Today's weather looked ominous on the way up, but turned out perfect for racing - warm but not hot, and dry with good traction.
Despite napping for an hour yesterday afternoon, I slept like a log last night and had a hard time waking up this morning. I was super tired driving up to the race as well, my carpool mates noticed I was a bit zoned out. Legs felt fine during a half warmup lap, and I thought once the start countdown happened I'd be fine... but in my mind I wasn't really sure.
Once the elites left the start chute in a blaze of glory, with Tim getting the hole shot (go figure), we were up. I had an inside line, got my foot clipped into my pedal in right away, and made it to the acute angle right hander first. After that turn we were on bike path for 20m, and Justin Middleton, a junior, was gunning to get by. I wasn't eager to red line off the start, with BC Bike Race only a week behind me, I figured my strategy would be to ride hard, but see what happened on the last lap when 7 day stage race fitness might come into play. He went by, and I tried off and on to glimpse him over the next while, but he was powering up the climbs well above what I felt I could do.
During the second half of the first lap, I thought I might have been leading again, as a Juventus rider was climbing up out of a ravine on a fairly tricky, narrow descent. I passed and asked "are you ok, is your bike ok" to which I got two yes answers, and I thought it may have been Justin. Either way, I just kept doing the pace I could do, as at hairpin turns or longer straights without trees I could see Mike Sarnecki chasing.
The second and third laps felt great, I settled into a rhythm, wasn't fatiguing much, and was thinking ahead to each upcoming part thinking how I could carry more speed through the section, or complete it with less energy consumption. My tires were hooking up great on the fast flowy sections, so each time I'd brake less and carry more speed up the following inclines. I rode all climbs other than two where I'd decided pushing was just as fast and used less energy (one of them I forced myself to ride every lap last year, and it just sapped too much from my legs for what it seemed to be worth at the end of the day). I didn't see a single rider all day when I was navigating the kids park with the gravel in it, so I don't know what others elected to do, but I did a cyclocross dismount/remount and pushed through it rather than riding.
At the end of the day, I didn't pass or get passed by any riders the entire race, other than 10m in, and by the occasional other category racer out on trail, but even those occurred perfectly in wider trail areas so I just rode my pace from start to finish. Ended up second, which I is fine by me, so experts were Justin Middlefield/Erik Bakke/Mike Sarnecki.
Elites ended up with Tim Heemskerk/Andre Sutton/Brian Bain. Tim took about 10 minutes more than me to complete one entire additional lap (experts rode 4, elites rode 5, my time I think was about 1:42 or so, Tim's was 1:54, although those last digits might be transposed). I'm sure he also stopped for two pee breaks and a snack along the ridge with the view too ; ) Shawn elected to cheer for me rather than complete his race, mostly since he's such a nice guy.
Single speeders (this was the AB championships) were Peter Yez/Tom Brodinski/Tim Brezsnyak.
The deadgoats were rounded out by Gerry, Pat and Mark.
Sweet day overall, and it only got sweeter with the stop at Taco Del Mar in Leduc on the way home, and the torrential hail that slowed the number 2 highway to a crawl south of Red Deer.
Here's the vanity shot Shawn was kind enough to take to commemorate this rare confluence of events - podium + beard.
And here's the single speeders - sans two deadgoat jerseys!
I don't have a picture of the elite podium as I was trying to find someone to hand my Devon questionnaire to, I found a pen on the ground so I was able to do my civic duty by completing it.
Thanks Hardcore guys for a great race!