Springbank Crit

‘Peaking’ for a race is an art. It involves a fine balance between training just enough so you don’t lose much fitness and resting just enough so that on race day, your legs aren’t tired and you feel fresh and ready to go. If you train too much, you’re  in good shape but too tired to race well. If you rest too much, you are excited and ready to race but aren’t in good enough shape to do so. The art is in finding the perfect balance.

Unfortunately, despite my ambitions of racing on Team Sky in the Tour de France,  I began school last year, and this ended up becoming a minor interruption in my normal training regimen. The lack of available training time forced my hand into swinging the peaking pendulum quite heavily over onto the ‘rest’ side. But, was this necessarily a bad thing? No…. perhaps I’d been over-training my entire cycling career and had never been able to unlock my true potential because I just wasn’t rested enough. Yes, this would explain why I wasn’t in the pro leagues yet. Maybe, … just like how others have made brilliant discoveries by luck of circumstance, I was about to stumble on to my own brilliant discovery – in the form of a genius peaking plan. That must be it. All these years I was training TOO much. With a bit more rest I’d finally be able to reach greatness in cycling. So, rest is exactly what I would do.

And no, this wasn’t just me being lazy. This was an art. I poured over charts and graphs to perfectly optimise when I should rest, how often and in what position I should be in when recovering from all the rest. I carefully mapped out my winter and spring season. It looked good. I  expertly included 14 hours of on the bike training since the previous season, just to keep things ‘polished up’. I hope it wasn’t too much.

My plan was working. I could tell. By early Spring I could feel my legs resting into peak form. I could sense the racing victories that were soon to come. I also noticed I was developing some sort of gelatinous substance, mostly around my abdominal area. This I hadn’t foreseen. Was it possible that since I was finally able to recover properly, I was developing some sort of hypertrophied fast-twitch abdominal muscle? It must be. We all have heard the claims of how important the core is to performance. I was excited. I had no idea what this extra muscle would do for me but I some how knew it would be epic. Every morning was Christmas morning for me, as I excitedly examined this large growing muscle, just wondering how it would benefit me on the bike. As an added bonus, I realised the fast-twitch abdo held some aero advantage, as it helped to smooth the contour lines of my body, allowing wind to stream passed me more efficiently.  I didn’t need the  wind tunnel data, I could just tell. I could hardly wait to race.

As Spring came, I passed up on the normal early season races… Paris to Ancaster, Good Friday, Calabogie… My peaking schedule didn’t allow for such frivolous expenditures of energy. No doubt they would just tire me out and prevent me from reaching my full potential. No, I had decided my debut race would be the Springbank Crit – 30 laps around a twisty turny park in London, racing against the best cyclists in Ontario. This is the race where I would make my mark.

Finally, the day of the race was here. My legs were bursting with energy from all the rest and recovery. My fast twitch abdo was peaked and ready to perform. As I parked my car on the afternoon of the race I realised I wasn’t actually at the race venue, even though it looked sort of the same. I ended up having to bike for 15 minutes to the actual venue but I figured a race wouldn’t be right without some sort of mess up like this. I checked into the race, changed and began my warm up routine. What was my warm up routine? I couldn’t even remember. So, I biked in some circles. While biking in one of these circles I looked down in sheer terror as I saw my legs. They still had hair on them! I’ve made this error multiple times in the past and felt like I’d already learned this lesson. Normally in my training rides leading up to a race something just wouldn’t feel ‘right’ and then I’d notice the ugly leg hair flowing in the wind and so I would go home shave it off before the race day. But, since my training plan called for 8 days off the bike before this race, I hadn’t even noticed. I held back vomit and could tell other riders did the same when they looked at me. I’d been here before.

Twenty minutes before the race start, fellow OCTTO teammate Larbi asked if I could pin his numbers on his jersey. I obliged. This turned out to be a monumental moment in my day. Had I known that pinning these numbers on would be the sole contribution I would make to the team, I would have taken my time and done a better job at it. As it was, I ended up pinning the numbers slightly lopsided and not in the most aero position. At the time though, my mind was elsewhere. I was busily trying to decide exactly which way I wanted to win this race. Did I want to solo off the gun and lap the field? Or did I want to take the sprint finish? Or, was it better to just sort of toy with the group and break away and get caught on purpose and then break away again? The options are endless when in the type of form I was in.

The race started and for the first 1km or so my legs felt great! My breathing was in control, my HR was low and I could feel the wind streaming past my bulky fast-twitch abdominal muscles. It felt great.  I couldn’t wait to win this race. Then, about 2km’s hit and things seemed to get a little harder. After the tight downhill turn at the start of the lap, we would be faced with a little headwind and the pack would surge forward. A few times early on in the race a gap opened up here between me and the rest of the pack. What was going on? My legs didn’t feel nearly as fresh as they should have at this point.


10km in and each lap was getting harder and harder.  I didn’t understand why. It was early on still and I was more rested than I had ever been in my entire life. A 2 man breakaway went out at some point but some riders (not me) reeled it back in and then all other breaks seemed to be getting shut down. My legs felt sluggish and tired, almost as if I had sat my lazy ass at a computer and studied the entire off season instead of doing what I know I had really done – a cutting edge, highly scientific, taper rest recovery cycle for 6 months…. I just didn’t understand.


30km in and I had found my way into the middle of the pack and was now into full conservation energy mode. I would try and find the biggest rider in the pack and stay behind him for as long as possible in an attempt to do as little work as humanly possible. It had worked thus far. Then, just before going through the 15th or so lap, I tagged onto a rider as he zoomed alongside the pack and up to the front. I couldn’t pass up a chance to move to the front while being sheltered from the wind. So, I latched on and moved up.. Then, this little group I was following accelerated and opened up a tiny gap. I desperately tried to match their pace and stay onto the back.

Unfortunately, this one little effort to stay close to the group was all it took to be totally spent. There were no brutal cramps, no gasping for air, no struggling for KM’s on end to try not to get dropped. I was just done. I lost contact with the group in front, and then seconds later, with the rest of the pack as all the riders flew by me. .

Then, it was time for that moment in cycling that every rider has felt at some point in their sporting life. The pack is ahead and you fight as hard as you can to try and get closer to it. The pack will slow a little and you’ll get closer, but then it will speed up and will pull further away. Ultimately, you know it’s over. But, there’s always that tiny chance that everybody lets up, or perhaps they all crash and you will be back in the race. I clung to what tiny hope there was for 4 or 5 laps but eventually the pack came up behind me and I had to get off the course. I just  couldn’t figure out what went wrong…..

I watched from the sidelines and the race continued. It looked like it spiced up a little now that it had dropped the dead weight. No breaks had formed.  With 10km left to go, Tommy from Octto appeared to be on the tail end of a strong looking breakway that had gathered a bit of a gap on the group. But by the next lap the race was back together.


With 3 laps to go, Larbi had converted into TT mode and was charging on the front of a small breakaway pack and had opened up another gap on the field. But, by the next lap, his break was caught and the race was back together. In the end, the race finished in a bunch sprint with Larbi finishing 7th and Tommy 13th. I’m not telling where I finished.



















Provincial Championships

I’m late. Like, not the typical Nigel Roedde late, as has become the norm for me this year, but the type of late that may just result in me driving 3 hours North to miss the start of the Provincial Championships road race. I had left Orillia with ample time and expected to arrive a record setting 1.5 hours early. Halfway along my route though, my GPS lost contact with the skies above and I was left to navigate like they did in the caveman days. Like us all, I’ve become totally dependent on my GPS to find my way around, and my sense of direction is no more. So, I relied on another, even more instinctual sense to find my way. The smell of pain… which I thought would be emanating from the Masters road race at that very moment. I unrolled the window and sniffed the air to see if I could tap into this long lost skill. I couldn’t. So, instead I looked at some road signs. Plus, I’d been here a few years ago… and I looked at the map last night.

With another 50km of driving to go, it appeared as if I would make it with time before the start of the race. Not with much time, but perhaps with just enough. During my calculations, it also struck me that I had forgotten to bring any substantial amount of food for the race. I was left with 1 cliff bar, and I was already really hungry and was having a debate with myself whether it was more important to eat this bar now or during the race. Screw it. I wasted a few precious minutes and stopped in to a convenience store and grabbed a bunch of brownies and some jube-jubes. Not ‘special’ jube-jubes for athletes like myself – the ones that cost 5 times as much because they have a picture of a cyclist on the front, but these inferior, ‘normal’ people jube-jubes. Just mere ‘candy’ really. They would have to do.

Over the next 40 minutes I ate all my brownies, took a few wrong turns and swore some profanities at the top of my lungs… a few times. I had already worked myself up into a sweat. Perfect, no need for a warm up. I pulled into the race parking lot with 30 minutes to go before the race start. I still needed to grab my numbers, pin them on my jersey, get changed, go to the washroom, clean/oil my chain, put air in my tires and load up my non-athlete specific jube-jubes and my sole cliff bar into my jersey and then make my way to the race start. Go!

While ferociously pinning my numbers to my jersey I stabbed myself with one of the safety pins. I couldn’t help thinking that I might really need those little oxygen carrying drops of blood today. Sigh.

Within 25 minutes I had accomplished all my tasks. God knows how I did it all, but I did. I made it to the start line….. just in time to wait 15 extra minutes for the delayed race to start…..

