Yesterday was one of the highlights of my cycling "career", fetching bottles and closely a (tiny) gap in the crosswind for my teammate, Sebastian, who finished 3rd on the stage!!
It was another long race, 150+km, capped off by a climb to the observatory at the top of Mont Megantic. Alternatively, I could say it was 480km of racing in three days, finishing with half of Apex, or three of the You Yangs climb, or...Toronto would be....30 times from Queens Way into High Park?? haha Anyway, intimidating.
The day started out calmly enough, a few surges until a break stayed off, and nothing more than hard tempo on hills for the first 50km that I can remember (could be selective memory...). After 50km, we're allowed to go back to the caravan to feed, so it was time for me to get bottles. The rolling terrain meant going back for bottles was challenging. I'd usually get 6 or 7, so a few were stuffed down the front/back of my jersey, and I tried to time it so that I wasn't carrying, handing out, or taking bottles on the uphill, and I wasn't riding beside the team car at too high a speed. Didn't always succeed. :)
There was one particularly memorable feed: I'd just gotten my last bottle - usually the driver gives me a bit of a whip to help me sprint back to the back of the pack, and I had accelerated in front of the car. As I did so, I saw something happening in the pack ahead - I saw everyone was bunny-hopping train-tracks diagonally crossing the road. Crap! I had a bottle in one hand, which I momentarily considered/tried squeezing down the back of my jersey with the other, but I was approaching too fast, around 50 or 60kmh - I opted to turf it. I then rather ungainly jumped the tracks - the bottles weigh almost as much as my bike! Both bottles in my frame bounced out, but I made it through and rejoined the pack. However now I only had four bottles left, and had to go back pretty soon thereafter. haha
The next chunk of the race was pretty straight forward. I got a random half a Pepsi from one of Jamie Sparling's Raleigh team mates, rolled through some hills, and chatted with Jamie a little. Always stoked to race with him, both because he's always genial character and because it often means I'm breaking into a new level of racing...last time was the Invited Men's race at Banff 2009 when I was a lowly cat 3.
Next up was the final KOM. I maxed out quickly and began falling off the back. It was one of those times, when you're sooo close to the pack, but they're slowly slipping away...funnily enough, I ended up rolling with another dude I'd had a bit of an altercation with earlier in the race. :) We lit it up at the top and gunned it for a few km, weaving through caravan cars to catch back. We'd just caught them at the base of a hill, when I realized they were making a hard right turn to go up a hill. I was still in my 50-11 by the time I'd slowed to almost stopped, and now I had to start up a 10%er. Damn.
We ended up forming a gruppetto of about 10 guys, and knocked off the last 20-odd km to the base of the final climb: 5km of 10%. Then it was *suffer time* as our group exploded and we all slogged up to the finish. I heard my name and Sebastian's name announced as I rolled across the line, totally gassed. Team manager Mark was there to give me a push to the car and tell me 'good job' and that Seb came third....woooo!! Great moment.
Today was the TT, a mostly-downhill out, uphill back 20km TT, which I had to finish within 20% of the winner's time to not get time-cut. Given that Svein Tuft, who came 2nd at the TT world championships, was there, I couldn't really "save myself"....managed a 30:07, so I live to fight another day.
Tomorrow we head to Quebec City for a 120km circuit race. Same as Nationals a few years back? Really looking forward to it...beautiful city, and crowds are great for helping me dig deep. Wish me luck!