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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Race Report: Tour de Waterloo

This race is a 130km Gran Fondo in Waterloo, Ontario.

Race website

A friend of mine suggested this one earlier this week, so on a whim I decided to go for it.  YOLO!  This was a bit of a first for me - I've done charity rides and such, Paris to Ancaster, but never a road race.

My Race - Part 1 - Drafting in a Big Pack

I had pretty low expectations for this race, as 130km would be my longest ride so far this year, and the pack looked mostly like experienced folks.  My strategy at the start was "don't get dropped", followed closely by "conserve as much energy as possible".

After the neutral start, the race was on.  I stuck with the main pack for a few kilometers after that, but soon the two split and I was in the back one.  Still, we had very big numbers and some very strong riders with us, so I didn't sweat it, stuck to my plan.

I sat on every wheel I could find, trying to find nice pockets where the wind wasn't on me.  At times we were doing 40km/h+ into a head wind on flat roads - it was crazy, but felt pretty easy for the most part!

Our group kept splintering, though.  We'd get to a climb, scatter a bit, but then when it re-formed we'd be in a bunch of smaller groups rather than one big one.

At one point, I got behind a girl who I thought was about to bridge the gap up to the folks in front of us.  Except she didn't.  I watched as a few others passed us on the left, not really bothering much about it, figuring I could grab a wheel eventually... then looked over my shoulder and oops!  Nobody left!  Just me and the girl, now many bike lengths behind.  Burned a few matches getting back to the group (and inadvertently dropping her).

I spent 77km in some form of group, and it was awesome fun.  Averaged 36.8km/h to that point, net uphill, it was a hoot.

Unfortunately, it was a 130km race, not a 77km race.

My Race - Part 2 - Lonely... so lonely

After awhile, our group widdled down to 4 guys.  We hit a hill, and I got dropped.  I busted my ass getting back to them, which was great, except there were only 2 left (the other guy had gone ahead somehow).  Then we got to the rest stop and one guy stopped to pee... and at the very next corner the other guy went wide in the corner and off the road into the long grass!  He had to stop to clean it out of his bike, so I kept on, now solo.

15km of solo, some of it with a pretty tough headwind and a bunch of little climbs.  The heat was now really bad, too - hot and very humid.  So this was very un-fun.

Eventually I saw a group coming up behind me, so I dialed it back to make sure I had enough juice to keep up with them once they caught me.  I did, and live was good again!

My Race - Part 3 - Misery Loves Company

The folks I was with now were all in various states of distress, but any wheel looked good!  At first I had trouble holding with them on hills, but as the kilometers ticked away it became easier and easier.  By the last big hill, I was the one dropping most of them!  After the descent (which I excel at, being a big boy!) I was by myself again - decided that was a bad idea so waited for a bit of a group to re-form.

Now we were down to 4, and then one guy stopped for some reason, so we were down to 3.

(Sidebar - They could definitely use one more rest stop with about 20-30km to go!)

We were all in a bit of trouble, but shared the load and chit-chatted as we closed out the kilometers.  By now I was out of water/Gatorade, my saliva was like maple syrup, it was really awful.  Still had some energy, but our pace wasn't good... headwind was tough, too.

Saw the 1km to go sign, which was at the bottom of another climb.  Buggers!  That last kilometer went on forever, but I pushed it to at least try to look respectable as I crossed the finish.


3h 55m 56"... average of 33.1km/h, 153rd of 256.  Kind of middle of the back, if I'm being optimistic!  Definitely the fastest I've ever covered a distance like that, but the group just helps so much it's hard to compare it to anything else.

Next time I would definitely grab extra bottles at the rest stop, knowing there aren't that many.  Other than that, I pretty much stuck to my plan and finished as quickly as I think I could have.  Good times.

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