This course would have us cycling along the waterfront near Wiarton. It was an absolutely gorgeous course, with views of the bluffs across the lake. The pavement was great, the traffic was almost non existent. It was a perfect venue. I took it all in while I could, because I knew in a matter of minutes all the beauty would be covered in a shroud of misery and I wouldn’t care if I was cycling in the Pyrenees of France or in circles around a parking lot.

The race started rather quickly. We had to complete five 30km loops and I thought perhaps there was an unwritten rule that we would at least take the first few minutes easy, you know, to warm up a bit. Nope. It seems as if this is not a written or an unwritten rule. It’s a made up rule that doesn’t actually exist except in my mind. I was at the back rather quickly, but wasn’t worried as it was mostly flats and downhills for now and my legs were fresh. The pack was strung out for only a few minutes and then came together again and things eased up.


Now, this may be a good place to explain my rather unknown level of fitness at this point in the season. As you may have noticed, my race reports fell off the face of the earth for the last few months. This was not because I wasn’t racing, but rather because I started school in May and couldn’t bear to sit at my computer writing anything that wasn’t mandatory to complete my courses. I suppose my training regressed along similar lines as these race reports. Sadly, I had to temporarily abandon my destined path to be subbed into the 2016 Tour De France to replace Froome as the team leader where I would likely have won the tour and probably the Olympics as well. Instead, I decided I would make sure I trained just good enough to not embarrass myself. My ‘training’ now involved a 1 hr commute each way to school a few times a week and the occasional interval session. A few weeks before the race I had a break from school and so picked it up a bit more and did a few good group rides and snatched a few Strava KOMS. All of this to say…. I didn’t really know what sort of shape I was in at the moment.

So, in attempts to not let down the team with a lack of training, I did something I didn’t think I would do until perhap I was 40. I chose to join the ranks of many Masters triathletes and time trialers before me. I did something there was no going back from. Instead of training to get faster, I was going to waste money on some frivolous bike equipment in order to save what was probably an irrelevant amount of energy while riding my bike. All in an attempt to convince myself that I might be technically ‘faster’ than before. So, I shaved off at least 10 jube-jibes worth of weight by upgrading to a carbon stem. I got a set of those aero carbon handlebars that would probably improve my aerodynamics even more than if I had pinned my numbers correctly on my jersey and/or wiped away the blood. In addition, I removed some spacers on my headset and instead of being somewhat comfortable on my bike,  I dropped the handlebars down an inch so that my neck and shoulder hurt as much as my legs when I was riding. I was way faster now.

Within a few km’s some riders started making moves. I had somehow positioned myself close to the front of the pack which meant it was my duty to cover a move if we didn’t have a guy in it. My legs felt great and I was easily able to jump into any short lived breaks early on in the first lap. Nothing stuck of course. Not even close. Then came the first go around at the hilly section of this course. The first pitch was short and steep, then a flat section followed by another steep pitch. The first time around is always easy. No problem.


Halfway through the first lap and I was back at the front where I found myself covering what seemed to be a lot of moves. Many times a small group would attack and we wouldn’t have any guys in it, so I’d hammer off to try and catch onto the back. We were always caught quickly but as soon as we were, it seemed another group would charge off the front. Since I still seemed best positioned, I felt like it was my job to make sure we had a guy in THAT potential break, so off I’d go again. After 15 or so KM of this my legs were already feeling this race and it was REALLY early on for that sort of stuff. Perhaps even a new record of misery, having made it only 20% into the race.

At this point, my mind couldn’t help replaying our ‘team strategy’ discussion where I confessed to the group that I was probably in baby mode right now and could probably not hang with any breaks. Breaks really aren’t my thing to begin with and I thought of myself as a bit of a liability in them. NOTHING is worse in road racing then getting dropped from a break that’s up the road. As it were, I thought it would be better if somebody ELSE, perhaps somebody a bit more reliable, got into a break instead. I would defend and perhaps survive a race of attrition if the cards fell that way. After the first lap though, I seemed to have taken up the role of the ‘sucker’ who’s responsibility it was to represent us in as many short lived breaks as possible and then chase down ones we weren’t represented in, at least for the first part of the race.This seemed a bit contrary to our initial strategy but perhaps I was missing something. As I thought more about it I started to think maybe the team was just playing a joke on me and wanted me dead. Perhaps this was my punishment for showing up so late. Maybe Larbi, who I have come to realise normally ends up doing the lions share of all this work in races, was getting back at me. I bet he was back there right now with an evil grin on his face. I probably deserve it.


Usually, it takes me 5-10 repeats of doing the wrong thing before I learn from my mistakes. I think I was born with the memory of some sort of goldfish. Well, it seemed that this season the same things kept happening to us, race after race after race: we’d get into a few breaks that wouldn’t stick… then the one break we WEREN’T in would get away. We’d be the suckers chasing it down with little help from anybody else and if it got caught, we’d be toasted, if it didn’t, we’d be racing for mediocre spots. Well… this must have been the 5-10th time I had learned this lesson because this was NOT happening again. So, although we were only 30 km’s into a 150km race and my legs felt dead already, I refused to let any breaks get away without one of our guys in them…

35km in and my legs were already feeling really fried. I had decided that it wasn’t likely that I would have anything left for the latter part of this race, so the best I could do was keep doing what I was doing and hope my efforts might contribute to keeping another OCTTO rider’s legs a bit more fresh. So, I jumped onto another attack. This group seemed to quickly gain a bit of a gap. This little breakaway looked like it just might have the right composition of riders so that nobody would bother chasing it. Within a minute or two we had a pretty decent gap. There were 6 or 7 of us. 20 seconds up. Then 30 seconds up (so Strava tells me). Everybody seemed to be working hard and I did what I could but was already struggling to take my turn on the front. I am a useless breakaway companion. These poor riders were stuck with me. Had this breakaway lasted for more than 10 minutes, they would have probably chosen to just get off their bikes and wait for the group rather than deal with me.

The one or two teams that were NOT represented chose to chase this one down. So, after a few more KM’s it all came back together. Then, back up the hilly section which was a bit more painful this time around. Only 3 more times and over 90km to go…. I was ready for the race to end already. I felt rough. So, I drifted towards the back of the group and let the team know I was going to neglect any more chasing/attacking/bridging duties and hoped that somebody else would go on patrol near the front. They did. Now, this race had become like most others for me. I was just trying to keep my spot in the pack. It was painful and I was dreading the next few hours and I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

I saw Bozek, Tommy and Larbi all move up to the front and they all worked like animals attacking and covering moves for the next bunch of KM’s. I hid and drank my sugar water.

I can’t recall if it was this lap or the one before, but at some point Gaelen Merritt and a DC Bank dude made a wild 2 man breakaway and quickly gained a 40 second on the group. How they can do that, I will never know. Team New World seemed to do most of the work to keep the gap from growing too large.


Nearing the 3rd time up the hill I was getting worried that this might be where it would end for me. So, I used an opportune slow movement of the pack to go off the front and get a few seconds up on the group heading into the climb. By midway up the climb, riders were catching up and passing me. By the top of the climb I was barely holding onto the tail end of the group. But looking back I saw half the peleton behind me. What the heck? I recovered a bit and slowly moved up towards the front. I was the only OCTTO guy in this ‘sorta’-breakaway group of 15-20 riders. Even more oddly was that all of the big names didn’t seem to be in this group. I couldn’t quite figure out what was happening but considered it bad news non the less. I took stock of my situation. There were 75km to go and my legs were fried. I had a bit of water left, but had eaten all my non-athlete specific jube-jubes, as well as my sole cliff bar and what I really wanted to do was bail out of the race and go swimming. OCTTO’s chances weren’t looking very good at the moment.

Thankfully, after a few km’s our bizarro-sort-of-not-really-a-breakaway was caught and OCTTO’s hopes came back alive. Larbi, Tommy and Bozek were all present and looking strong. A few more KM’s in and the feed station was coming up. This was an important bottle to grab for me. Expert bottle deliverer, Joan, had my bottle in hand. I could see it from 100 meters away and zoned in. My hummingbird liquid was within reach. But, as I reached for the bottle she pulled it back. What the heck? Maybe the team really was trying to kill me. Was this some sort of conspiracy? No. Another rider was coming up behind me and had I gone further for the bottle we might have crashed. Smart move on Joan’s part but I had the feeling I was going to be thirsty soon. Bozek offered me a bottle, but at the time I felt I had enough to last me another round of torture. I soon realised I had lied to him and myself. My “full” bottle was basically an “empty” bottle.

The next lap the only thing of relevance that I recall was Larbi making a move right before the climb. He got a bit of a gap but it didn’t stick. I recall him saying later “I’ve only done one stupid thing so far”. This was a new record for him. Thinking back on the race, I recall seeing Larbi being uncharacteristically cautious with his attacks. I don’t recall seeing him countering his own attack even once. Perhaps he was subdued by his 40km TT the day before. There is probably a lesson somewhere in all of this but we won’t have any idea what it is until 5-10 more repeats of it.

110km in and cramps hit pretty full on. Why? Did it have something to do with having not enough water, or perhaps because I had been out of food for over an hour. Maybe something to do with all the earlier efforts I put in? No, it was definitely because those stupid jube-June’s weren’t packaged specifically for bike racers and they didn’t cost nearly enough and so, I was paying the price in a different way.

