Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Racing and pacing

Long race to end a long week. It was supposed to be the flat race of the weekend, but the hill was a far more selective than anything else on the prior day's race. I suffered through, but Nick was our man of the day, getting in a key move and finishing in the break, sprinting for 6th.

Ever since we moved to Saint-Sauveur, I think at least one of us has been into our LBS, Espresso Sports. Bunch of solid dudes working there - Seb's a wizard on the drive-train, and today, Ben lent his scooter to us for some motor-pacing. It's great motivation to try to stay on the wheel while hitting it on the highway, but more importantly, there's great training effect from being in a big gear at speed just like in a race.

Go Canucks!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ottawa and Gatineau

Ottawa turned on the charm for our trip this weekend - flowers blooming, trees emerald green, and the Ottawa River full of cool rapids. Paul and Betsy were amazing hosts, even putting is up at Paul's brother's for our unexpected extended stay. Thanks Andrew!

A little over 2 hours to drive out on Thursday night, and we arrived for the TT with about, oh, 30 seconds to spare...I call that excellent time management! The course is amazing, flat, and FAST! It may be just a midweek race, but the locals lay down killer times (the winner nearly averaged 50kmh!), and didn't even leave room for me on the podium.

Today was the GP Outaouais road race in Gatineau, across the river from Ottawa. Crazy hot and humid, so I was even more salt-encrusted than usual! No major hills to make a selection. The team missed the early break, and since we were only three-strong today we decided getting on the front to reel them in wasn't in our best interest, so we kept attacking to try to bridge, but the peleton would always chase us down. Eventually the break was brought back, although another got away with a couple of laps to go. In the field sprint our leadout broke down in the mayhem - Nick used his pack ninja skills to stay well positioned and get 10th overall, I came 18th and Matt 35th.

The fun continues tomorrow with GP Hudson.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pain face

Pain face: because I like to give people a window to my suffering :)

Antoine Bécotte's Facebook photo album of GP St Raymond, stage 1

Antoine Bécotte's Facebook photo album of GP St Raymond, stage 2

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bikes! and Saint Raymond race report

Our bikes arrived! Put them together and went for a sweet ride on my sweet new ride. This is Lac-Des-Seize-Iles, one of maybe six lakes we passed on quiet rolling road.

The next day the team rolled out for our first Quebec race together. Two road races in St Raymond, up toward Quebec City (Jessica and Simon, very close to Pont Rouge! Did a light ride there on Friday).

First race was relatively short, several laps around a lake, with little rollers and a couple of punchy climbs. While the centre line was in effect, the race was rolling like there wasn't one. Made it quite easy to move in the peleton and not be boxed in when covering attacks. I was a bit concerned someone was going to get smoked by an oncoming car, but it wasn't much more dangerous than the cars parked on the right. Anyway, a break was a short way up the road, about half way through the race, when suddenly the race was brought to a halt. They wanted to tell us that we had to observe the yellow line! They stopped the break, and the peleton when they got there, and we stayed for 10-15 minutes so every last straggler caught back on. With 30km to go! It was pretty weird.

So of course when we started again, it was full gas to the end. We hadn't scoped out the finish, which was a little ways off the lake circuit, so when we made the turn off the circuit, I hoped it was close. Unfortunately, not close enough, and I exploded like a stick of dynamite in a beaver dam. 3 of us in the top 30, out of 84...not real threats, but hopefully if we can dial in the team leadout, we can get someone into the top 5 in similar circumstances in the future.

Brad and Nick powering up a hill
Photo courtesy Antoine Bécotte

Day two was a longer race, 130km. This was raced more like the road racing I'm used to: a little slower, with hard attacks. Only, the attacking was relentless. Garneau had 14! guys in the race, and mostly used their strength for evil, getting on the wheel of every single attack. Eventually Team H&R BLOCK started running out of bullets and missing more attacks. By half-way through the race, a break of 6 or 8 was off the front. Teammate Brad got on the front, and once the other three of us joined him, we set a solid pace, with the help of Rocky Mountain, started reeling them in.

Eventually we got pretty gassed and pulled off for a bit - in hindsight, this was our downfall...we had the gap down to 20 seconds, but by the time we got back to the front, the gap had blown out to nearly two minutes. I bridged up to a chase group just up the road, and rolled with them for a while, but was on the rivet most of the time and was popped on a hill when we were joined by fresh legs. Lesson for the future: don't be so close to my limit in a paceline...sit out a rotation and weather the verbal storm from my break-away-mates.

