In what was likely my last real ride before heading out to Vancouver, I, for the first time, cracked, popped, blew up, reached deep into the suitcase of courage and found there was nothing left. Feel free to add your own favourite Phil Liggettism, but you get the point. An interesting experience, to be sure.
The event was the Ottawa Bicycle Club's annual Paris-Roubaix This Is a Cyclo-Sportif, Not A Race Race. (Race map here) In a possibly poor pre-race plan, I elected to do a 110km ride on Saturday, the afternoon before, and while it wasn't a hard ride, it was long and probably depleted some reserves. Considering how I'm spending the next few months, I saw mileage over the weekend as the better option.
In any case, I went into the race a bit tired, but feeling pretty good. I know I'm in better shape than I have been at this time of the year before, albeit a few pounds heavier, which hasn't been a real concern yet. My main goal was to stick with the main pack until getting shelled, then just do a nice, comfortable TT for the rest of the day. Things don't always work as they are planned.
As I'm not a serious racer, I stayed in the middle of the main field, such as it was, through the neutralized start and up the first hill. I was aiming to be right near the end of the group of fast people and sit in for a while. I misjudged. At about the 5 or 6km mark, there was a crash and suddenly the main group was pulling a bit ahead and I was one of the leaders of the chase. I spent much of the next several km trying to catch the field again, occasionally working with other dropped riders, or people coming up behind. Unfortunately, I never made contact again. After 15 or 20 minutes of chasing, my heart rate monitor was showing 96%, with 2ish hours to go, I figured that this kind of effort wasn't sustainable and backed off. It's time trial time!
Sometime shortly thereafter, I was picked up by a largish group of 15-20 riders and stuck with them until just before the aptly named Middleville. For the previous climbs, I had worked my way to 2-4 place in the group, then drifted back over the climbs but stayed in contact. In the final climb up into Middleville, the last steep section, I just popped. Before I knew it, the group was 50m in front of me and that was all she wrote.
For the rest of the ride, I went very, very slowly up the hills and decently on the flats and downhills. Still, while the final results aren't up yet, I believe I was about 5 minutes faster than last year, so I have no real complaints.
And now my racing is done until August, realistically, until September when the 'cross season starts again!