Sunday, April 19, 2009

Race Report: Paris to Ancaster

It took about 15 minutes for the sound of my alarm to penetrate my thick skull, but as I struggled to the surface, two long-missed words flashed across the insides of my eyelids. In neon. Race Day!

Behind schedule, and still not quite packed after the minivan mission, I sprang into action. I admit, my race day prep left something to be desired, but that's what the first race is for: practice.

I had a pretty modest breakfast -- just a bowl of cereal and a glass of water -- and then threw my gear into a bag and packed up the minivan. I promised myself a stop at Tim's for some caffeine and a bagel, but didn't realize I broke the promise until I picked up my race registration package in Ancaster. So much for that.

I handed over my baby to a man with a big truck and hoped for the best. He promised I'd see it again in Paris at the start line, so I took care of some final touches on my prep then got on the shuttle bus headed for the start line.

Wasn't long before I located KK. She peer-pressured me into doing the race, so in return we agreed we'd work together. Paris to Ancaster is a point-to-point race of varying terrain over 60km. It is billed as Ontario's Paris Roubaix, a spring European road classic. However, racers ride CX or XC bikes for our version -- it's not a road race.

The course includes some doubletrack, rail trail, farmers' roads and fields, paved roads, gravel roads and pretty much zero single track. Combined with today's near-constant headwind, it was a real winner out there. But at least it didn't snow!

P2A also boasts that they have the largest field of riders assembled in Canada. According to the results, more than 1,200 finished the race.

KK and I warmed up, then sidled up to the start line. We didn't have a terrible spot, but it wasn't awesome either. The race started and we didn't even really notice. It took another minute before the riders in front of us were moving and we were off, threading the needle over dusty roads trying to beat as many as possible onto the narrower rail trail.

I felt good right away. KK stayed on my wheel and expertly took her pulls too. In fact, I think I swallowed a rock her wheel kicked up. The two of us have been hacking up mudpies ever since we crossed the finish line.

The middle of the race was pretty much the same old boring P2A ... long stretches of straight roads, switching off pulls into the headwind. There were a few notable highlights: we passed some kids with a "sweet jump" built in their driveway, so I hit it and they cheered. There were some other kids in a farmers' field that wanted high fives and so of course we obliged. You'd think we were handing out gold bricks for how excited they were!

The end of the race had a good tilt. We successfully navigated the sloppy, muddy, sticky, clay-based mudslides (bike still caked -- too tired to care) and rounded that last corner onto the famous final climb. KK pointed out a mark for me and sent me on my way to chase her down. I was still feeling really good so I went for it. My legs didn't let me down and I passed her after a moderate effort and some mountain bike handling (she was on a CX bike which is basically a road bike but with knobby tires). I gapped her and started to focus on the ever-increasing pitch of the climb. I had my face almost right to the bar when I decided I ought to check back. I think that look over my shoulder added another couple logs to her fire because the next thing I knew she was passing me back. I battled with her for a bit, but not knowing her category or my ranking, made an oxygen-depraved decision to let her go. I finished right after her as the finish line was basically the crest of the hill.

I finished strong, felt like a champ and put to rest my insecurities about having worked alone (ie without a coach) this winter to prepare for the season. So if I'd just got into the car and come home straight after my cool down, I'd have been super stoked. But it turned out there was a bonus! All that work added up to a silver medal! So I got to take home some hardware along with my big grin. KK was right behind me and shared the podium too. Oh yeah, the girl on the hill won our category. I'm lazy and she deserved it :)

Women's 20-29 Podium: KK bronze, Me silver, Mandy gold

Overall Women's Podium: Alison Sydor, gold; Melissa Bunn, silver; Michelle Cordy, Bronze
Crowding around to check results

The first thing you see when you come into the arena ... priorities!

A little piece of history (belonging to a giant).


  1. Check out the OCA's report/photos: