Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tour de Hans 100K Road Race

This was my first attempt at a pure cycling race.   There are many things that make this different than the cycling portion of a triathlon or duathlon, but mainly, it's the ability to draft off of other riders that makes it a lot more fun and exciting.

The predicted weather forecast leading up to the October 2nd race wasn't looking good.   Highs of 7, winds at 25-30 kph out of the north and a bit of rain/snow mix to keep it interesting.   Race morning arrived, and we had two out of the three conditions, but lucky for everyone, the rain/snow did not show up until after the event.

The host venue for the race was at Hubertushaus, just west of Mannheim, which is really only minutes away from my house in New Hamburg.   That meant I didn't have to get up super early for this event.   I arrived at about 7:30am and went inside to finish off the registration process and get my bib and timing chip.   After a bit of friendly conversation with fellow riders, including a duathlon friend from Mississauga, Larry Bradley, I went back to the van to put on my many layers of clothing, gloves and booties for the day.

Going into the race, I wasn't really too sure how it was going to pan out, but I was hoping to get in with some decent riders of similar ability to make the race fun, fast and exciting.   I know Larry has been doing some great riding lately, so I was hoping to hook up with him and his friend Richard Westwood.   They are both more seasoned riders than myself when it comes to road racing, as they both participated in the 100M Centurion race up in Collingwood a few weeks ago.   In addition, Scott Dickie and Don Andrews from Waterloo had shown up, so there were at least 5 of us who could tackle this race together (if we could only stick together, which is not nearly as easy as you may think it is....more on this shortly).   Here's a few pics from just before the start of the race.   Simon Whitfield was a celebrity guest rider doing the 50K race, so it was cool to meet and talk with him prior to the race.   The other pic is with a few other local athletes including Scott (2nd from left) and Don Andrews (middle).

At about 8:45, the race got under way (sort of anyway). The first 5K was into Mannheim where we did a loop to Trussler and then back towards the start line. Once we crossed the start line, the timers officially started, and the race was on. Lucky for me, I was already at the start, riding just behind Simon Whitfield.   Here's few pics as we approach the starting line after the 5K neutral start.  That's Simon, on the left at the front.  I'm in the 2nd row on the right.

As soon as we passed over the timing mats, the action kicked into high gear.   The stronger riders all began moving up to the front, and I was sort of stuck over to the right hand side of the road.   Everyone was moving to the front on the left, but I was boxed in and pretty much had to stay to the shoulder.   It pretty much remained like this all the way to Foundry street, just south of Baden where we had to turn right.    Most of us negotiated this no problem, but some of the people at the front decided to keep going straight on Bleams because that's where the police escort went.   Not sure why, but I knew we had to go up to Baden, and there were signs pointing us in that direction anyway, so I had no issues.   Those that went straight quickly realized they were heading in the wrong direction and did some aggressive short cuts across lawns/ditches to get back in the game.

The strong wind out of the north hit us immediately when we turned onto Foundry street, so I just tried to stay tucked in behind other riders to stay sheltered.   Once we got to Snyders road in Baden we had to negotiate the railway tracks.   Apparently, things like this are where the elite level riders like to make their move, which I was not aware of unfortunately.   Once over the tracks, there was a small incline to get out of Baden, and this is where the race quickly changed for me.   I was still caught in behind some riders when the front pack took off, and I could not hook up with them.   Before we even got out of Baden, I knew I was in trouble.  For the next 1.5K or so to Nafziger, I tried to catch up with the group, but just couldn't do it.   By the time we hit Nafziger and headed north towards Wellesley, the lead peloton of 20 or 25 riders were a few hundred meters up the road.   I got into my TT position on my bike, and tried to bridge the gap, but after 300m, I knew I wasn't making any headway with them, and I was putting out a tonne of effort.   I decided to just drop back at this point, and this is where I hooked up with the main group of guys that I would do most of the remaining race with.   In this group was Scott, Simon Whitfield, Richard Westwood and Bruce Martin, also from Waterloo.  

"Most" of us in the group worked pretty well together, pushing the pace through the nasty north wind all the way up to Wellesley, where we had to do a short trip into Lisbon before hooking up on Hutchison Road, just west of Wellesley.   Shortly after rounding the curves on Hutchison, the turn off for the 50K riders was there, and that is where we lost Simon from the group.   The rest of us carried on through the hills and wind up to Crosshill.

During the hard stretch from Wellesley to Linwood, the group remained together for the most part.   We might have lost a few off the back on some of the hills, but we were also picking up a few riders who fell off the main peloton.   Just west of Crosshill, we picked up Don Andrews, another triathlon friend of mine from Waterloo.   This was a good pickup, as Don was a good asset to the group and took his fair share of the workload up front.