The cramps were escalating quickly. They skipped stage 1 and stage 2 and went straight to stage 3 on the ‘Nigel’s cramping scale’ (patent pending). I figured this was my last lap. Going into the final feed zone I felt like I was a drowning swimmer trying to catch the last throw of a safety line. I couldn’t screw it up. Feed zones can be tricky though. There are tons of people in the feed and they all have bottles, only one of which is meant for you.. I couldn’t quite see Joan yet when while looking for her, somebody stuck out a bottle right in front of me, within arms reach. I couldn’t resist. I grabbed it and tucked it away for safe keeping  . Then MY bottle came up and Joan expertly passed it over to me. Two bottles! I was a biking water station now. I was also off the back of the pack by about 30 meters and was beginning to cramp again. Shit….

*(I have a grey bottle with a black lid that isn’t mine – if you know the owner then #1 Thanks! and #2 I’ll get it back to you if you let me know who you are)

While trying to get back to the pack, a New World rider came up beside me and asked if I had any water to spare. Did I ever. Then, I made the move of the day. Perhaps the greatest move in all of my cycling career. I said I would trade my extra bottle to him if he would ride us back into the pack. What a brilliant move. I gave him his bottle and then I rode his wheel for a minute, and we were back in. I chugged my bottle instantly and felt much better. At this point I thought perhaps I was a bit frivolous with my extra water and perhaps should have traded better. Next time.

The last lap was FAST. There seemed to me to be lots of attacks to the base of the hill. Or, perhaps I was just slow. It was all I could do to stay connected to the back of the group and not get dropped. The cramps would come and go but I felt they were getting slightly better as things went on, no doubt a result of the expensive sugar that I put in my bottles – it had a picture of a cyclist on the front of the package and cost a lot so I knew it was the right stuff. For now, it was keeping me going.

The hill was coming up. I knew this was where the moves would happen. I tried as hard as I could to get positioned nearer to the front. Attacks went out and the group was starting to split up. I pushed as hard as I could. Gaps started to form ahead of me. I went around a few riders to try and close them. I could see Larbi just 50 or so meters ahead. I knew that if I could reach him by the top I could snag onto him before he converted into Larbi TT mode and maybe make it back to the group. All this would take is one more solid effort from the legs. But, I did a quick count and realised I had approximately zero more efforts left. I thought back to the frivolous use of my energy earlier on in the race. I thought about that time I went 20 seconds all out to catch onto a clearly doomed 3 man break…. and the time I started attacking just because somebody behind me told me to….


After struggling through the remainder of the hill, bridging to the group ahead looked impossible. I worked with one other racer in a last attempt to chase back on. We held the gap steady for a minute but it was clear things were happening up ahead and that the lead group was charging forward, not to be caught by us. The gap grew. Then, a few riders from behind joined us, a few riders who got spit out ahead of us joined in and we were left with a group of 7 or so. We worked well together and all took turns pulling at the front (even me) in a desperate attempt to make it to the group ahead. Of course, this wasn’t going to happen.

I was absolutely fried. My body was covered in salt. I was completely out of water and very out of food. We still had 15 KM to go. When the other guys weren’t looking, I snuck a few licks of salt off my arms. Maybe that’s all I needed to keep the cramps at bay for a little longer. Or maybe that would make the dehydration worse, who knows. Would eating part of my arm would result in a net gain or net loss? We continued to work together and slowly people stopped taking pulls and instead started looking at one another. The 3km marker had come up and a few guys got dropped. Then the 2km marker. Then 1km left. Finally, I could see the finish line. I fought cramps over the line to finish 3rd in our little group which placed me 11th place overall for the Elite men.

In the ‘real’ part of the race, Larbi went on to bridge to the front group after the climb. A few guys attacked at some point and bridged to finally catch Gaelen who had been in the all day break (who still managed to hold onto 2nd!). Larbi attacked the remainder of the group going down a hill and succeeding in opening up a gap. He went on to finish 4th for the elite men, less than a minute behind the winner. Not a bad day for Team OCTTO.


As this is probably the last race report for me this year, I’d like to thank the companies that sponsored our team.  Truly, we were set up right this season. All of the equipment was flawless.  Our Factor bikes were outstanding. Fast, aero, stiff. With smooth ceramic BB bearings, a split down tube that sheds rice and increases aerodynamics by splitting the wind that comes off the front wheel. What a marvel of engineering it is. The Black Inc wheels were the best wheels I’ve ever ridden on. They cornered beautifully and handled perfectly in winds. I’m sure their superior ability to corner saved me from going into at least one ditch. The Kallisto clothing and Garneau helmet kept me as comfortable as possible amidst the racing misery. OCTTO is to be thanked most of all and holds the team name for a reason – the owner brought it all together. Among many other carbon components, OCTTO sells the sweet bar tape we were all riding with this year and supplied us with those super nice carbon bottle cages. Those cages are the best. Seriously. They have a little rubber part in them to guarantee bottles can’t bounce out. I’ve never seen others like it but will always use these suckers because I hate dodging bottles in races when lesser cages can’t hold onto their cargo. Not to mention that I don’t like losing bottles, forcing me to use my arms as a salt lick. Great equipment all around. Thanks

And thanks for reading.




















KW Classic

When I pulled up to the parking lot near the start of the KW classic road race, it began to pour rain. I can honestly say that not a single part of my being actually wanted to race today but I’d already paid good money to enter and I would be damned if I wasn’t going to squeeze out every bit of misery that I could. Despite the caffeine pills and pump up tracks on the drive over, I just wasn’t feeling it. In addition, I had gotten sick. God knows how this could have happened. Last weekend I spent over 4 hours racing in the hot sun. When I finished I was sunburned, dehydrated, exhausted, and starved. Those are all the things the body needs to stay healthy. And yet, 72 hrs later I wound up sick. What gives…

I showed up a little late, as always. Subconsciously, I think I was trying to miss this race. As I rushed to get my stuff together I had a choice to make. I had already filled my 2 jersey pockets with some rice cakes wrapped in parchment paper so this left me with 1 free pocket. Since I had neglected to arrange for somebody to pass me a water bottle during the race I needed to be self sufficient on this one. So, should I bring an extra water bottle, or should I bring my little bottle of pickle juice (combined with Makes Scents Maple Syrup as the key ingredient to prevent cramping, place your orders today…)? This was a 135km race and doing that on 2 bottles seemed like a mistake that I’d made many times before. Plus, it was rainy and cool – not ideal conditions for cramping. I ditched the pickle juice and grabbed the water bottle.

Well, time to start. I didn’t have a race plan for myself today. I felt the best I could hope for was doing a little work for the team early on and then let the OCTTO guys do their thing. When the gun went off I made sure I was right at the front. I suppose I’m a bit overly cautious when it comes to taking slippery, tight corners in a fast moving pack. Near the front was the place for me until we got a feel for the course. I had always wondered who rides out front at the beginning of a race, and what possesses them to put in extra energy as people draft behind them, making moves that clearly won’t stick, and chasing to get into breaks that clearly won’t last. And now I know, because for the first 5 minutes, that was me.

The first lap was pretty eventful. Fast pace, lots of little attacks, surges, short lived breaks. Nothing stuck. I tried to be useful by getting into some moves but in reality, I probably wasn’t. My bike looked nice though. OCTTO had a guy in every break and we were positioning ourselves well. On the end of the first lap, something happened. I won’t get into details but it resulted in me NOT being in a break, being absolutely gassed (at a new record of 15 minutes into the race) and in Larbi typically picking up the slack and bringing the race together (see picture). Then, all was well again.


At the end of the 2nd lap a split happened and the front group opened up a large gap quite quickly. We had Graham Rivers in it!  Nothing to do now but slow down the pack and relax. Well, maybe that’s what real cyclists do. For me, just staying with the pack was a struggle in itself, even though it was Wheels of Bloor doing all the work to chase the break and not myself.


The break was gone! It quickly built up over a minute lead. It looks like this was going to be “the” break for the race. So, with no moves to worry about, I spent the next 80km trying to figure out which part of the course I hated the most. It was a tough call. There was the first cross wind section where the pack strung out along the yellow line while trying to eek out a little bit of a draft benefit. Or there was the next section with a side wind in the other direction, where riders ended up hitting the gravel multiple times trying to draft. Ah, maybe it was the uphill headwind section shortly after, where you could draft, but only if you were willing to ride on a series of cracks and potholes in the pavement. I could tell during this section who was the most desperate for a rest by  whether they were willing to put their bike through this misery. You can probably guess who rode there quite often….

It rained on and off. As it did, spray from the ground covered us all. Then, something became apparent to me. We were probably all getting a great deal of horse-shit in out mouths. Yes, that’s right. There are tons of horse pulled carts around these parts. I love it. But, horses do what they do. When it rains, that manure must take on liquid form and some of it must fling off our tires into our faces. Those of us who are gasping for air the entire ride (me) probably end up worse than others. I again reflect on how well I treat my body.

At 50km in, it’s time for my first rice cake. It is soaked, of course. When trying to get it of my pocket, both my hand and my shoulder cramp. This is what I like to refer to as ‘phase 1’ cramps. Not an issue at the moment, but it usually is a fantastic sign of what is to come. And only 85 km’s left. I manage to get the rice cake out and find that it is hard to tell what part is rice and what part is the soaked parchment paper wrapper. I could probably figure this mess out had I been sitting down with both hands at my disposal. I didn’t. Instead, I could barely see through my glasses, which were covered with  dirt and rain and only one hand that worked. I really needed to eat something. Let’s just say that I washed down the horse shit with quite a lot of parchment paper.

