Easter Weekend

You better grab a drink and a snack... Mike's words from the road are not exactly short and sweet, don't worry though, we promise it will make you crack a smile, or at least shake your head. 

On a mild Good Friday (April 14th, 2017), all of us Ascent Cycling Dudes (ACD?) lined up for the first O-Cup of the season.  Starting and finishing at the Ancaster Fairgrounds in…Ancaster…Good Friday Road Race (GFRR) takes place on a flat-ish 15.9km circuit, the Elite 1-2 men’s field would be completing 8 laps.  Before I get into detail with the happenings of the race, I feel it necessary to give ample credit to the star of the day – the wind.  The stifling, strong, demoralizing wind.  The wind that was difficult on all but 2km of the course.  That wind.

In our pre-race discussion, we decided it was a good idea to attempt to be active early on, and use our numbers to try and get one of us into a break early on…maybe something would happen.  It was a nice feeling going into the race with five riders – one of the bigger teams on the day, second to Toronto Hustle, who started with eight.  With hindsight about how the race played out, I can affirm that being active early on was a good idea.

I was feeling a little bit of stress upon lining up, looking down at my heart rate did not help matters – as I was more or less in zone 3 before the race even began.  The first gravel section was neutralized as part of the roll-out – this made me happy – but I still ended up awfully close to the back as things began to hit the fan relatively early on.

In the early kilometres of the race, Simon and Eric were positioned well, near the front of the group as the pace ramped up.  Mark and Derek were ahead of me.  Curious, I looked back to see that I was almost at the back of the bunch, which I determined was a bad thing.  I did not like that bad thing, so I pushed the pedals a little harder than I would have wanted to so early in the race, into the crosswind, until I was near the front.  Ending up beside Simon for a little bit, he passed along the useful tip to “Stay near the front”.  Okay.  I’ll do my best.

No more than ten seconds after taking my spot near the head of the group, where I had hoped to sit for a while, Brad Bradford of Toronto Hustle attacked and rolled off of the front.  I chased, as did a few other people, and a small break formed.  I was pleased with the make-up of this initial group, Mark was there, Benoit Boulay and Noah Simms of Toronto Hustle, too.  It was a very promising move, for about three minutes…and then we were caught.  Okay.  Ouch.  A few other digs were attempted by some other folks as I recovered in what little shelter from the crosswind I could find, and I started to get the feeling that it was going to be a long day.

Derek, Eric, Simon, and Mark were all active in this time, and Derek got into a little move that was unfortunately reeled in as we turned left (north) onto Shaver Rd…I think.  Benoit Boulay countered Derek’s move, along with Anton Varabei (Toronto Hustle), and they went up the road.  It was my turn to follow the move, and Derek gave me a few words of encouragement as I dug in and attempted to bridge.  I did what I do every Tuesday at Midweek and rode my bike as hard as I could until I was almost up to Benoit and Anton, and flicked my elbow hoping somebody was behind me…which, luckily, there was in the form of Dan Doddy of Tower International.  He pulled through and got us the rest of the way to the break – Dan also gave me half of his sandwich later in the race, which was nice.  Aaron Hamill from Wheels of Bloor also got up to the move.  It was an early break of five, with three of the larger teams represented.  I was happy about the promising break, and everybody was all in.  It had the makings of what was sure to be a long day.


Good Friday Road Race Break (Ivan Rupes)

Those first 699 words all happened in the first 10km of the race.

Our break worked well together, and I suspect it may have been slightly less brutal being up the road than back in the peloton being guttered in the wind.  It still hurt though, so I did whatever I could to get my mind away from how my body was feeling.  For example, the shade of blue that Toronto Hustle chose for the word “Hustle” on the back of the kits is pleasant.  I also, took stock of everything that I dropped in the middle 60km or so of the race: 3 gels by accident, 2 bottles in the feed zone.

Due to my compromised state, I cannot guarantee exactly when it happened, but somewhere between 60-90km into the race Bruce Bird (Wheels of Bloor), Philip Sheffield (Waterloo Cycling Club), and Yuri Hrycaj (Toronto Hustle…uh oh) bridged to our break.  Yuri went immediately on the attack, and for a time things were not so civilized in our move, as a result the break re-shuffled slightly with Aaron Hamill dropping back to the field.

