Our preferred corporate lawyers, BD&P invited us out with great hospitality for this year's fondo. Shawn had the "challenge" of repeating a win for them to justify his "marketing expense", and I in theory was filling Jared's shoes (who was busy this weekend) as a respectable second. I think we accomplished both...
Signin was efficient yesterday and in a more accessible location. Lots of riding friends coming and going. We got some nice swag - a sweet Lululemon hoodie and shirt, some pint glasses, some wine, jersey, all that goodness. We ended up having quite a late dinner, then crashed hard for the early wakeup. We missed the group photo, but by the time we got out the front door it was tolerably warm. I took my warmer gloves back to front desk, as I didn't even think I'd need them for the 3k descent into town. Cindy and I made it to the licensed racer start block with time to spare, and I ended up leaving my jacket in Drew Bragg's announcer tent - thanks Drew!
It took all of about 4 minutes after the start to separate out the first group. The Tunnel Mountain climb was hit pretty hard, and that was really it. The Smart Storage/Mountain Khaki (I'm gonna say SSMK) guys went hard, and rest hung on. Couple more surges on the out and back near Minnewanka confirmed who was in and out. Last year I popped early, either because I sucked, or at least partly due to having a full week of Breck Epic steady eddy aerobic zone work in me, but no hard efforts. This year I had the hard efforts. I was in and felt fine.
Back through town we made it across before the train came through, and served as test pilots for some of the oddly placed cones that were placed that probably seemed like a good idea to people putting them out, but didn't make sense from a peloton perspective. We got out to the 1A turnoff, and SSMK called a pee break. Great. This seemed like it was going to be sensible, I have no facts on this, but I'd assume the team would say "ride fast enough that you're not in all the sketchy groups, but this isn't our day to hog glory". That was about right. They worked hard on the front as the day's average speed shows - 143km and 3:29 official time (2 pee stops inclusive) is 41km/h. I stayed in the draft, chatted to friends, and still worked hard.
Hooper and I were trucking along having a good chat, good time, and met some others. I could usually spot Bunnin. Sometimes Hooper was ahead, sometimes behind... until... Shawn and I were coasting downhill side by side after the Lake Louise turnaround, after the 2nd pee break called at the top of the hill, and were surprised to see Hooper solo time trailing coming towards us. I only heard at the finish, but turns out he dropped a chain right at the bottom of a hill acceleration, and couldn't then TT back on after the mishap. Bummer. But sounds like he got a solid hard-man workout in avoiding being swallowed by the chasers for the rest!
I had accidentally left my new Garmin 510 charging at home, so I had a wristwatch and the course profile sticker they gave us, plus iPhone in back pocket for today's Strava. Only about 2/3 of the way through did I actually look at the sticker, which befuddled me. It was printed with the start on the right, finish on the left, for no reason I understand given English speakers spend their whole time reading from left to right. Anyway, once I figured that out, all I knew was the last couple kickers would be attempts to shed people from the group. First one I survived fine; second one I was listening to a new acquaintance tell a story, then had to go... I saw Shawn pull left and start accelerating past the SSMK guys and knew he was going to give it a dig. Instead of being the end of the crack the whip, I hammered right away mirroring to the best of my ability his surge... and survived over the top... just barely. We were temporarily down to say 12 or 15, but rest caught back on eventually. The left side of all this action had a couple of rather bewildered bighorn sheep licking rocks. Cool.
It's at that point I realized there wasn't any climbing of note left, and I felt great. Bam. No need to worry about carrying the belly around. Under the TransCanada, onto the paths, then onto the wider road. Little gap opened up in front of some guys ahead so I went up and filled it... and didn't feel anyone wanting to come around. Hmm... I felt fine, I was wondering if a few felt tapped out?
Shawn, an RMCC guy, some of the SSMK guys did hard pulls. We were moving and it wasn't getting any easier, but I wasn't falling back. Eventually the SSMK guys seemed to retreat - I think it was their workout day doing the hard paceline stuff, and it probably was deemed "not cool" to show a win when you're the big kids playing the first graders. Fair enough. As we came onto Mt. Norquay road, I saw a gap up ahead again, and we were perfect stretched out single file, not a bunch... so moved out, moved up, and slotted in. Hmm, that felt nice. Once more. Saw second last turn coming and had a clean line. Moved around another guy, then decided to take the last turn wide around a guy who was lining up for the inside line. Glad I did as I then bended even wider when I heard his rear tire give a hop-skip-jump and a bit of gasp from him from the cornering effort. He slowed from that, I look up, and don't see that many bodies ahead... that's working out well. 75m more of everything I could muster didn't move me in front or behind anyone, yes there's ahead and behind, but we finished as a group within fractions of a second. I didn't get dropped today - that's fun. I couldn't tell from my vantage, but Shawn did win the sprint for a repeat! I'm marked as 7th and 3s back. That's a good day for this guy, so fun!
We socialized an hour at the end, waited for Cindy and Ashley to come in and tell us about their days, then Cindy and I had to pull the rip cord to go actually make our late check out time from the hotel.
Beautiful weather, beautiful course, not a single speck of gravel on the course, great group to ride with, great snacks/music/barley pop after, everyone who was out there today did a serious dose of winning it was so good. It's also awesome to ride 3+h and never get out of the drops - that's just a "business time" ride.
Cindy did awesome with a 4:30 finish too, her fastest 140k yet!
Chris Hooper and I looking happy at the start.
1,500 people deep!