By 70km, the split was over 2 minutes and Graham Rivers was still working hard in the break. OCTTO was sitting tight. New World had finally joined Wheels of Bloor in the chase and the pace was notched up a little. I was still finding it very difficult to even stay with the group. My body was protesting this entire ordeal. It must have had enough shit for one day. Time to move the cramping into phase 2 – out of the hands and into the hammies and the little muscles on the side. Craps in ‘phase 2’, come and go, but it’s not show stopping just yet. At times I’d have to stop pedalling or stand to get them to go away but they always did after a bit. Typically, after Phase 2 comes Phase 3.  I knew this next phase was on it’s way and I could hardly wait. I looked down at my full bottle of water and thought of my pickle juice….


As I choked down some more parchment paper rice, I  wondering why this was feeling bloody hard. It dawned on me that the answer was simple.  Because of the steady chase, this had become like some sort of sick 3 hr time trial for me. No shelter in the pack, no real hills and no variety in effort.  I hate consistent efforts. I just don’t work that way. I would have preferred to do 3 hrs of intervals. While on this line of thought, I had to wonder what the hell I was doing in a 3 hr race in the first place. In University I was a good 400 meter runner and there was a joke on the team about what happens to me if they throw me into a longer distance. You make me do a 1500m and it starts to look ugly. You put me into a 5km and then I start getting beat by the public school kids. 3 hrs? That’s like a marathon. And with no hills! Shame on me. Anyway, there was no time for this sort of contemplation. There was horse shit that needed eating.


I believe the next event happened at the 100km mark, when I had finally decided where my most hated spot on the course was. It was a little downhill before the final turn prior to the finish where people always drilled it. I was nearly dropped here many times on earlier laps and probably would have been out of the race had it not been for a hill after the turn where I could catch back up. Well, on this lap the pack was moving quickly and a little gap was opening up ahead of me. I tried to put in a little more effort. Then, my body kicked into a little bit of phase 3 cramping. I had to stop pedalling. Riders came around me as they tried to close the gap themselves. What I had just done was a sin in bike racing, opening up a gap like that. My apologies to Hamill, who I believe was right behind me at this point. He passed me and went ahead. I was able to take a few easy pedal strokes and the cramping got a bit better. I was able to make it up to Hamil and onto his wheel. Then there came the uphill after the corner. I made up some ground here. Then more cramping. I was pretty sure I was dropped. I think I would have preferred it that way. They were cooking burgers at the start line and I was hungry and sick of eating paper. This off and on cramping continued for another minute or two but I somehow clung on to the back of the pack on the downhill, recovered for a moment and survived with them on the uphill. As this was all happening, a split was forming in the group up ahead of me. Great timing! A great break away with Larbi in it.

Another few minutes go by and my legs, for the time being, ended their protest. I was now in a group of 7 and nearly half of the initial pack had been dropped. At this point, I wasn’t really sure if I should work with this group or not. The group ahead was perhaps catchable if we were really motivated. There were some strong guys in my group though and I was clearly useless. It seemed like bad strategy to help them catch up as then Larbi would have more riders to compete with. After a few minutes, this consideration became irrelevant as it became clear that Larbi’s group was gone and we were not going to catching them. So, trying not to be one of ‘those’ guys, I contributed in whichever way I could to keep us moving… which was not much. The cramps would come and go and I took the tiniest pulls I could manage. I mostly sat on wheels. Big kudos to Gaelin Merrit for chasing most of the race, and then working hard on the front to keep this group moving. Andrew House seemed to do more than his share of work in this group. After a lap and a bit with this group I had converted into “ultra-leech” mode. I’m not proud to say it. I didn’t even bother going to the front any more because I just knew I’d cramp and mess everybody up.

On the last lap, while going up the only little hill on the course, 1 leg seized up nearly fully. Some blessed soul with a pink helmet gave me a little push to get me over the top. Ten minutes after that comes a big, phase-3er, double leg bout, as we had to stand to avoid a giant puddle that had formed. I actually yelled out as this one was so bad. I think by now the group I was with probably wanted to drown me in the puddle but they were kind souls and didn’t do that. I assume they saw me eating paper earlier in the race and thought that I had enough problems.

The finishing line was coming up. Normally, I love to sprint, even if it’s for last place. Most races, this is the only fun I have during the entire event. This time around though, I could not in good conscience ‘race’ the last part after being so pathetic the last lap and not helping the group get to the end. I was OK to pull up the rear as we went over the line. When we got near the end though, a dude from the back attacks the group. A few guys go with him. Then another goes after that group. I couldn’t resist the competition and figured ‘what the hell’. I went for it. I gave it a good ten second effort but the Karma gods must have witnessed my insolence and struck me down with phase 5 cramping, which I didn’t even know existed until now. My legs had seized so badly that I could barely make it over the line. Once I finished, I managed to get off my bike only because some kind spectator helped move my bike from underneath me and put it on some grass where I was able to collapsed down beside it. But, even though I was yet to move,the gods weren’t finished with me yet and my legs kept seizing. I tried not to look too pitiable while this was happening but clearly I must have because a friendly local man in a wheelchair seemed concerned enough to come over and make sure I was OK. Something about receiving sympathy from this nice man because of my own self inflicted misery didn’t seem deserving. This was a final pathetic moment to polish off another great day of racing.

There was some pickle juice waiting for me in the car after the race, so I didn’t linger long to get the details of what happened up ahead. My understanding was that Larbi’s group some how caught up to the initial break with Rivers. Then, Ed Veal attacked this group and went off to win the race. Rivers, taxed from the effort of working hard all day,  got passed by a few of the fresher guys from the bridging group in the last lap. He ended up finishing a very respectable 13th. Larbi continued to battle the group and finished with the team, best result of 8th. 16 riders DNF’d this race. If I was smarter I would have been one of them.

More great photos taken by Ivan Rupes can be found here

If you want to read about Grahams day in the group then check out his blog here 




Grey County Road Race

Well, I’m happy to report that there were no real shenanigans before the start of this race. A bit out of character suppose. But things were normal – my bike was working flawlessly, I wasn’t carrying any sealant. In fact, my tires were brand spankin’ new. I suppose if I had to be picky I would point out that despite sleeping 500 meters from the start line and being up for 2 hrs BEFORE the start, I had somehow found myself looking (unsuccessfully) for a bathroom 3 minutes before the starting gun went off. Not the tuck behind the bushes kind of bathroom either. The calculations for how much this extra baggage might cost me on all the climbs would come later on. For now, I was just excited to start this race. The course looked amazing. Starting at Blue Mountain resort, the course would take us up scenic caves road (the elevation of Blue Mountain) 3 times, and wind 140 km’s through the nearby country side. This looked like the most challenging course I’d ever seen in Ontario and I could tell it was going to epic. Whether it was the ‘landing a place on the podium’ sort of epic or the ‘soiling my bib shorts’ sort of epic, I would soon find out.

The race started and within 2 minutes we were already faced with the first ascent up the scenic caves climb. Here we go. This is a big climb for Ontario and I’m going to go ahead and say it’s the biggest climb in Ontario. I know full well that that isn’t the case but I’m saying it anyway. So, we are going up the largest hill in Canada and as we go up, the effort I need to do to stay with the group, even at the base of the climb, was much higher than expected. I thought we all had a sort of unsaid agreement we’d take it easy on this first time up. I guess not. I was going close to 400 watts… and this was a 9 minute climb. After a minute or so I had to stop looking at my Garmin because numbers this high this early in a race were starting to bother me. By halfway up, the group had already strung out in a long line up the road. To be perfectly honest, I felt OK at this point and was slowly working my way closer to the front in case a split happened near the top.

After a full 9 minute effort, we’d made it to the top. Somewhere on the climb, one dude opened up a nice gap and was gone. Kudos to him for having such big balls. Within a few KM’s the majority of the peleton had re-formed, with the exception of some smaller groups who were still chasing back on. Tommy was in the group with me, and I believe Larbi and Rivers were also in the bunch at this point. Frake unfortunately had gotten his wheel nicked soon after the climb and was forced off the road. He seemed really strong going up the hill and I think he would have been a factor in the race had he been able to continue. Actually, he probably would have broken away with me and won by 10-15 minutes at least.Over the next 30-40km’s we did a few more big climbs, some small breaks went out and I believe some masters riders got away but nobody in our age group seemed keen to chase them.  Everybody knew that the 2nd time up scenic caves would be where the big stuff would go down. In accordance with my ‘feed zone portables’ book, I had bought into the rationale of eating food high in water content so it digests easier. So, I had cooked up some sticky rice, thrown in some sugar and packed it all up in some paper. Although this little treat agrees well with my stomach it also must be one of the worst foods to try and consume while moving in a tight pack going 40km/h. As had happened many times last year, I ended up with sticky rice all over the place and only managed perhaps get half of it down the hatch. Luckily, the Factor bike I was riding comes with what we like to refer to as a ‘dual vein’. It was designed by the Aston Martin race car engineers to have an aero advantage and be super stiff and all that good stuff. A true marvel. What I didn’t realize until now was that the dual vein also had rice shedding properties. Within a few KM’s and the rice had shed itself through the dual vein and was gone.


