Saturday, 3 August 2013

Tour de Bowness Road Race

After keeping it calm at the TransRockies after party last night in Canmore, and the girls coming back to the hotel room at 2:30 in the morning after doing a lot more after party than me, Cory Wallace and I drove to Cochrane at 7:30am for the Tour de Bowness road race, aka starting training for continuous pedalling for Mongolia.  Observers from breakfast and the race said "you guys are crazy", to which I clarified: Cory was 2nd in the TransRockies 7 day, stayed up way later than I did, and is racing this thing.  I did 3 days last weekend, placed like a middle aged desk jockey, did a couple spins this week, and am here.  So despite the carpool, there's two varying levels of hardcore.  It was great to catch up on life and riding, and we'll see each other in a month again in Mongolia.

My warmup this morning was riding 152m from parking to sign in.  First, people at road races look at you funny when you ride from parking lot to road across gravel and grass on a road bike with carbon rims, or blaze into a gravel parking lot without slowing down.  I'd bet those road rims are nearly as strong as the mountain bike ones I use, which is waaay stronger than they need to be.  I used to road race and mountain race about 50/50, but now I was greeted frequently with "haven't seen you on a road bike in forever" and "you road race?".  Indeed.  Maybe that's an omen.

We queued up, and got in more warmup - the first 15 seconds were below 37kph.  I felt sluggish, just wanted to make it through an hour to see how I'd really feel.  I noticed Cory wasn't around, he went to pee and missed the start, so he chased on.  He was with the group within the first half hour.  I probably would have sat in the sun and found a coffee shop.  First 20k were tailwind, net uphill, but easy enough to chat to guys in the peloton.  Fun.  Did the first U turn and came back into a stiff headwind and "the" steep climb.  I'm dinking around with my power data to figure it out, but am even out of practice with it.  I'll say it was like a 3 minute long punch that's steep and still shed me out the back (not the back back, but out of the front) with approximately 400W.  Crest into full headwind is enough to break the group and keep it broken on each lap.  We had a group of 6 that we rode with for the rest, I think most who didn't have groups behind us pulled at the end of that lap back at the start/finish.

Now here's where my legs were confused.  Call it 40 minutes in, crested a climb, punched it over the top in a futile attempt to not be dropped by the real riders there, and... no singletrack descent to latch back on with and rest.  Nope, this is road racing.  You don't exactly get a fun reward for your climbing efforts, just paceline headwind hammering.  Something like 3h 40m of non stop pedalling, now the next several hours of through and off with a 6-8 person group as we caught a few more.  My lungs weren't too bad, my legs kind of went apoplectic.  Good training.

The rest is a story of rises and falls in energy, headwinds, group camaraderie, thinking it'd be really good to pull off and just lie in the grass at the start finish as we lap, then realizing by the last out and back that I can/should complete this.  Couple guys were talking as we were nearing the far point turnaround, and I asked if they were planning the big attack.  They said they were talking the opposite, let's all save ourselves from the last 20k of headwind misery in solo groups, ride in, and if anyone needed to, sprint the last 3k of crosswind hill up to the finish.  I was totally game.  We climbed "the" hill a last time, and someone called attention to "operation finish this race".  We did another half hour or whatever it was of through and off in differing echelons into the wind.  I took most pulls, skipped a couple during moments of weakness.

We got to the bottom of the last few km's of climb, and saw a group up ahead.  I didn't super care as we were all in lower places, but some guys did.  Group sped up so I stayed in, unfortunately that was the last I'd see of one Speed Theory friend who we just rode 95% of the race with.  I actually felt like I had jam to help chase the group ahead, but saw more pride in rolling in than "racing" for back spots.  One out of towner kept punching it - Bayou jersey - so we stayed on him out of principle and a few more shed off.  He kept mad sprinting in as we neared the line, and I just sat on his followers wheel and didn't let him drop us... just because.  I actually wish in retrospect I tried to sprint him instead of sitting on, but that also isn't cool with the other guys who just did all the work and were planning on riding in as a group.  Irrelevant anyway.

Shawn, Cory, everyone else was lounging at the line.  We lounged, drank Coke.  My legs felt like... well like they'd pedalled 135km nonstop for 3h 45m or whatever hours without a single break.  My back felt like it pedalled all but 15 minutes in the drops.  My battery for my speed sensor was dead, but I think our distance + time back calc will hit on pretty much exactly 36kph for that time.  Now all I have to do is think forward a month when I'll have to do more distance than that, but instead of deep carbon road rims and drafting I get to do it pushing mountain bike tires with likely less pace line.  Hmm...

Results here.  The front group has a lot of talent, plus the Trek Red Truck guys actually use a team strategy, which is legit for sure, but also is kind of big fish small pond for AB racing.  I guess in theory everyone should, but with 5 strong guys and two who don't finish, it's a bit of a leg up.  I'm at about the halfway point of starters - nobody wanted to do the headwind if they were dropped on a lap so that's all the DNF's.

Bunnin and I went for a great lunch in Cochrane, listened to his car put out some sweet engine purr on the way home, then master plan for rest of day is to absolutely nothing.


  1. Great summary! I hope some day to be able to do mtb stage races and road races, you make it sound painless:)

  2. Looks like the SpeedTheory guy was Thomas. Super nice guy who actually rides a MTB really well - for a SpeedTheory guy anyway!