Preston St. Criterium 2015: The Many Guises of Success

On Sunday, June 21, 2015, the 43rd (correct me if I’m wrong!) edition of the Preston St. Criterium, hosted by Bike Race Ottawa, provided riders and fans a full day of exciting bike racing in downtown Ottawa. As part of the annual Italian Week on Preston St., the area was alive with onlookers and participants alike, patios packed with folks enjoying a rare opportunity to eat and drink in comfort while cyclists provided live entertainment just a few meters away.

A grim forecast for race day sparked tire talk online, as riders prepared for the potential of racing in torrential rain. Consensus seemed to land on Continental GP4000s as an easily found option that performs well in the wet. Experienced riders would hope for consistent rain during their races, since intermittent or sparse rain tends to be more slippery than soaking wet roads. The oil comes out of the pavement, but is not washed away when the rain is marginal. So ‘all or nothing’ please, rain god.

As it turned out, it was not to be a day of rain and crashes (thought there were nevertheless crashes). Instead, a sprinkling fell during the first third of the Senior 3/4 men’s race at 09:00, but let up soon enough to dry during the race. Our up-and-coming Max Rubarth raced solo to a 2nd place finish, impressive given the Ride with Rendall fire power he as up against. Chapeau, Max!

Next up was the Master 2/3 men’s race, which saw four Tekné rides in the mix: David Charles, Richard Grieve, Nic Bundza and Jim McGuire. The pack was relatively small, and all attempts to break free were thwarted, leading to a group of about 15 heading in to the final laps. It was exciting to see Rich driving the pace on the front, stringing the pack into a line with two laps to go, setting up Nic to attack out of turn two and hold off the pack solo for the win! It was fantastic to see the guys work together throughout the whole race and come out with the victory. After 20 years away from crit racing, Nic’s win confirmed that he’s still got it! Congrats, guys!

The elite men’s race began mid-afternoon, around 3:30, and was well attended by teams from Ontario and Quebec. Being my first Preston St., and just the second ‘real’ crit I’ve done, I was certain the pace would be high, and riders would be very aggressive. Racing with Mike Reeves and Marc Hunt, the best approach seemed to be to try to get into a break. It took a few laps at or above 46kph to get a feel for the turns….early on when attempting to get clear with a small group I clipped an inside pedal and entertained the crowd with an escape maneuver. One has to adapt when going through ninety-degree turns at 50kph….

My attempts to get into breaks came to an end after 30 minutes of racing, when it was clear that it wasn’t going to happen for me. As riders continued to try, every break seemed to be disorganized, and a sprint seemed inevitable.  This would prove true, but not until Derrick St. John (Silber) was brought back from his 15 minutes of solo effort off the front!

The final few laps went down as one would expect: crazy. With each rider with power left to use vying for the first 5 wheels, the corners were jammed and lines previously possible became highly risky. I tried to follow Pierrick Naud (Optum- Kelly Benefits) for as long as possible heading into the last lap, but couldn’t get through the traffic nearly well enough to stay on him as he sprinted to 2nd. Instead, it was a matter of surviving the final turn and riding in a straight line. 12th felt like a decent finish all things considered, and I was more than happy to take that and come away unscathed; success.

Thanks go out to Bike Race Ottawa, namely, Doug Corner, David Bilenky, Geoff Brown, Peter Tregunno, and everyone else who helped make the day of racing possible. Thank you EQ Homes, Flynn, E&C Dal-Cin Construction, Xerox, Performance Mazda, Rogers TV, Kichesippi Beer, The Cyclery, and Rebec & Kroes for supporting the race.

Results can be found here.

Great photos by Robert Roaldi here, and we’ve got a bunch on our flickr feed as well.

Next up: I head to the 2015 Global Relay Canadian Road Championships in St. Georges, QC for the road race on Saturday. I ought to have a good story to tell next week!