The course took us up another full climb of the Blue Mountains elevation. Although the full elevation gain was there, the grade this time was more gradual than that scenic caves nonsense. A few riders were shed from the pack at this point but by and large, the group was still stuck together. We continued on through rolling hills and me, scattering rice all over the place. We eventually ripped through an aid station and I successfully grabbed myself a nice cold bottle of water. Scenic caves round 2 was coming… but first there was a long, fast descent back to the resort. I remember going over 90km/h on this section 2 years ago. Larbi and I both had the same idea and didn’t want to be behind anybody for this descent. So we both did a little extra work to stay at the front for the downhill. Well, he did a little extra work while I mostly rode his wheel. Down we went. Once down the descent it was time to start thinking about the 2nd time up scenic caves – the biggest climb on the continent.

As we neared the climb I got myself close to the front of the pack. I figured a tiny effort here to move up 20 meters would be much easier than to make the same gain at the end of the hill. I’m all about saving energy. This time going up was going to be MUCH harder. I dialled in at 350 watts or so, thinking I was being conservative and that at this pace I wouldn’t risk blowing up. Within 2 minutes or so, a few riders passed me and were setting a faster pace. For a moment I match this effort but could tell it was too much.  I had to set the dial lower. At about this time is when I started making calculations about how I could have been lighter. Sure, I’m pretty light already and certainly I have an advantage over heavier riders. But every lb counts on something like this. Did I really need to eat the full loaf of banana bread in one sitting? Why didn’t I save some of that tub of ice-cream for Kim? 8 pieces of baklava in 5 minutes… was that really necessary? Did I really have to drizzle maple syrup on everything that I ate? (absolutely I did, but only because it’s Makes Scents Maple Products maple syrup – wood fired evaporator, carbon neutral, and as close to sugar that you can get in syrup form – mmmm mmm place your orders now).

A few riders, Merritt and Brouwer amongst them were continuing to distance me on the climb. I knew that this was the race winning group. I checked my bike for a hidden motor switch but there was none to be seen. So, they were gone, there was nothing I could do about it and I couldn’t wait for this bloody hill to end.In any other endurance sport I’ve done, things aren’t quite like road racing. Running, triathlons, rowing  – they are different. In those, you pace yourself properly. The first third is usually fine, it get’s hard around the middle and then you push yourself to your limit by the end and then the last chunk is awful. Not quite so with road racing. With cycling it’s like a bunch of little races within a race. Many times within a race you think you’re done, you’ve pushed to your limit and have nothing left and it sucks. Then, the pack will slow and you are able to recover, sit in and do the same thing again. You can keep getting pushed to your limit. Well, 2nd time up scenic caves was like that. After an eternity of watts/kg calculations, and thinking about which part of my body I could cut off to make myself lighter, I had made it up. At this point I was with a small group of 10 or so and the break was established well ahead of us. Others joined, and we all continued on at a good clip over the last portion of the smaller up hills. Tommy from OCTTO was here with me but no Larbi or Rivers. I had seen Larbi earlier on in the hill and he didn’t seem so hot. I figured he would convert into TT mode once he made it up and eventually join the fun.

The main group was now 20 or so and the lead group could be seen in the distance ahead at least a minute or two on us. Nobody in our group seemed motivated to try and chase them. In fact, it was quite the opposite… everybody seemed pretty fried from the hill effort and didn’t want to do anything but sit in. I wasn’t quite sure how to play this one. If I chased now then it was very unlikely I’d make any real ground on the lead group and would probably drop myself while I was at it. If I did chase, somehow manage not get dropped and by some miracle actually caught the break, then I’d be useless for the final climb at the end and have to stop part way up and hitchhike to the top. But, if I didn’t chase, then I wasn’t racing to win. I rationalized to myself that Larbi and Rivers were probably closing the gap on us and I’m sure they would just love to do all the chasing work themselves when they bridged up. As I was debating all this I could feel my legs starting to cramp and my decision was made for me. I was going to do what I do best, make myself as small as possible and do no work at all. Meanwhile, the cramps kept coming. I remembered I had brought a little bottle of pickle juice to drink for just this occasion. I’d never tried the whole pickle juice thing before but figured it was worth a shot. Damn it tasted good. And the cramps seemed to go away for the time being. Looks like I’ll have to add this to my potion collection for future races.

After 20 minutes or so of a flat/downhill section into some headwinds, it was time for a few more hills, the final aid station and then the big descent down to the resort. After that, it would finally be time for the the third summit attempt of the biggest mountain outside the Himalayas. It was pretty damn hot by now and I heard people talking about how they were all out of water. Hell, I looked down and I had nearly two full bottles. Ditching one of those before the climb was probably one of those strategic moves that makes the difference between a real cyclist and myself. I can only assume if I wasn’t weighed down by those 3lbs of water on the climbs that I would have easily won the race by now. Too late I suppose. I wasn’t particularly thirsty so I started giving myself a shower instead. After only a moment into my shower,  the tired, overheated, dehydrated cyclists around me couldn’t take it and started asking if they could have some. Have some of MY water? That I hauled up that damn mountain? Hell no. But, good nature got the better of me and I stopped my bathing and handed the bottle away, hoping the Karma gods would take pity on my soul and move the finish line to the bottom of the hill.

In 10km’s or so the descent would be coming and it looked like no OCTTO boys were coming to save the day.After another screaming fast ride down towards the resort it was time to get ready for the final climb. I asked Tommy how he was feeling. “Shitty, you?”. “Shitty”. “OK”. And then he says something that gets quote of the race. “I think you can go faster up this hill than me, but if it’s a sprint finish then I think I can take the sprint”. Now, let’s think about this. It’s 135km into a race and we are about to tackle this thing for the 3rd time. Personally, I’m not even sure I will actually make it up the hill or if I will cramp up and have to hide in the ditches until the race is over. And Tommy is thinking about the sprint finish at the top. Kudos to him. I tell him I’m pretty sure this thing is going to string out and I doubt there will be a need to sprint.

Just before the hill I make sure I’m well positioned at the front. I start out at what I thought was a fairly conservative pace and start the climb. After 2 minutes of climbing it already really sucks. A few guys are starting to pass me and there’s not much I can do about it. I alternate standing and sitting and try and match their effort… nope. A group of 4 or 5 get ahead while the rest are losing ground behind me. I’m kind of stuck in the middle. Then the cramping takes hold. Shit. Both quads and hammies and some weird muscle in-between – that’s the worst one. Am I done? If I get off my bike then I’m never getting back on… Then, I remembered my pickle juice and gulp it down. Sweet sweet nectar of the gods it was delicious. I continued standing, afraid sitting would cause more cramps and seemed to be able to continue at a moderated pace. I stared down at my watts and just tried to keep them in a consistent range. By 2/3rds of the way up, I’d already figured out the prices I was going to sell all my bike stuff at. I wouldn’t need it because after this I was never touching my bike again.  The group ahead had a gap which I knew I wouldn’t be able to close. The best I could hope for was to stay ahead of the group that was behind me. I hit the steepest part of the climb which was paired up with a nice headwind this time around. I was moving slow. Really slow. I looked at my Garmin and saw that it was dipping below 10kph on this steep section. I tried to shift into an easier gear but I knew there was none. Then I got an idea. I could probably run faster than this. 9km/h… there’s no way this would be hard to do on foot. Although I gave it some thought, I decided against this option due to wearing road shoes that cannot be run in. I’m still curious…

Eventually, I made it up. The cramps were held at bay and I didn’t need to hide in the ditch.  I was so happy that hill was over. When at the top, I charge around the last bend and and got over the finish line finishing 8th in my category. Tommy finished shortly after with a group and beat them out in a SPRINT to take 10th.  The dude who went solo on the first hill got caught and his relatively well rested teammate went solo to win. Nice strategy. Mark Brouwer took 2nd. Well done to both. I never soiled my bibs.

Gremlin photo

A photo can be seen here of my finishing face. Clearly I was at the brink of insanity by this point and was converting into a gremlin or something from too much pickle juice.

Springbank Crit – The Larbi Report

Before every race you must check in, present your race license, initial the form and pick up your numbers to pin onto your jersey. Same old thing, every race. I’m at Springbank park this time and am going to do just that. I walk in, present my license and wait to get my numbers. The lady says to me “uhhh, this is a presto card”. Oh yeah, shit. You guys want a race license, you don’t take presto cards (which is also a green card). I give her the correct card, grab my license and walk out. I’ve developed a habit of putting my cards back in my wallet RIGHT away before I lose them. So, I go to put my license back in my wallet. But, where is my wallet? I do the universal pat down of every pocket. Hmmm… no wallet. I do the exact same pat down, but slower, hoping that would do the trick. No wallet. I walk back in to the registration area, assuming I left my wallet on the table. “Hey, I don’t have my wallet, did I leave it here? I scan the table. Not there, then check my pockets again. The lady looks at me with an ‘are you kidding’ sort of look. Then she stares down to my hand with my race numbers in it. Ah ha! Underneath those numbers was my wallet…. IN MY HAND! I worry for a second that maybe a high speed bike race isn’t something I should be allowed to do without some sort of psych eval first. No matter, I keep walking and as long as I can find my car in the parking lot I should be just fine.