Once I was caught, Nick was able to get in a break that stuck, coming in in the third group. What was left of the peleton, with the rest of H&R, rolled in without any energy to contest the field sprint, but still top 30. Really good to have this valuable experience as a team - I'm sure it will be utilized very soon!

Did a little photo-snapping on the drive home, in this here hotbed of Catholocism.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Getting settled

This year has seemed somewhat like a regression from a productive and financially independent member of society to a starving bum. A generally happy bum though, as opposed to one sitting on the street corner yelling obscenities at his genitals. The first week of Montreal followed this trend, as I slept on Patrick and Cricri's couch, then moved to McGill University residences.

I find it more enjoyable to treat tough weeks as mental training: two hour roller/trainer ride in the dorm? No problem. Pouring rain while circumnavigating Iles des Montreal, soaked to the bone? Get 'er done. Finishing said ride via downtown in rush-hour as the down-pour continues? Crit-like acceptance of fear.

Nick and I headed up north of Montreal to check out some hillier terrain, and found a cool four-bedroom house in the ski town of Saint-Sauveur-des-Mont. The area is a cycling paradise. Matt and Brad joined us there last Friday before I did a solo run east of Montreal to GP Granby, a 19km TT.

Ugh, the TT...not a shining moment in my cycling year. I found it hard to get into the world-of-pain headspace and chugged out a mediocre time for 21st out of 38. Garneau-Club Chaussures look to be the dominant force in the area, taking 1st and 2nd and 7 of the top 12. I'm told the flat course is a good example of most of the road race routes.

Right after the TT, I headed to Toronto. Unfortuantely Sunday's crit there was cancelled, but that gave me ample time to be befuddled by a mechanic speaking English, find some good riding north of Toronto, pre-ride the Nationals course (12km of dead flat, 600m of straight up)and, saving the best for last, hang out with the Kelster after her genius convention.

Now back in Quebec, and had a day to get in some more amazing riding around my new home, before getting back on the road with the boys to head to GP St Raymond, up near Quebec City.

Monday, May 02, 2011

North and east

Been a little slack on the post-Redlands blogging. I usually only write something when something interesting happens. Or I race. I think the time has come...

I got back to Calgary early in April, with an option of immediately jumping in the car and getting out east in time for Tour of the Battenkill. Once I got back though, I knew that trying to pack my life in a few boxes and get sorted within 24 hours, to give me a fighting chance of making it out to the race in time, was unrealistic. Instead I stayed at Trev's, donned the winter riding gear and tried to train, while waiting for team bikes that were always arriving "in a couple of days". Eventually, enough was enough and we hit the road.

It turns out that Nick and I are not very good at road-tripping.

We should have realized after we took until 8pm to drive 6 hours to Redlands, when we had all day. Of course it would also just be a reasonable assumption based on my past history. After being led astray by Kelly the night before I left (although it did include my first trip to the Banff hotsprings and a wild deer sniffing my hand, outstretched more for self-defense than a gesture of inter-species friendliness) and one last ride in Calgary, I met Nick only an hour late at 2pm, and after putting a few things in the car, we set off promptly at 7pm.

Stop one was Regina, Saskatchewan, at Brad's parents'. His Dad came out, at 3am, to give us a guided tour of the house and generally being an excessively amazing host.

Although having two kayaks and a bike on the roof didn't help, we were only doing 100kmh on the highway, which would normally mean getting about 700km per tank of fuel. With the wind howling out of the east for the first time I can remember in 6 years of living in the prairies, we instead got as little at 370km! Yikes.


Winnipeg was our next stop, a meagre 6 hours drive later. Justin opened up his home, and even gave us a tour of downtown Winnipeg, including the largest skate part in western Canada? The next day we drove in the States for a shortcut to Toronto. We left at the crack of dawn...ok, 10am...stopped 2 hours later for a hour ride (which somehow took 3 hours), THEN we got some serious miles in...ok, we stopped for dinner a couple of hours later...then the rain and snow started, and I got tired, so we pulled in short of our planned destination in random tiny town, USA. Ok, the next day was going to be HUGE! Jumped out of bed at 9am, drove 5 minutes and stopped at a diner for breakfast....and so on and so on. Brutal. Nigel even lined up a place in Sarnia, seeing that we wouldn't make it to Toronto, but we didn't even get that far and opted for a $29 hotel in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Finally the next day we made it Toronto. God, it felt great to be back. Awesome friends, familiar surroundings. Missed catching up with everybody, but I'll be back this weekend by the looks of things.

Got to Montreal a couple of days ago, have amazing hosts here, and today found a place in a wicked village north of Montreal. Nick and I went riding there today and trashed ourselves, compensation for house-hunting rather than racing yesterday.