Because the masters national road racing championships were being held in Vancouver this year, it was a goal of mine to race this event. The course was held around the Pacific Spirit Park by UBC which featured a 10.5 km loop with 100m of climbing in each loop. The biggest climb (Camosun Hill) was 1.2 km long with 80m of elevation gain, about 6.5% average grade. The Master C’s (50-59) had to complete this loop 10 times…I knew the 80m climb was going to hurt as the race went on because this is probably where the attacks were going to happen.
Mick Bryson and I would be riding for the Victoria Wheelers.
Paul Taylor, Tony Wakelin (IRC) and Andrew Neale (Tripleshot) would also be lining up for this race as well so we all talked about racing together to give us the best chance for good results. We met before the race to come up with a strategy…we decided we would sit in to see how the race unfolded until around the 5th lap at which time we would assemble a pace line at the bottom of the Camosun Hill and roll through the group keeping the pace line strong going over the top to try to get away from the group. If we were successful, we’d continue with the rolling pace line to try to stay away, hoping the group couldn’t coordinate an effort to catch us.
We lined up with around 45 other riders for the start of our race. As I looked around, I noticed how fit all of the fifty year olds looked…it was going to be a tough race! The first 3 or 4 laps were pretty controlled except for Camosun Hill where the stronger hill climbers would push the pace and try to drop as many as they could. The five of us were able to stay with the front group as we hit the top of the climb. On the 5th lap we assembled our pace line mid group on the lower part of Camosun Hill and started drilling the pace line…as we approached the top of the climb we were at the front and we continued to roll through on the rolling section along Imperial Drive and up to the finish line (high point of the course). Unfortunately, a number of riders came with us and didn’t want to help with the pace line and we weren’t willing to work our butts off for them while they sat in, so the group of riders that were gapped were able to come back. As the laps went by, there were attacks on Camosun Hill and up to the finish line and then the riders in the front sat up again as everyone that was dropped caught back on. Mick and I tried a couple of times on 16th Ave (flat/downhill section before Marine Drive) to roll off the front to try to get away. The group gave us some leeway, but we were eventually swallowed up by the group the few times we tried.
There was a lot of attacks and counter attacks on 16th Ave & Marine Drive to get into position for the big attack on Camosun Hill on laps 8 and 9…Mick, Paul, Tony, Andrew and myself were able to stay in contact with the front group, which was now down to less than 20 riders. On the final lap the pace picked up substantially before Camosun Hill so I knew the last climb was going to be painful! I stayed with the front attacking group until the last kicker of the climb at which point they got away and there was about a 5 bike length gap at the top. Paul, Tony and Mick were further back and Andrew was right on my wheel. I dug deep over the top and was lucky there was slight lull in the group which allowed myself and Andrew to get back on before the rolling section of Imperial Drive about 1 km from the finish. We were down to about 12 riders now. As we were all sizing each other up and preparing for the sprint, I saw Mick and Uli Mayer powering past us on the left, part way down Imperial Drive (it was great to see Mick had pace lined back to the group). The group immediately latched onto their wheels as we swung onto 16th Ave and the sprint was on. I was in the back half of the group and just put my head down and sprinted up the hill as hard as I could. Unfortunately I got boxed in halfway up the hill and had to stop pedaling for split second which slowed my momentum. I kept fighting to the finish and nipped two riders at the line finishing in 9th. Mick had a great sprint, finishing in 6th and Andrew had even a better sprint, coming from the back of the group to take 5th. There was about 3 bike length between 1st and 10th place, so it was a close, exciting finish. Paul and Tony came in about 45 seconds down placing in the top 20. I think they were feeling the criterium race from the day before.
It was probably the hardest race of the year for me, but being able to race with the guys from Victoria that I ride with a lot and place in the top 10 at the Nationals in my first year of racing will be the highlight of the year for me.
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