Springbank Crit is always a blast. It’s a 2ish km course going around a park. It’s got one tight downhill turn and a few other, less significant, bends. For a crit, it’s not so bad. Team OCTTO today is Larbi and myself. Larbi, still recovering from a sickness, seems a little grim an hour before the race. He promises me before the start that he’s going to take one of those energy drinks and I hope he will come back alive.

After a little warm-up it’s time for the race to start. We line up and the race is off. The first technical turn is right off the back. I’m near the back. I’m feeling a bit cautious and prefer to ‘ease’ into this race and it’s corners. The first few laps go and there’s a few little attacks but nothing sticks. I try and stay closer to the front as it’s the safest spot. A few more laps in and they call out the “next lap is a prime”. Prime, being a lap where the first to come through the finish line on the next lap gets some money. I’m a sucker for things like this. I know I have no business doing a sprint this early in the race but somehow ‘knowing not to do this’ is not the same as ‘not doing it’. So, the lap goes through and I stay near the front. 400 meters from the line and I’m AT the front. Larbi is beside me, and we are continuing to ramp up speed. Wait, this isn’t right, why am I racing my own team mate? I don’t believe Larbi was interested in any prime, he just happens to be at the front because…well… that’s where he likes to ride. So, he tells me to go for it. I do, and for a second I think the money is all mine…. but then Keezer comes up alongside and we sprint it out and he takes me by a foot at the line. No money and 1 spent match. Good start.

A few more laps go by and then I go for a doomed solo breakaway just because. I got maybe 250 meters ahead and am caught within a minute or two. I don’t know why I bother. Getting the gap is the easy part but as soon and I do then the realization that I can’t actually TT worth a damn sinks in. Unless the peloton stops for lunch, which they rarely do, I have no chance of travelling faster than a group.


At one point later in the race I ended up on the inside of a turn and had to take the turn way too tight. I nearly caught a curb. I hit the lip of the concrete and my front wheel went all wonky for a second and thought I was in trouble. Serves me right. I made a mental note to remember this so I could administer 20 lashings to myself for being one of those sketchy riders. Never again.

Another lap or two goes by and Larbi goes off the front solo. Now, Larbi on the other hand can get the gap and keep a gap. As he went off the front I saw him kick into TT mode and knew this could be good. As he goes off, the gap grows quickly. Nobody is worried this early into the race and nobody takes up the chase. As the team-mate that is left in the pack it’s my job to make sure the group goes as slow as possible. So, I go to front and ride slow. Riding slow… this is the job for me. Maybe I AM born to be a cyclist? After half a lap or two the race picks back up and attacks start happening. If it’s just a few guys who break away, I let them go, hoping they will bridge to the TT machine up front and they can work together towards victory.

10km go by and Larbi is still out front. He has a 40 second gap. And here I am, riding slow. Awesome. Eventually 2 riders attack, get away and attempt to bridge to Larbi (eventually they do). At certain points the pack drills it and a rider or two falls off the back and the race gets hard. I tell myself that I’m not allowed to get dropped in this situation, not with a team-mate out front making it easy for me. That would be a disgrace and I would need to administer more lashings for this. So, keeping a good spot in the pack, I’m just counting down the KM’s one lap at a time. There’s 20 km left and they still have a good sized gap. Maybe they will stay away….

No. The pack had been attacking and drilling it the last 5km and the race is moving really fast. We’ve already spit a few people out the back. 18 km to go and Larbi and the 2 others are caught. Shortly after, Casey Roth solo attacks and is quickly out of sight. There’s a group of 20 or so left at this point. Even though Larbi has just been caught, he seems to be at the front again. Oh god. I go to the front and do a measly amount of work but decide this isn’t really our race to lose and tuck back in. In my mind, a few teams have a few more guys in this group and they should be the ones maintaining the pace. Plus, I’m tired.

The race continues and Casey has a 40 second gap with 8km left. We aren’t catching him. We are racing for 2nd now. A few hard attacks go and split the back. I am nearly caught on the wrong side of the split but just make it into the lead group. 15 or so people left and the pace is still pretty high. A few hard attacks go but things keep coming back together. I think I may have even done another doom and gloom move in the excitement but I may have just been at the back crying, who knows. We go through the finish and I hear bells. Was that the bell last lap? I ask another dude “is this last lap”. He says, “uuugh I dunno”. I look at my Garmin and it says 65.5km. So, based on this this, it’s the last one.

Some riders attack and drill it into a hill and I’m at the back and now there’s a small gap. Larbi is here too. I didn’t see it but he must have converted back into TT mode because he got us back to the pack within a few seconds. He explains the lap situation to me. There is 1 more. Good. Because we’d just rode hard up to the back of the pack (to catch back on) we were moving faster than the group; so going into the last downhill turn we had made it right to the front. Larbi was AT the front, I was on his wheel.


As he makes the turn I start slowing down, giving him a bit of a gap. He gets 10 meters or so ahead but doesn’t seem to have converted into TT mode yet. He gets 20 meters and is still not in TT mode. I yell at him “GO”. He looks back, sees the gap and nails it. I stay at the front, doing what I was born to do. Go slow. Well, not TOO slow. Fast enough that nobody will easily come around. I look back and nobody is passing me. Larbi is riding like an animal, gaining ground up the road and still nobody is passing. No riders want to burn a crucial match at this point to catch him. I kept on the front for like 30 second and still nobody pulled around me. Eventually, somebody couldn’t take it and blasted off alongside and past me. The pack went with them. I made it on the back. We went through the last KM and it was obvious Larbi was not getting caught and was going to take 2nd. I took out my bottle of champaign.

I suppose the race wasn’t over. The sprint for 3rd was coming up and I was surprisingly well positioned for it. There were two ‘trains’ of riders and I was 3rd wheel on one of them. Unfortunately, the train that I was in was one of those trains that take tourists through the Hamilton walk way path while they point out birds and old buildings. The other train was one of those high speed trains in Japan that go at like 400km an hour. They go blasting right by and I’m still trapped on the slow tourist train. Eventually I swung up to the outside of the guy in front of me with 200 meters to go, passed a guy and then was passed again on the line. 12th for me.

All in all, a good day for team OCTTO. Big kudos to Larbi!

I will try the energy drink thing next race..






P to A – The Race to the Trees

Paris to Ancaster, one of the most fun races of the year. It’s always an adventure. A 70km course through rail trails, roads, mud, and farmers fields. With a race like this, anything can happen, which means there’s actually a tiny chance I could podium…. I suppose that’s why I do this race.

Right off the bat, Team OCTTO was off to a fantastic start. Even before the actual race started, we were making professional moves. I had grabbed Bozek’s race numbers the day before and planned to pass it off to him before the start. Somehow, I managed to show up really late and rushed to get him his numbers and then rushed to get my bike together. My other team-mate who was there had locked his keys in the car at a gas station on the drive up… but managed to get a locksmith, unlock his car and still show up earlier than me. I wont mention who it was who did such a foolish thing, but I will tell you that the only OCTTO guys in attendance were Bozek, Larbi and myself….. and, it wasn’t Bozek or me. I will also tell you it was Larbi who locked his keys in the car. No more hints.

When I  finally did show up, I did the ol’ squeeze of the tires to find my front tire was pretty flat. Not the one with the dental floss repair either… the good one. I had re-pumped it up and hoped I just hadn’t turned the valve nut tight enough and that it didn’t actually have a small puncture. I guess I would find out soon enough… I had brought a bottle of tire sealant with me just in case I did get a puncture on the course. This sealant just needs to be injected into the tire, which fills any holes and then in theory you can pump air into it again. With this thing, I was finishing this race one way or another. Because I’ve been working as a bike mechanic, I have developed a extraordinary ability to use random materials to makeshift ways to make things happen on bikes.


You can see here how I cleverly used tape to fasten this bottle to the bike. I have taped both the front and middle of the bottle to make sure it doesn’t fall off my bike. A marvel of engineering. It’s a wonder I’m not working for NASA. I could tell by the look of confusion on people’s faces when they saw it that they were confused as to why they didn’t think of it themselves. Ah well, too late for them now, suckers.

Because I was late, it was straight to the starting gate for me to get a good spot in the crowd. A warm-up would have been ideal, especially given this race starts in a near sprint. But, a warm up is not a luxury I would be afforded. My punishment for being late. I did find however, while staring at my HR on the garmin (as I often do), that my heart rate was rather high – a side effect of caffeine pills and pre-race nerves no doubt. I found that if I really focused on the potential of my front tire being flat I could stress myself out enough that my heart rate would jump even higher. This is what I did for 10 minutes while waiting in the starting coral. Warm up – done.

One thing that needs to be known about this particular race to really understand it’s tactics is the first 10km of the course. It has a few little turns and then straight onto a gravel rail trail. Flat and fast for 10km, then the route takes a sharp turn uphill onto a farmers field. Typically what happens at this crucial turn is the first 15 or so riders RIDE up the hill and at some point after them somebody gets off their bike and plugs things up so that EVERYBODY behind them has to get off their bike and walk up the hill. Most years, the first few riders who got away, stayed away for the rest of the race. I’ve heard people say you can pretty much take the results right before this turn and they are accurate enough. So far, that’s been my experience. The result: if you want to do well at this race then you must do a few things. 1) Line up early at the start 2) Ride really hard off the start and 3) During that first 10km of the race (before the hill) you must try and get as close to the front as possible. The difficulty to #3 is that only 2 or 3 riders can fit side to side on the trail and it’s next to impossible to pass people and move up to the front. So the really ballsy riders dip in from the sides on the grass to try and get ahead. Inevitably, people always run out of space as the trail narrows and at some point riders get pushed off the road, crash, and there’s always tons of close calls. I’m both competitive enough that I want to stay in the pack, and not SO competitive and risky that I want to be one of ‘those’ people who make it sketchy. So, last year I just counted down the KM’s to that turn, flying down the rail trail, squeezed in with 50 people, hearing crashes behind me and seeing one beside me and hoping nobody crashed in FRONT of me. I promised myself last year I’d NEVER do this race again.