After what seemed like a never ending struggle against the wind, we finally made it to Linwood and turned right onto Ament line and got the benefit of the northwest wind.  The pace picked up considerably at this point as a number of us took some solid pulls at the front.   A few kilometers east of Linwood, I went out front of the group and took a very solid pull for 5 minutes or so.   I got into my aero bars that I still had clipped onto my bike and just cranked it up.   It felt good to go fast after seemingly going so slow for the past hour into the wind.   Once I had enough, I eased back into the group and allowed a number of riders to go up front, and they all said something like "Strong pull" which made me feel good, as I was hoping to get some respect out of the "cycling" crowd.

A bit further up the road loomed the KOM time trial over the Hawkesville hill.   I was feeling OK, but I definitely didn't hammer it up the hill.   Of our group of guys, I was likely the 4th or 5th to get to the top and as we crested the hill, things changed.   A few guys fell off the back and 3 guys hammered it hard down the hill and around the curve.   At this point, I was somewhere in the middle, and I knew that if I eased up, the small group up front would leave me.   It was good that I noticed that when I did, so I put my head down and pushed really hard for a few K until I was back on the wheel of this smaller group, that still included Don Andrews.

As we made our way into Heidelberg, the pace had picked up again, as we had the benefit of a stronger tailwind.   We continued to pick up stragglers who had been dropped by the main pack, and this helped keep our group strong enough so that we could all take some turns up front.   One of the riders we hooked up with was Bruce Grant, also from Waterloo.   He would end up working with us right up to the end of the race.

Over the next several kilometers, the raced weaved past Paradise Lake, into Bamberg, south to Gerber road and then we made the left turn onto Sandhills road, which would give us a solid tailwind for the next 15-20K all the way to New Dundee.   As we turned onto Sandhills I told the group we needed to take advantage of the tailwind and I immediately went to the front to hammer out a few K at a solid pace.   I dropped back after a bit and let some of the other guys lead out, and it appeared that everyone did a good amount of effort up front.

By the time we got down to New Dundee, my average speed had gotten up to 35kph, which was decent enough for the difficult conditions on the day.   However, we still had a very tough 5K left to get back to the finish line.   For the most part, this was uphill and again into a pretty strong headwind.   The pace very quickly slowed down and it seemed like nobody was wanting to work hard up front.   For 2 or 3 K, I simply did what the group did and stayed with them.   With about 3 or so K to the finish line, I ended up back out front, pulling the group along up a hill and into the wind.   We weren't going too fast, but this was definitely making me tired.   I knew I was in a terrible spot for the sprint finish to the line which was coming once we got back to Bleams road.   Since age group awards mean nothing in cycling races, I didn't get to bothered by the fact that I pretty much knew I was going to get dropped by the guys sitting in behind me when the time comes to sprint.   As expected, when we got to Bleams and with only 500 meters or so to the finish line, 4 of the 6 guys we were riding with blew past me.  I put in what I could, but the legs were heavy and I just pedaled my way to the finish line, happy that I had put my first road cycling race into the books.  

At the finish line, I chatted with Larry Bradley for a while as he had finished 5 or so minutes ahead of our group.   He had a great day, and was waiting to see where Richard and the rest of his cycling team ended up.

Eventually, I got all my gear off and the bike put away and headed inside for some tasty post race refreshments and food.   The venue was serving up classic Oktoberfest wiener schnitzel, sausages and cold beer.   What better to fill your belly after a hard race!!    I chatted with Larry, Richard and a few other local athletes I know before eventually heading home.   As I was leaving, the rain was pouring down, so we really dodged a bullet with the weather.   The cold and wind was one thing, but throw in some rain, and that would have been miserable!

Overall, I was happy how the race went, being my rookie road race performance.   I finished the timed 95K in 2:46:35 which resulted in an average speed of 34.5kph (yes, we lost .5kph in the last 5K of the race) and 267 average watts.   This time put me 29th overall out of 184 racers (and since we finished as a group, I was really only 6 seconds out of 25th).   I was 4th out of 20 in my age group as well.

Here's the garmin race info.

I look forward to participating in the race again next year, and hope to add the Collingwood Centurion 100M race to my calendar as that is a significantly bigger road race as well.

As we get more into the fall, I want to do the Hamilton Road to Hope half marathon in early November, where I would like to try and go sub 1:23 and qualify for the NYC marathon.

Over the winter, I will continue to work on my cycling and try to have a solid base by spring.   I am making the inaugural Ironman Mont Tremblant my A race next summer, and if all goes well, will go after a Kona slot.   Lots of work to do for sure to get that!!