126.4km, 3:26:10, 36.8kph – First rider back

The Ride Across the County of Elgin (R.A.C.E.) was, ironically, not a race. However, it was an intense enough ride that it warrants a report.

Background

This event was a fundraiser ride for the United Way Elgin St Thomas, and it was the first time the event was being run. To keep logistics simple, it was a closed invitation to the Railway City Cycling Club, London Centennial Wheelers, and London Cycling Club. With a variety of distances on offer, I was excited for the 126km route as I hadn’t done a lot of longer rides this summer.

The event included a yellow jersey competition, awarded to the individual who raised the most money for the event. I was thrilled to be the recipient, having raised $2,205 over the course of a month. They had a neat ceremony before the ride where I got the jersey, so was able to wear it for the event itself.

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The Ride

We rolled out of St. Thomas at a casual pace and I took the front, it seemed fitting to have the leaders jersey in the lead. However, it wasn’t long between the pack of heavy hitters got antsy with the casual 31kph pace and ramped things up. By 10km in, we were frequently peaking over 40kph, aided by a tailwind and flat roads. Approximately 24 riders joined this lead group.

The group worked exceptionally well together. We rolled a double, circular paceline, meaning that one side is constantly moving up while the other is constantly moving back, and when you get to the front you move over and drift back. With 24 strong riders, this maximized our pace. It was a fairly uneventful first half other than a dropped bottle and a small dog that charged into the pack. Actually, the dog was pretty eventful. It ran right into the pack of 24 riders going 40+ kph, and I mean right in, didn’t just stay beside and bark, got right in the mix. Unbelievably no one went down and the dog wasn’t hit, s sure sign of a bunch of riders who knew what they were doing.

We hit the 60km rest stop with an average pace around 38kph and loaded up on water. The temperature was already approaching 30 degrees and was only going to get hotter. After looping through Rodney and heading back we started to get a bit of wind, so it was clear that this is where the hard work would happen.

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Sure enough, at the 70-80k range we started to find some tired legs. However, riders were able to jump the paceline before hitting the front if they needed a break. This, again, allowed us to optimize the pace while accommodating a range of ability. It was really awesome to see such a large pack work together so effectively to get the whole group as far and as fast as possible. Kudos to lots of riders who clearly went deeper than ever before.

There was a little bit of a snafu at the 80k water stop. Since we had just stopped, not everyone needed to fill, so there was some discussion of whether we were rolling or stopping, but did decide we needed to stop. However, I didn’t need to, so was rolling and called out to some slowing riders that I was on their right. Unfortunately, they still turned in front of me and I had to slam on the brakes and tipped over with no time to clip out. Fortunately, nothing other than a big hand bruise…no marks on the bike. It was clear from the discussion at this stop that some riders were not going to be able to sustain the pace through to the end, so it was going to get more tricky. Do we sacrifice the average pace of the whole group? Do we split up? With no real discussion, it would have to play out on the road.

Sure enough, rolling again and more and more riders were skipping turns, making our paceline a bit sloppy as we constantly tried to fill gaps. Then at 90k we hit a sharp little climb and the group blew to pieces. Manny called a couple of us back who were out the front and we sat up, until 11 riders got back on. We slow-rolled at 30kph and two groups formed up behind us. I knew Craig Saari of the Forest City Velodrome was back there and could do a power pull to bring them back, but after a minute or two there was still a gap. I asked through the group if anyone had friends behind they couldn’t leave, and if people wanted to go, and consensus was to push on. I think the general feeling was that things were going to have to break up anyway if we were going to see close to a 37kph average.

So we pressed on with 11. The double paceline wasn’t going so hot with this size group and tired legs, so we formed up a single paceline. That way each rider could take as short or long a pull as they felt able. My legs still felt great at this point, so I was able to encourage other riders along. I knew I was on a good day. We lost one rider to the final water stop where his family was stationed (buddy almost actually caught back onto us, what a hitter!), so 10 of us went into the hills on the outskirts of St Thomas.

Things again blew apart. The speed had cranked up to around 39kph, and bouncing up a hill left me alone with Joe Fallon and John a bit behind. With still 6km to go I didn’t really want to ride solo, so waited up. However, at this point I had decided that it would be neat to be the first rider back while wearing the leader’s jersey. So, with a couple kilometers left I ratcheted the pace up again to around 42kph, and was impressed to see that Joe and John were hanging on my wheel. However, a few 90 degree turns at the end separated us again and I rolled into the finish, in yellow, off the front. It was a very cool feeling!

Again, kudos to the whole gang for working hard, working togther, and getting the best pace out of each of us. Heading into the off season now unless I sneak in a final duathlon.