Luckily for my poor legs, things calmed down slightly and we all began to cooperate again…well, kind of.  We were not taking the regular turns we had been earlier, I am guilty of this myself, but I did attempt to pull through when I could.

The group stayed together until the last lap, when the attacks started to fly.  First Yuri went, Bruce Bird put in an impressive amount of work dragging him back.  The Toronto Hustle guys then took turns attacking the break, things were feeling very aggressive.  It was during the last 5km of the race that I had determined maybe I was not as efficient with my energy as I could have been…somehow…because I was absolutely ragged and on the limit.  I made the mistake of reasoning with myself, “Follow one more attack, then you’ll be good.  No, actually one more.  Okay, only one more.” But, I was detached from the group in the last 3km, following sadly behind about 19 seconds off the back of the break to finish 6th.  In hindsight, I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t just gut through it and hang on to at least have contested the sprint – but I was pretty gassed.  Either way, it was a fun experience seeing the front of a 1-2, and seeing how strong those guys are.

GFRR 1.jpg

Closing kilometers of Good Friday Road Race (Ivan Rupes)

Kudos to everybody in the break that day, everybody rode a strong race and should be proud of the result.  Congrats to Anton for the win, and to Benoit and Dan for rounding out the podium.  Toronto Hustle put two guys on the podium and was incredibly strong on the day.  Thanks for letting me tag along all day.

IMG_3807 (Left to Right) Mike, Derek, Mark, Simon    Heck of the North – Stouffville, Ontario

Derek and I lined up to ride the 70km Heck of the North – the road bike version of Hell of the North – bright and early on a warm Easter Sunday morning.  Wanting to avoid the sketchiness of a bunch sprint, Ed Veal and the other organizers moved the finish of race a few blocks north, from the flat Aurora Rd to the steeper rolling hills of Vivian Rd.  For our warm up, Derek, Sean Boileau and I rode up to check out the finish, which we decided was probably a wise move.

There was a pretty solid wind coming out of the southwest, so Derek and I decided that we should try and get an early break established seeing as the race started with a long drag going north.  We each attacked a few times attempting to get a move to stick, but those moves were reeled back.  On a climb about halfway through the 70km, I moved to the front of the group and increased the pace slightly…although immediately after this Sean Boileau’s tire flatted on him, taking him out of the race.   Tough luck for Sean, he is a super strong racer and it would have been fun to have duked it out with him during the rest of the race.  Either way, the increased pace caused a split in the group, after some very strong work at the front by Brian Kelly of WaspCam.  Four of us went up the road, Brian, Jason Chai-Onn, Dino Pop, and myself.  This was the break that would stick.

We pushed the pace for a while, and the gap to the field grew pretty quickly.  Dino was clearly one of the stronger guys in our break, and after the dirt road portion of the race he pushed the pace on a climb, gapping Brian and Jason.  I looked back to see the gap develop as I lumbered my uncomfortable-self up the hill, onto Dino’s wheel.  We continued to work well together as the kilometres continued to tick down, and I asked Dino how he wanted to play the finish – take it to the line, or start attacking each other?  I think we agreed to take it to the line…well, that’s how it played out.

Across the last rollers on Vivian Dino and I marked each other closely, and he put in a pretty solid dig on the third to last roller, but I was luckily able to get onto his wheel.  Coming to the bottom of the final kicker I looked up and saw somebody standing the top of the climb, which I assumed as an indication that it was the race finish.  I assumed right, luckily, because I put in a dig and was able to get a gap that I could hold until the line.  It was the first time I had won a bike race, which was a cool feeling…dampened only by my incredibly damp feet as it had rained for a while during the race.  I also want to mention that Derek did great work keeping the chasers in check during the rest of the day, and we were able to finish with a pretty nice gap on the main field.

Anyway, Easter weekend for a super fun weekend of racing, and I am glad that I came away with two results I can be proud of.  More than that, though, I am happy to be on such a strong squad and I feel like Ascent Cycling will be doing some cool things this season.

17968650_10154488352863388_742028566_o 2017 Heck of the North Podium