I have never heard of so some massive crank breakers could have shown up unbeknownst to me! We'd have to wait and find out!
The early move went early, after only five minutes of racing on the first climb of the day (total of 7000 feet of climbing on the schedule). The 2 minute opening punch up Taylor Way (9-12% grade) selected 2 H&R Block, 2 Trek Red Truck, 1 Glotman Simpson & 1 Team Exergy with Sebastian. A very good sneaky slip by the riders. I was covering Nic Hamilton in the peloton and felt good about having Sebastian up the road. The plan for the day included 1 chance for Sebastian to attack on one of the major climbs to try his hand, if unsuccessful, then he would help me bring it to a sprint finish (this would work well in a traditional tailwind ride); however this breakaway changed the plans and later in the day, a headwind picked up!
Along the upper levels highway (exiting Vancouver and approaching the Sea-to-Sea inlet highway), the break hovered 20-40 seconds up the road for the next 20 minutes. Once out on the coast line, the scenery was absolutely beautiful. By far one of the most beautiful races I have ever done. Hopefully in 10 years we can have our own Tour of Colorado-level race here in Southwestern British Columbia.
At this point some bridge attempts started so I my day started early in protecting the breakaway's advantage..."was it still 40 seconds? I can't see the break due to the twisting nature of the highway".
As we carved our way along the highway and up the inlet towards Squamish, I could see a group. We were catching them! Well I guess I now get ready for counterattacks. But once the gap fell to 15 seconds, I realized that it was in fact the women's field! AH! WHAT IS THE REAL GAP! 4 minutes? 2 minutes? 30 seconds?
I soon found out that the gap was 2.24 to five riders (apparently 1 had faded already), a nice gap that essentially didn't kill the race but also made the stress level fall a bit. At this point the riders settled in for accelerations on the main climbs and gap quickly rose to +4 minutes, essentially sealing the race for the breakaway unless there were some major strong guys hiding back in the peloton. It'll all come out in the wash though once we hit the climbs.
There were 3 major climbs on the schedule (3.5 minutes @ 9%, quickly followed by a 6 minute climb at 8%; then at half distance, a 10 minute @ 3% grade followed by two 3 minute bursts @ 8-10% (totaling a 20 minute climb). There were many more climbs of longer duration and easier grade but these three sections made up the most decisive tactical areas of the course.
On the first climb, the peloton caught the 1 rider dropped from the break and I could tell my climbing legs had indeed come around in the last four weeks. Staying close to the front in 4th wheel.
On the second climb I was again feeling marvelous despite some asthma tightness from the first climb (only five minutes rest).
At this point, unknown to the peloton and I, Sebastian flatted. The headwind (exact opposite of traditional wind) really started to blow at this time as well. The breakaway used Sebastian's flat to make his legs tired and upped the pace. So despite a quick change, Sebastian had to fight hard for 30 minutes to make up the ground. He caught the breakaway in the early sections of the third climb (out of Squamish, a false flat 3% grade into a block headwind) and then made a selection on the steepest sections of the climb, dropping the breakaway to 3 riders, 2 off the back.
Once the peloton reached this point, the gap was still +5 minutes so if anyone was going to go it was going to be now because 40km, over 1 hour & 3,000 feet of climbing remained into a block headwind. Nic surged again, taking two riders and myself clear over the summit of Brohm hill. Although mom woke up early and drove all the way down to hand out a musette bag at the Tantalus Lookout, we were going over 50km/hr so I couldn't get any water. Perhaps we can get that 2nd feed zone positioned in a different spot for next year's event. Nevertheless, the cool temperatures made the trip comfortable on only two bottles so it worked out.
With one more notable climb (10 minutes at 5-10%) Nic drove the pace and tried 1 attack, but ultimately our small chase group proved unsuccessful (3 of the 4 riders were already represented in the leading break). Hovering 30 seconds behind, the small 20 rider peloton re-connected with our chase @ 20km to go. This left 4 Trek Red Truck riders in the peloton, Louis Garneau 3, HR 1, Exergy 1, Jelly Belly 1 plus 20 other strong riders looking to escape. Coming into the final kilometres, multiple solo moves tried their hand.
At this point I was told there was a group of 3 with 2 riders popped, but they were still 4 minutes clear so the race for the money was over ($6000 available for Top 3 places). We caught 1 rider at 2km to go and in the sprint, despite riding in 3rd wheel around the final corner at 250 metres to go, my legs went square and I hobbled over the line somewhere around 10-12th. But I did a perfect job in the race so I was not disappointed about my sprint; I thought I raced exceptionally well considering my travel and racing earlier in the week.
I was super stoked to have a good day of climbing on the bike and racing in my home town was a great way to finish up the season.
Off to Interbike next week for a short trip....then its back to enjoy the last few days of this Indian Summer before I launch my new spin classes at Whistler's premier gym facility, the Whistler Core.
Stay tuned and thanks for reading!
Labels: Road Report