KW Classic: A pleasant ride in the country, spoiled

I was really looking forward to the KW (Kitchener-Waterloo) Classic, for a number of reasons.
First, it as the site of this year's Road Provincial Championships, and I had never done Provincials before.  Second, for some reason the start times put the M3/E4/Women's waves at 3:30 pm. 3:30! My god, the luxury! Because the curse of being stuck in M3 (and E4) is that you always have the first start times, usually 8:30 AM. Which means to get almost every race on the OCUP schedule I gotta get up at about 5:00 in the morning, drive a 150 bleary & stressed kilometres to the race, and tight against the clock to get signed in and properly warmed up. And as for actually digesting breakfast – yeah well, forget it.
But 3:30! wow. So relaxed!
Relaxed! Sorta. Pre-race with Dan W.
And third because it's a really nice course through farm country, mostly rollers, with one steep punchy climb that I was actually looking forward to because I felt it was nicely matched to my (limited) climbing abilities (I've been working on mixing in standing with sitting, and also where I place myself on the bike when I'm standing to get my glutes more activated, and it's made a noticeable difference.) Last year's KW course (not as nice IMHO) took that hill in the other direction, which was not as steep, but longer. It didn't suit me. I also like KW because it was the first OCUP I ever did – though back then it was on a really ugly circuit through a combination of industrial park and suburb. Now it winds around a river valley from the little town of Hawkesville. We're deep in Mennonite country here, so the food at the community centre by the finish line is awesome, and the locals come out in good numbers to watch. It's a very interesting contrast, but everybody has a good time.

Anything can happen on the day
Day of, however, I was in a completely crappy mood, to the point of considering not going at all. But I had promised to set up the DHF tent, which was in my possession, and what the hell, I had paid my $80 for the privilege, I might as well show up. I figured I would just go step by step and see how I felt, prepared to bail anywhere in the process. Prep & warmup didn't make me feel much better; I also have no other DHF M3s to race with (or at least make encouraging noises), so it was not looking (or feeling) good at all as I rolled up to the line. Right up to the start whistle, I was seriously considering pedaling a block and just retiring. But the great thing about racing is you can't think about anything except racing when you're racing. (Well, maybe Fabian Cancellera can calculate high primes and compose haikus in the middle of Paris-Roubaix, but I can't.) It gets you right out of your head and anything that might be bugging you and forces you to be right in the moment. And then there's adrenaline thing, too.

We rolled out a decent pace; the course had nice layout in that it was flats and rollers for the first 9 km or so, which meant I could get a good rhythm going before the one serious hill. I had a good spot to start, and was comfortably in the top quarter of the peloton, staying with a few surges without any problem. We approached the hill on a slight downhill, and for reasons that escape me, the guys at the front seemed to be slowing up come to the start of the hill. I hate having to brake on a downhill, and especially detest having to scrub off any speed in the approach to an uphill. Whatever. The result was the peloton bunched up tightly, and climbed a lot more slowly than I wanted. But I actually had myself in the right gear, so was happy to just sit in and climb at the pace that was being dictated.
We've all been there, amirite?

Getting Froomey, not in a good way
Meanwhile, my crappiness was largely burned off, and I was starting to think this race might work out not too badly. But, as the poet Virgil would say in this situation, Dis aliter visum. ("The gods thought otherwise.")
It doesn't take much to mess up a peloton. Half way up the hill, just as it kicked up a bit more steeply, the pack bunched up tightly and then somebody (i.e., some jackass who doesn't know how to climb in a group) six or eight riders ahead of me stood up to climb, threw his bike back, and caused a chain-reaction collision behind him. (I think, or maybe he just stalled on a bad gear change, or bumped a wheel. Who cares.) I was the last in the line of riders slamming into the back end of the guy ahead, and in struggling to stay up (I did, barely) I ended up dead-stopped, one foot down and bike pointed almost 180° the wrong way, down the hill. In order to get going again I was obliged to channel my inner Chris Froome and run my bike the rest of the way up. (There was also a lot of swearing. I apologized to the Mennonites.) Meanwhile the peloton was gone. Interestingly, when I checked on Strava later, it turned out my time with the crash was only 20 seconds more than the group.

Remounted, with apologies to the ladies for the language.
However, right at that moment it was not interesting at all, it was fucking infuriating, because that 20 seconds took the peloton over the crest of the hill and gone, and there was no way I was gonna make up that gap. I put my head down and gave it a shot, but it was clear after a couple of kilometres that I was looking at a(nother) 45 km time trial. At this stage in my racing career, I'm done with moral victories and staggering across the line 43rd out of 45 to sympathy applause. And it sure wasn't what I had had in mind for this one, so I bailed.

And that's pretty much it for the OCUP road season. There's the the Cambridge Crit at the end of July and Bike The Bruce RR in late August. Part of me was hoping to get a good result in this race as a nice way to officially retire, from OCUP road races anyway.

Damn. Time to re-group.


(photo: Sportszonephotography.ca)

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