So, here I am. At the race…again. Gun goes off! My game plan was to absolutely hammer the first few KM and get into the front right off the bat. This way I could just stay up at the front and be safe from all the sketchiness behind. If I made it near the front then I might be able to finally ride up the hill and be in the breakaway group! An absolutely brilliant strategy. I suppose that along with having remarkable mechanical aptitude, I must also be some sort of strategic genius. So, the race had started and for the first 10 seconds it seems like everybody is going pretty much all out. I sure am. 20 seconds in and I’m still going mostly all out and I’m barely gaining any positions at all. It’s almost as if everybody has the exact same strategy as me. Shit.

After 5 or so minutes of biking quite hard, I had negotiated the first few turns. Already a crash had happened and the sketch bags were creeping up on the sides and pushing me back. I had already seen one dude moving up the side of the pack who then got forced off almost into the woods. I was in the big pack and we were ripping along. Again, like last year, I wasn’t nearly close enough to the front of the pack for my liking. So, here I was… counting down the KM’s until that pivotal turn, praying nobody crashed in front of me, telling myself this was my last year at this race. As Larbi quite rightly said after the race “there’s only so many times I can do this race and have the same thing happen year after year”. Then again, if Larbi was so wise, why didn’t he take his keys out of his car before he locked it?

‘The’ turn comes up, the front bunch makes it up the hill and then everybody behind them are forced off their bikes. I had a deja vu at this moment. No, wait, this actually happened before… every single time I’d ever done this race!  I dismount off my bike. Good. I always like getting off my bike. I run up the side of the hill and pass a bunch of people who aren’t as quick at the ol’ jump of the bike and run technique. At the top, I jump back onto my bike and go balls out. I knew that this next few minutes will determine the race outcome for me. I rode as hard as I could through the farmers field and latched on to a small group by the time we hit the road.

Unlike last year, riders were strung out a bit more this time around. We could see the lead ahead but they were not that far ahead and by no means out of sight. At this point, I was in a small pack that seemed motivated to chase. I was nearly at my limit already and did what I could (quite little) to chase. I distinctly recall being grateful Mark Brouwer was ahead of me as he did a bunch of work early on closing gaps and moving us ahead. Within a few KM’s we had caught the lead group. Now, as a group of 30 or 40, we moved slowly as more from behind caught up and joined the group.

This large group made a few turns on some gravel roads and the paced wound back up. We went over some single track and then hit another crucial part in the course. This spot was a ditch with a steep bank on it with a little wooden bridge going over it. People always got off their bike here and things backed up. No different this year. Another bottle neck. I had totally forgotten about this spot and should have positioned myself closer to the front. I was positioned about mid-pack at this point and paid the price.

Once over the ditch I hopped back on the bike and pedalled like mad to stay connected to this now very splintered group. Again I saw Mark and together we picked our way through riders on single/double track through a few km of forest trail. We then hammered through some farmer fields and we continued to close the gap on a lead group that had formed. I again felt like I was at my limit and was having a tough time maintaining the high intensity. Then came the best moment of the race. One I will never forget because it proves I am a world class cyclist destined for greatness. We rode up alongside and PASSED Jeremy Powers, USA cyclocross champion! I could sense the million dollar contracts from team Sky landing back on the table. This thought spurred me on….

…..Jeremy Powers continued to slow pedal as he waited for his team-mate. Perhaps he even had his hand on the brake when I passed him – I will never tell. But by now, a small group of us chasers had formed and together we charged ahead, each taking some pulls on the front to close the gap ahead. We worked until the lead group was again insight and after a few KM’s and some more hard work, once again we caught and became part of the lead group – albeit a smaller version of a pack than it had been earlier. I made a note to myself to stay a little closer to the front to avoid this bridging nonsense….

We rode through more farmers fields, single track and rail trail. Things strung out on technical spots and then came back together. Strung out, and then back together. The intensity was quite high and people slowly slipped off the back, both because of mechanicals, fatigue, and poor technical choices. At one point we were again ripping down a rail trail and suddenly everybody stopped dead. I figured somebody had crashed up front. Nope. I peered to the side of the group and could see that trees were down on the course. Shit. People got off their bikes and had to walk single file under and over the tree. Then, another tree …and another..I figured the P to A organizers must have really wanted to spice things up this year by keeping these things over the trail. Only later did I find out that this was the work of a disgruntled anti-race individual who had chainsawed them down the night before to sabotage my chance of winning.

All this slow motion single file really turned out to be a curve ball. As far as I knew, the group was still together at this point, although it’s hard to know for sure as the race is a bit of a blur. Once I had made it through the trees the lead group was out of sight. I was in a small, small chase group that was working hard and moving fast but I don’t recall even seeing the lead group in the distance at this point. I never did. Serves me right for not staying near the front. I’d already “learned” that lesson 2 times that day and I still ended up stuck in the same situation. Usually I need to make a mistake 30 or 40 times before it really sinks in.

Nothing else really stands out for me until later in the race. We dropped some riders, picked up some riders and people were clearly coming close to their limit. We moved through a few single track areas, hit more roads and farmers fields and rode on lots of rail trail. At one point with 20 or so KM to the finish, I had taken a pull and elbowed for somebody to take over. Nobody did. I kept riding and flapping my elbow impatiently for somebody to move in front, but nobody would. Mark, ‘tiny backpack man’ and 1 or 2 other riders had been doing most of the work up until this point but we weren’t going to do it all. I was worried if everybody didn’t chip in that we were going to be moving so slow that some larger, more motivated group would catch up to us from behind and then we’d have to re-fight to get away again. Just when things were getting frustrating, some bearded angel went to the front and put in an incredible 10 minute pull down a flat and fast section of rail trail. I was drafting him and could barley hang on! When he was done, Mr Power went to the front and pulled some more. 20 sum KM’s now and we were moving fast, I was certainly feeling the effort and was officially out of water and getting thirsty.We kept riding.

At about 10km left it was time for our first mud shoot. I made it down this one without issue but once on the road again found that the group had totally split up. I saw a few riders had made some distance on me so picked up the effort to try and close the gap. We had hit a gravel road and all the riders behind were forming tiny groups to try and stay with the leaders. I was out in the wind and losing the group again, but behind me I saw the beard with a halo, riding past me. Yes. I tucked back in for a minute or so as he dropped a few other leeches like myself. As we whipped down the road I recognized this spot from a pre-ride I did earlier that week. The long, muddy, technical mud shoot was coming up. Last year when I entered this section a dude crashed in front of me and I flipped over the bars avoiding him. So this year my game plan year was to be at the front this time around.

As I tried to attack to get closer to the front, it become apparent to me that others had this same genius plan. I made it close to being the first down the shoot but a few riders were able to shoot ahead of me and got first dibs on the mud. It was now time to ride down the most technical part of the race. So, I proceeded to do the most ungraceful technical descent of this section that I’m sure anybody had ever seen. I somehow managed to have one hand on the hood and the other in the drops. One leg unclipped early on as I hit a bump and I couldn’t connect it again with the pedal. My brakes were inadequate to actually stop me and so I flailed my scrawny bag of bones back and forth, slamming into mud holes and roots until I finally made it down. I’m sure there’s a video gone viral of this disgrace out there somewhere. Two dudes passed me on my ride down, but all in all, other than scoring a 1/10 for aesthetics, the end result of my descent wasn’t too shabby.


The Sportszonephotography guys said they had to burn every picture of me until I got my hands on the hoods and my foot clipped in because they were so disgraceful.

At this  point I had long ago drained my bottles and would have killed for a drink. I thought about stealing somebodies bottle while they weren’t looking but didn’t think this was doable. I looked down at the bottle of sealant sloshing around in front of me….

5km left. A few riders were ahead and a few behind. Having been separated by the mud hill, there were now no groups left formed – everybody was on their own. I navigated the next few twisty downhill turns until I was at Martin Road. I knew this spot well. It was a steady climb to the finish, with the odd steep hill and muddy spot, but nothing overly technical. This moment in racing has always been my favourite. No attacks left, no moves to make, no strategy left to think about… just plain old hard work to the end. I pushed as hard as I could, momentarily looking back for the first few km’s. One dude seemed to be creeping up on me. After a good deal of grimacing, the final epic hill was at hand. I had passed one or two riders early on but was still losing ground to the dude behind me. The mass of spectators were lining the sides of the course, ringing their cowbells. This part was steep and my legs were fully maxed out. Although I knew I was already in my easiest gear, I still attempted another ‘up’ shift with the obvious results. I had passed one more guy while the dude from behind was starting to overtake me. What I wanted to do was throw a stick in his spokes but so many people were looking and I was wearing my OCTTO kit so I thought that might be a bad idea.  Despite giving it my all on the final part of the hill, this guy passed me. I’ll try the stick in the spokes technique next year. Finally, the finish line came up and the race was done. In the end, I finished 22nd place, 3.5 mins behind the winner. I didn’t drink the sealant until after the race.


