Spring Series Round 3 - Armstrong Road

Armstrong Road is a short road of about 3km in North Langley. About half of that is smooth, good pavement, the other half is rough and bumpy. Over the first 2km or so, it raises 80m in 3 stairstep pitches. 12%, 10% and the last, on the bumpy pavement is something like 8%. This feature utterly dominates the Armstrong Road Spring Series race.

Not being someone who handles sustained climbs very well, I expected this race to be over fairly quickly. The last truly hilly races I had done, admittedly a couple of years ago, the Ottawa Grand Prix in Gatineau Park generally ended up with me being shot off the back on the first major ascent. I saw no reason why this race would be any different.

The race starts at the top of the course. A straight downhill gets the speeds up nice and  high. A sharp right hand bend into a further downhill. This next stretch is great fun as the road lazily winds down the hill. Bottom of the hill is a hard right, then onto the flats for a couple of kilometers for a few turns. After River Road, you take a turn to the right and head up the hill. The first pitch is the steepest and it tops out with a long false flat. Then it kicks up again. The second false flat is short and is noted by the road surface going from great to horrible. One more climb and then the finish line.

I started out at the front intending to remain in the top ten or so places as long as possible. Going into a climb at the front means you do get a bit of a chance to drift back and use a touch less energy. I hit the hill in about 8th place and to my surprise stayed there. A couple of attacks went off and various people ramped up the pace to bring them back but nothing doing.

I could have been done after that first climb. My heart rate was in to the mid 180's for most of it, which is well into the not sustainable level for me. If the remainder of the climbs were this fast, it was just a matter of time.

A couple of laps later, a couple of guys rode a fairly serious tempo up the hill. I basically hung on for all I was worth to a chase group and we all came in contact again on the final uphill before the finish line. I was sitting in about 10th place, looked behind me and saw nobody. Great, I was in a break on a climber's course. This was going to end well.

Due, I think, to some poor rotations and some serious effort on the part of the remainder of the race, the pack made contact again about 5km later at the base of the climb again. I made it to the top in the main pack again, but at this point, 4/7 climbs through the race, I could tell that I was getting into trouble.

I was shelled on the second pitch of lap 5. The lights went out and I lost 50m in probably a minute. What remained of the pack slowed over on the bumpy roads, and I closed most of the gap, but I never actually got back on. I very, very seriously debated climbing off the bike there, but decided I'd at least ride to the corner where I parked, which was about 800m past the finish line and flat/downhill.

"Well, I only have to go up that hill two more times, there are some other dropped guys ahead of me to maybe ride with and I can totally bomb down this descent with guys flagging me through corners. Yeah. I'm going to finish this race."

So I did. Rode hard on the flats, survived up the hill and bombed the descent. It was awesome.

Placed probably around 20th, based on the size of the peloton that went up the road. 40 starters so that's pretty good. Considering I spent some time in a break and was riding at the front until said lights went out, I'm pretty happy with the whole thing.