Saturday, August 4, 2012

Tour De Bowness - Part I

Part of Alberta Cycling Super Week, the Tour De Bowness kicks it off with a hill climb, road race, circuit race, criterium, and an overall classification.

Hill Climb - 1.25km, 3-up time trial

2 years ago, I attempted this brutal race. It's 1.25 km, on the switchbacks road up Canada Olympic Park, parallel to the bobsled track. It's a 3-up race, meaning you and 2 competitors start together in 2 minute intervals.
In 2010, only one guy from my group showed up (Andrew Paul). We worked well together, but neither of us are strong climbers. I ended up 26th in Cat 5, clocking a time of 5:00 (the Cat 5 winner did it in 3:56 - to add some perspective.)

In 2011, the Stage Race was exactly the same format, and with me not being in omnium contention, I decided to skip the hill climb and rest for the following race.

This year, the format has changed to a general classification (overall time, not points), and they've moved the hill climb to be the first race. Much less chance of a DNS that way.

So, made it over there, and paired with Niklas' Bryon Howard and Bicisport Peter Swart.
I had 2 game plans going into this race.

First, I would try to ride at my max 4 minute pace, somewhere around 450 watts.
Second, if I was paired with a really fast guy, I would try to hang on as long as I could.

Right off the start, Peter takes off. Woah... Bryon and I are left in the dust, and it takes me about 10 seconds to catch his wheel. I'm thinking "yes! Got a fast guy in the group!"
The garmin is screaming numbers over 700W at me, and I have a sinking feeling like I should have followed my first plan, not the second one.
A couple switchbacks in, Bryon and I pass Peter. I'm hanging with Bryon for a couple turns, but as the grade gets steeper a funny thing happens.
My RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion - aka, how much it hurts) stayed the same (really high), but my watts started slipping down. I was bonking, hard.
Bryon slipped away and I could not respond. I'd cooked my legs too soon and had nothing left.

Rolled through the finish line in 4:15. Yes, 45 seconds faster than 2 years ago! Nonetheless, that served to land me a mid-pack 18th place in Cat 4. 25 seconds behind the winning time in Cat 4. (Michael Persson of Highwood pass ride 2 weeks ago crushed it, winning cat 5, coming in faster than the cat 4 winner!)

So, not surprised by my results, and not really disappointed with my time either, considering how much I've improved.
Here's the strava file with warmup and cooldown (note the big spike at the start of lap 2, 1150W max! First minute average was 583! Finished with an avg of 422W, so quite a drop at the end and thus lower overall than I'd hoped for.)

Road Race - 88 km

Speed Theory had a strong lineup in cat 4 for this race, including Isaac Beall and Peter Regier, both recently upgraded from Cat 5.
Not much of a game plan going in, except that I figured Peter and I would work to get Isaac the win.

This course consists of a 44km out and back loop, done twice. At the half way point of the lap, there is a very steep, often decisive climb.

The first lap was fairly inocuous, a little punchy on the rollers, then we got to the big hill and sure enough, pain cave...
I hung in, drifting down to around 15th at the top. I felt good at the top and soon began driving back to the front, thanks to some encouragement from Andrew R to shake some of the guys that barely made it up with the group.
Little did I know, Isaac had flatted at the bottom of the hill, and I was only making it harder for him to catch back on.
But, like the monster he is, he did regain contact, and shortly after the start of the 2nd lap, he was back near the front with me. Andrew R and Rob Leishman (APH) put in a valiant attack and we left them out there for a while. When I saw them ahead, working really well together and growing a gap, I realized that having a team of 5 and nobody in that break meant we should probably help pull it back in, especially since Andrew was 3rd in GC, only 1 second behind Isaac, so I surged to the front and initiated the catch. We caught them shortly before the hill, which was perfect.
2nd time up the "hill", it was a little slower though. I guess our group had shed a dozen guys or so along the way, but by now the group of 20 strong were not going to let anyone get away. 
Peter, Isaac and I were near the front, covering some surges.
A quick plan was born that Peter and I would lead the charge from about 10-5 k out, ensuring there were no late attacks or funny business.
I was hoping to wait until a bit later, like 1-2k so that I wouldn't lose too much GC time to my closest rivals, but around the 8k mark, a couple guys ahead of me all but performed a track stand in order to avoid doing any work at all. We had already been warned several times by the commissaires to speed it up, so I moved to the front and began the loooong leadout.
Pushed around 280-300 watts for a couple minutes, then Peter came around and took over.
We traded pulls, with Isaac nestled in safe behind.
Not a soul came up around us.
Final turn and the base of what Strava considers a category 3 climb to the finish, 3km from the line.
Peter passes me, but this time I am so roasted I cannot swing in behind him. The pack of 20 slowly pass me, and I latch on to the back.
The climb flattens a little 1km later, and with the tailwind and full draft I was able to recover a little, to my surprise, and even found myself moving up again.
Going up the last kicker and final 1km, I pass a few more guys.
Final sprint and although I'm spinning out with a cadence ~120, but passed a couple more guys, finishing 9th.

Pleased with the contribution and teamwork we showed today, and I'm surprised I still managed to muster a top 10 after all that. Didn't lose any time in GC, and a few of my competitors did.

Click here for part II

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