How the Race was Won: Grand Prix Cycliste de Gatineau

June 6, 2015

On Saturday morning our Teknē Cycle Club squad of 4 – Iain RadfordTodd Fairhead, Marc Hunt, and I converged less than 10k from downtown Ottawa to race bikes. In contrast to the typical weekend of driving, racing, driving, it was a joy to simply roll over the Ottawa River to the race start/finish on the Lac des Fees parkway in Gatineau, QC. Iain and Todd had raced the GP before, but for Marc and I, it was to be a new experience. With cool, but sunny weather on tap, and many teams of strong riders in attendance, it was to be a great morning to race bikes.

It seemed like the parcours for the GP suited us well. By that, I mean, none of us are ‘climbers,’ and there is hardly anything that amounts to a ‘climb’. Great! What the course does have is many turns, and a reputation for being very fast. Great, these are both things we enjoy! So, when talk turned to strategy, it was pretty simple, seeing as we were only 4: try to take turns going with attacks for as long as possible, and hope to get into one that worked. If not, follow a good wheel in the final!

As one might expect, attacks flew consistently from the go, and Todd, Iain, and I were in at least one each during the first half of the race, which was to cover 111 kilometers. At about the 55k mark, it was clear that guys were getting worn down and tired of covering attacks. In other words: the perfect time for a break to be established. With just three Garneau-Quebecor Cycling Team riders in the race, I figured they’d wait until the second half to put much effort into a break. So when a small group of riders, which contained Osmond Bakker and Jean-Sébastien Perron, among others, but not Garneau, rolled off the front, I was not compelled – or perhaps able – to jump in. After gaining about 1 minute on the pack, I was asking myself whether Garneau was in fact in the move. Two from La Vie Sportif Apogee Opus jumped to bridge, and somehow managed to collect a Transports Lacombe/Devinci rider, who had Stephen Keeping in the break up the road. Shortly after, Nine to Five PRO’s Wawa Sakilaunched off the front in an attempt to bridge. And now we enter stream of consciousness mode.

Warren is going well up there. Ugh, if I don’t do something, I’m stuck in here, those dudes are gone. Ok, I can use the hill (feed zone) to separate and get up to Warren, then we can collaborate.

Ghost aero, good, this is working ok, getting there. Ok, here we go, can he come with me. Damn, no. Ok, keep trucking to those three up there.

Good, getting there, little by little, just keep low, keep on it. Gotta work the descent here; ok, good. Don’t slip again on the roundabout; brake a bit. Make suffer face to entertain Ro, Sen (my kids at the exit of the roundabout), and Danielle. They’re having fun, nice. They have faith I can make it, I should too.

YES!!! Connected, time to infuse some energy into these guys. They are strong, good. I should yell positive things at them to motivate them!

Ugh, this is not smooth enough! “C’mon guys, we have to be smoother and faster!” Devinci is not pulling, he must be gassed.

If we don’t make ground with the tailwinds, we won’t get to the lead group. We’re just dangling here, we have to drive it. “Guys, we have to drill it with the wind, we have to get there soon!” These Sportif guys are really working hard, they are doing as much as they can. I have to do more if we want to get there. Devinci is still not helping. I push him through, and he informs me he has a team-mate. Mmmm, ok. Could play that either way; his call.

We’re heading into the feed zone hill; I’m on my limit. I want to stop, this isn’t working. Self-defeating thoughts like this always come up when I’m racing at my limit. Perhaps I should take this as a sign of things going well…. Hey, the pack ahead is right there. Like RIGHT THERE, 15 meters. Ok, pin it and get them before the path sector ends!

Full blast, two collaborators plus one in tow, breaking the speed limit on the rec path by 30kph. They are slowing for the sharp turn, I’m not, YES, ON!

We have two laps to go, and the pack is about 60 seconds back, and not chasing in any organized way. We’ve got about 13 guys in here, from most of the teams, so we’re looking good. With no real distinguishing features, there’s not really anything for anyone to use to try to break off of this group with a few co-conspirators.

Recovering pretty well, contributing to the pace to stay clear, thinking about how to do this. Who’s looking good? My chase guys are cooked, but what about the rest. Garneau guy looks really good, Keeping and JS look good, so does Cossette (Scott Rack Ultra) and a few other guys I don’t know.

Keeping’s team-mate, Alexis Cartier, is riding off the front heading into the roundabouts on Alumettieres, Hugues Lapointe (Garneau) and me in pursuit. We each seem to have the same idea: catch the rest looking at each other and decide this between the three of us. That’d be good!

Shit, didn’t work. Recover! Guys are moving up as we head into the left off Alumettieres to sweep onto Lac des Fees, the final. I’m maybe ten wheels back, Garneau behind me – before I thought he’d be the wheel to take, not now – and Keeping and JS are close ahead. Somewhat chaotic coming out of the turn, a bunch of the guys get antsy and stand to sprint, waaaay out. I’m sitting as long as possible! Moving through guys who are coming to a standstill in the wind, I’m tailing Keeping as well as I can.

The interval between my personal now-points expands, accentuating the seemingly languid, certainly laboured rotation of each leg, foot, and pedal. I am sprunting; this aint no sprint.

Running out of gas and bodily coordination as we approach the line, it’s clear I am not going to make the podium, but I refuse to concede any more ground. It’s over.

Cossette takes the W, Keeping and Perron rounding out the podium, disappointed. In contrast, I’m happy. You can’t squeeze blood from a stone, and that’s what I was. Having gone from active to missing the break, making the call to bridge, working at the limit for 20km, then riding the final 20 and sprint well amounted to a good race for me. My team-mates raced to the best of their abilities, represented well, and got into good moves. We had a great race. Every rider after the winner asks themselves what they could have done better. As in every case, hindsight is 20/20, but I have no regrets.

Many thanks to our partners, who help us perform our best out there: GiroSportDesign, Mad Alchemy Embrocation, Woven Precision Handbuilts, Rebec & Kroes Cycle and Sport, Kunstadt Sports.

Here’s the race on Strava Cycling. Check out the flyby function if you want to see riders in dot form:https://www.strava.com/activities/319790211/overview

Photos by Robert Roaldi: http://robertroaldi.zenfolio.com/p648154422

Results: http://grandprixcyclistegatineau.com/…/R%C3%A9sultats-Gatin…