For the 2nd year in a row, my Victoria Day long weekend was spent at Le Grand Prix Cycliste Gatineau to kick off my 1st race of the season. This weekend involved spectating the Women’s UCI WE 1.1 Road Race on Saturday, racing the Gran Fondo Gatineau on Sunday, and finally spectating the Women’s Chrono Gatineau UCI WE 1.1 Time Trial on Monday.
SATURDAY, MAY 18, 2013
The Women’s UCI 1.1 Road Race was a 12-lap closed circuit race, totaling 122.16km. It was a treat to watch an elite race up close and the sound of the peloton going by was a thrill.
Here’s a sneak peek of the atmosphere as the ladies approached the finish on the last lap. The crowd was too loud to hear the whooshing sound of the peloton.
Watching the race further escalated my excitement about riding if that was even possible. In the afternoon, it was time to take the bike for an easy 15km spin on a scenic route along Rideau River in Ottawa to stretch out the legs for my race the next day.
SUNDAY MAY 19, 2013
The Gran Fondo Gatineau (ROUTE MAP) is my toughest race every year with 1818m elevation gain; its earliness in the season further pumps up the challenge. This ride consisted of 2 laps of 50km+ through Parc de la Gatineau, totaling 107km. My goal last year was to simply cross the finish. With a baseline this year, my goal was to beat last year’s time specifically under 4h30min. Unlike last year where I did countless long rides prior to the race, I’ve only done one 100k ride, 1 hill specific ride, and many shorter speed-focused rides. I was curious to see how this would change the results.
I was determined to stay with the group out of the start, pedaling at my max limit. I stayed with the pack at 30kph+ until 8km which, believe me, was a further distance than last year. I couldn’t keep up at the false flats and speed dropped to 27kph. Losing them deflated my spirits and I temporarily lost motivation to maintain pace. After a minute of self-talk in my head to reinforce my key goal of beating my previous time, my focus returned to cranking the pedals. Once the uphill grind began, I was mostly pulling my own weight with stray riders at random, climbing at 9-12kph all the way up to Belvédère Champlain.
At 20km, I was distracted by a strange metal-clanging noise. I swayed from my line as I looked around the bike locating its source. Final investigation determined it came from the rear. I started imagining objects getting caught on the spokes or my derailleur being sheared off. At 22km, the noise became louder and more frequent and I got off the bike to check. No foreign objects were found. A minute later of useless diagnosis, I concluded the issue was beyond my mechanical knowledge. Time was ticking and riders from behind were catching up, so I decided to live with the noise and hope for the best. The noise would get louder, disappear, and come back again. This was my annoyance for the remaining 84k. As I was going up, the elite riders were already racing down. The peloton actually created headwind for me!! There were a few times under a certain steepness and speed when I could finally perform a proper out-of-the-saddle push, feeling the pull with my arm as the leg pushed down and catching up to some riders in the meantime. If only I could pull it off all the time ….
After much effort to the top at the Champlain Lookout where the feed station was, I took a quick glance at the scenery. It was a stunning view, overlooking the Ottawa Valley. I skipped the fuel station and continued on. Riding down Parc de la Gatineau was fun and I was amazed how much climbing was done earlier.
I finally hit the Roundabout, finishing the 1st lap at roughly 2:08 and shaving off approx 17min from last year. My target time was looking hopeful. Then the lack of endurance training this year really hit me. At 60km, I was pretty much finished and lap 2 just began. The rest of the ride was pure sufferfest.
At 79km, I couldn’t stop starring at my odometer moving ever so slowly as I continued up the never-ending climb. I hope it was working. After a quick stop at the the Lookout to rearrange my bottles, I breathed a sigh of relief and rode my way down. I was nearing the homestretch. At long last, I reached the finish, just missing my target time. The 2nd lap really dragged me down.
One thing I did well was fueling. For a change, I ate periodically and never once felt hungry (1st lap, 2 gels & 1 energy bar; 2nd lap, 1 energy bar & a lemon waffle).
The race was a learning experience for me. Being frustrated and curious at the same time, I mimicked some riders to understand why they were faster. On flats, my cadence matched theirs but they were on higher gears. I geared up but was still slower. I’ll leave it at they have carbon bikes and I wasn’t drafting close enough for now. On false flats, it was definitely cadence. On hills, it depends who I was following and I only analyzed riders on the saddle. Most riders were both on higher gears with quicker cadence; others were just quicker cadence. Basically, I need stronger legs.
In the past, I would’ve been hard on myself with this result. This year, I swallowed it. Lining up for lunch immediately after the race, I was really disoriented and didn’t even recognize riders whom I spoke with during the race. This made me realized I tried my best and emptied the tank. If I were to redo the race the next day, I wouldn’t have done anything differently at my current physical level. This was my limit, it is what it is for now.
MONDAY, MAY 20, 2013
The Chrono Gatineau UCI WE 1.1 Time Trial was a nice way to end the weekend. The best view was at the roundabout, tricky to ride but fun to watch.
Weekend Vacation Photos
The weekend was cycling-oriented and was also a nice get-away in Ottawa and Gatineau for a few days with some good eats.
Hope everyone had a fantastic Long weekend. Do you enjoy being the spectator as much as riding?