Saturday, 23 August 2014

Banff Gran Fondo 2014

Although forecasts had people worried of ominous weather, it turned out fine.  I think they only people uncomfortable were those without proper clothes.  I was happy from start to finish - all dry and about 7C - in booties, knee warmers, long but not really thermal gloves, arm warmers, wool t shirt under my jersey and a synthetic cycling beanie under my helmet.

Great day and fun riding.  Fun to see everyone out.  We had an easy time waking up early from still being a bit on Euro time.  Roll out was motor paced for quite a while.  It wasn't long in until we all started asking ourselves what on earth the lead motorcycle was doing.  I'd be interested to know if the duo of driver and guy on back had ever moto'd a race before.  They drove erratic, stopped in random spots, used highly animated but non-specific hand signals that confused people.  We theorized at one point that we were being warned an octopus was swimming near a certain section of road.   They'd slow down at the bottom of hills so the peloton would hard brake into the back of them which is just sketchy as the peloton would compress.  For the lead group they were stopped in the middle of the road 50m from the finish line in the middle of the sprint lane faffing around with hand indeterminate hand signals.  Anyway…

So I felt on fire through the paced section and was having no issue at all staying in the first 10 riders on any climbs and such.  Great!  Then we came back through town, out Vermilion lakes road, and the need to pee was building.  Not such bad timing I thought, we're on this sketchy bike path section with a straightaway down hill, and there's a gate up ahead which will bunch everyone up.  I do a rolling pee and am 10m off the back.  Now, I'm not usually this good at reading minds, but today it was clear.  Nick Hamilton, the pro who ended up winning, as he passed through the gate, thought "hey, now it's open road, and I can drill it on the front and drop all these local yocals, including that middle age guy in his lawyers team kit back there peeing!

So I look up and think the gap is only 10m, put my head down and drill it.  Legs feel great, I accelerate, I look up, and… uhh… now I'm more than 10m behind.  Uh oh.  Repeat.  No luck.  Pass a couple being dropped from the acceleration.  Still no luck.  Geez!! I'm off, and we haven't even started.  Shoot.

After that, I settle in with a group, and after the airplane reading of Jens' retirement, I figure this is great, I'll just expend energy with wonton abandon and see how it goes.  That's fun.  I don't do it enough.  I pulled.  But we rotated, and when it got slow, I launched and would see who would come with.  I drilled the hills and made gaps, seeing who would come along.  On the return last 30k or whatever, every hill I launched an attack.  Nobody followed, they were half smart I suppose.  I'd get like 30 seconds up, a big gap.  But the group of 12 on what is say a net 1-2% downhill road in a headwind would reel it back in five minutes.  One guy asked me if I was frying myself for the finish; I said no, I'm doing this all the way home, better than a boring finish!  Anyway kept it going, rode through the sketchy bike paths they had a the finish, then it was 100m or whatever to the finish line.  I led out and sprinted for all I was worth.  Of course one of the Edmonton Road and Track guys who's like 6'4" with these giant legs sat on my wheel an pipped me at the end.  Oh well.  It's not like it was for a place that mattered.  I might care about sprint finishes from time to time.  But I think there's more pride in an approach that isn't dictated solely by leaching as best as one possibly can.

At least we are a great looking team with the sharp Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer kit and great ancillary support all season!

I like supporting events that bring people out riding. This one has pros and cons like any other. The riding is great. I'd ask the organizers to consider the following if they can to keep the event quality up: reconsider the quality of your lead sketchiness master, err Moto. Reconsider your announcer whom I'm guessing is adept at rodeo announcing primarily. Reconsider your extensive pre race requests for volunteers - yes manpower is needed. But you're a for profit organization solely asking for your margins to be improved by free labour.  Lastly, I could care less about another bike t shirt, but a lot of people only do an event like this. The steep entry fees this year got entrants schwag of exactly zero, which was continually echoed through the peloton.  On a notable mention, I suspect it's Banff more than the organization, but the route quality is deteriorating with all the reroutes around town on paths that don't fit this quantity of riders.  

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