Calabogie Classic

Calabogie Classic. Always an exciting race. This year the field was large and everybody was keen to come out guns a blazin’. For those who don’t know, the Calabogie Classic is held near Ottawa and takes place on a motor sports raceway. So, the course has tons of sweeping turns, the pavement is perfect, and for this race we have the entire stretch of roadway to ourselves.

I had finally gotten the FACTOR together and was excited to race it. Here’s the Factor cozied up to the fire. Factor frame, full carbon Black INC wheels, and OCTTO bar tape/cages. I’d ridden it the day before and it was super stiff, the wheels cornered well, and it was by far the nicest bike I’d ever ridden. Because I have the mobility of a 600 yr old, I can’t quite slam the stem the way I should be able to… much to my team-mates disapproval.


I had spent the morning killing time by stretching and rolling out my legs. I felt amazing. The only thing working against me thus far was that I hadn’t shaven my legs. Even though I knew it would be warm out on race day, I somehow couldn’t comprehend riding without wearing leg warmers…. given that it felt like it was still mid winter earlier that week. Every time I looked down and saw the hair on my legs I would feel sick to my stomach. I could tell other riders felt the same when they saw them too. I think a few might have even walked off to the washroom to vomit after they got a look. Anyhow, nothing I could do about it now. I just told myself that Sagan rode a race without shaving his legs and he seemed to be doing OK for himself.

The race started. Attacks went off almost immediately. We had 6 team members present at this race so based on numbers alone we were a strong team. Our strategy, just like pretty much every team’s strategy, was to get a guy in the break. And, we were sticking to the plan. Every break that went off the front had at least 1 or 2 of our guys in it. Although a few breaks in the first 5 or 6 laps seemed like they might hold, nothing had. To me, this race so far seemed relentlessly active; attacks were launched minute after minute and there didn’t seem to be any lulls in the pace. Within the first three laps I could already tell that this was going to be a painful day.

I had NO power data. This was the first race in my life I didn’t have a power meter on my bike. *Steve Roedde, you may as well stop reading now, as there are no numbers in this post * Given the nature of road cycling, rarely does power data make any sort of difference in the way you ride. Still, I’d become quite accustomed to looking down at my screen, if only to look down and see how screwed I was going to be. I had planned to still have heart rate data but while getting ready for the race I realized I forgot the monitor at home. So, in a last minute decision I just took the whole bloody Garmin off the bike and decided I was going to race blind. I was basically going to be riding like they did back in the days of the dinosaurs. Without a Garmin on my bike that meant no Strava upload, which technically meant I wasn’t even on my bike that day. Weird. Continue reading

Steaming Nostril

It was the first race of the year and physically I had little idea where I was at for this one.  Having been through a series of foolish and totally avoidable injuries from doing crossfit this winter (go figure), my actual on-the-bike training had been sporadic. My best week of training happened this past week, where my knee injury seemed healed enough so I treated myself to four back to back  days of maximal Vo2 interval sessions in order to tell my body it needed to click into gear or I was going to kill it. So 3 days later, on race day, I had still little benchmark of where my fitness was at but I was looking forward to finding out if I’d be getting dropped by grannies on their fat bikes or not.

Race day, April 3rd first day of winter apparently! A mix of snow, ice, mud and water awaited us on the road/CX style race course. As always, I didn’t dress properly but at least I looked sharp in the new team OCTTO kit. Always best to look good while you are shivering like a little baby at the start line. While lining up at the start, I did my routine quick check over my bike to make sure it was good to go. Dental floss holding my torn tubular tire together – check! Stages Power meter – check! Good to go.

The race started pretty quickly and I picked up a sketchier than normal ‘feel’ to it all. Icy turns, many riders first race of the year, potholes covered in snow, mixed field. Couldn’t wait! My game plan was to take it conservatively for the first chunk of the race, help out the team when I could and hopefully survive until the muddy CX stuff, which I typically do pretty well with. But then, 5 minutes into the race, the combination of excitement, wanting to get moving to stay warm, and  caffeine pills kicking in all took hold and I found myself moving off of the front of the pack. A dude from Bateman’s rode up with me and seemed game for a doomed breakaway. We both hoped we might stay out in front long enough to get caught by a strong break and join it. Instead, we got maybe 30 seconds ahead of the pack and kept it that way for 8 or 9 km. Then, when we were slowly swallowed up by the field.

For the next 20km or so, some little attacks went out but nothing stuck. Larbi, another OCTTO teammate, in true workhorse fashion, ended up doing a few km solo break, then got caught but remained on the front doing more than his share of work. He might have broken away a second time, or maybe attacked, and he might have even attacked some of his own attacks… I can’t say for sure. But it would be just like him to do so.

Somewhere around 35-40km, the pace was upped and riders started getting spit out the back on a series of rolling hills. The pack started stretching out. I had survived the first big split but was at my limit to do so. Graham Rivers, another OCTTO team mate had gone down in a crash early on in the race and had then fought back on to make it into this dwindled down group. Back with the group, he was starting to pick his way back up through the pack when unbelievably, a dude seemed to cut his wheel or something and he went down AGAIN.

The pack drilled it on some rolling hills in a crosswind and I was again struggling to keep my place at the back. The guy ahead of me let a bit of a gap open up and by the time I moved around him the gap was just big enough that I couldn’t manage to close it. So, I had just missed the selection of 20 or so that were moving away up the road. I fought on by myself for about 5 minutes trying to get back into the group and at one point I actually thought the group had slowed enough and the gap had closed enough that I’d make it back Nope. In the end, the group rode away, my legs were toast and I was stuck in no man’s land. I could almost hear the grannies on their fatbikes coming up behind me.

I sat up until the chase group of 10 or so guys came riding up behind me and I joined the chase. After a few minutes of doing more than my share of pulls, I could see the group as a whole wasn’t really keen on working hard and there was no way we were going to catch anybody. So, I decided to do no more than my share and was content to wait until the technical section came up to try and get away. Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw some dude who had somehow gotten hold of a TT bike and was hammering up alongside us. Nope, not a TT bike, just Graham who somehow gets so aero on his bloody bike he fooled me.  At this this point in the race he had crashed two times (or perhaps three times at this point…), had to bridge twice, and was now getting right to business working hard at the front driving up the pace. Myself, having not crashed at all, felt a bit guilty getting pulled along by Graham and couldn’t rightfully stick to my strategy of dogging it in this group until my chance came up. So, as much as I hate exchanging pulls while people get a free ride on the back, I proceeded to work as much as I could manage, if only to give Rivers a bit of a reprieve from his giant pulls. A few other motivated dudes must have also felt a bit pathetic and so they too started helping out. After 5km or so we could actually see a small group that had splintered off the break away group. We continued to gain on them.

As we were just about to catch this other group, the course finally turned onto the muddy CX section of the race. I know I brought my cross bike for a reason. I went to the front of the group while entering this, so as not to be stuck behind somebody who slips up. Finally, I could stop working at that bloody TT intensity that I’m just not meant for and instead take on the variability of some off-road stuff.  Even better, right into this section was a steep unridable (to me at least) muddy chute, which forced me to actually get off my bike and run. Whenever I can run in a bike race, that’s good news. It begs the question of why I bother with the bike in the first place, but I didn’t want to go there just now. So, I worked my through this muddy, wet, snowy, farmers field and slowly reeled in two guys ahead of me. One of them was Mark Brouwer who was the perfect rider to work with after the technical stuff to try and catch some other riders. Our next obstacle was a steep, muddy hill that we had to somehow make it up. I couldn’t help but think how long this sick sadistic race designer must have looked to find this piece of work. I couldn’t complain though – I was off my bike once again. Shouldering my bike, and using my hands to grab trees and roots, I was able to slowly make my way up this sucker. At the top I could see 3 more dudes maybe 30-40 seconds ahead. I looked back for where Mark was, hoping we could work together on this gap, but unfortunately his bike was rebelling and he needed to spend some time de-clogging his drive-train in order to get riding again.

I put in the best effort I could while picking my way through the remainder of this course which consisted of farmers’s lane ways, gravel roads and a biking trail through the woods. At one point I thought I heard some birds chirping and thought I might have even saw a few flying into my bike frame. I looked down at my front wheel and noticed that some robings or something must have built a little nest on my brakes and were starting a family in there. I looked at my bottom bracket and my rear wheel and confirmed that birds had indeed made multiple nests everywhere on my bike (see picture) and because of this, my shifting had stopped working and my back brake was seized.


The power meter was working to perfection though, which is all that matters at this point in the race. The race finished up a steep staircase. The sadist route planner was at it again. When finished, I had neither caught the 3 riders ahead of me, nor was I passed by Mark, who had figured out his bike and was slowly reeling me in towards the end.

And for a language Steve Roedde understands.

Avg watts: 244

Norm: 271

All in all, really fun race and I was more than happy with how my body felt and what I was able to do. I placed 13th overall and Larbi, who made it into the lead group entering the technical section finished 9th. Overall the team raced well and we were decently represented in breaks/splits and put in our share of attacks. We are all looking forward to the next race on our new FACTOR, state of the art, ultra aero, superbly engineered, race bikes. That’s if we have the balls to take them off of the display on our walls..