Niagara Classic Road Race, May 18th 2014

...more like Niagara Fails

Like most Ontario races, the Niagara Classic is a circuit race. Niagara is mostly famous for its multiple climbs up the dreaded Effingham Hill, a steep wall that hits 15% and tends to shred the field. The race starts at the bottom of that climb, after a left turn from a side-road that forms the Start/Finish straightaway. That opening bit was supposed to be a "neutral start". Believing that was my first mistake.

My second mistake was getting to the line late and ending up way at the back. So when the the pack took off at full race pace in the allegedly "neutral" start, I was strung out the end before the damn race even officially started.

The "neutral" start; view from the front, where I wasn't. (Note the speed.)
I love all the racing tips books that tell you stuff like "if you're not a good climber, get the the front of the pack before the hills so you can stay in contact with the bunch as they pass you on the way up". Sure. If I could do that I'd probably be a pretty good climber already. Anyway, being back in the dust as I hit that climb at the start of the race was not very heartening; by the time I got to the top of it and rounded the first corner, the pack was long gone. Up the road I could see a few other riders but the gap felt unbridgeable.

Eventually I fell in with one other loser, but he was going even slower than I was, and anyway he refused to pull (or didn't understand the etiquette of the situation), so I left him behind and resigned myself to a long time trial. Which lasted another lap and another climb of the very well-named Effingham Hill before I came to the conclusion that no further good could come from this humiliating fandango, found a Race Marshall, and pulled off. Not a good feeling.

In truth, I probably would have done well to stay in it, as the slower riders gradually bunched up; I might have managed a "not last" finish instead of a DNF. But there is definitely something about the mental game. I gave up - but the fact is, I was beat before I even started this one.

Anyway, next time I will make sure I do a full ride of the course in advance of the race.
Lesson learned: I can't even think about being competitive with other racers unless I have the course beat in my head before I line up.

(Vidcap from JoJo.)

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