Race Report – Paris to Roubaix

Well, the weather yesterday did its part to ensure a perfect day for bike racing.  The skies were clear and the sun was warm, with only a slight wind blowing out of the north.  Unfortunately for me, my legs didn’t do their part to make it a perfect day of racing for me.  My only consolation?  Many of my fellow riders also suffered as they peddled their way through 87-odd kilometers of mean Ontario back-road.

First, Joe either lied, or riders in Ontario take a different approach to race starts.  As the pack took-off Sunday morning, it was clear no-one was thinking they would “start fairly slow and build momentum”.  The peloton lurched forward quickly from the parking lot of the Almonte curling rink and it became immediately apparent that riders intended to hit the start of the race (and roughly 10 km of loose gravel) at full speed.  This meant the 1.5 km “pre-ride” to the start was a full on sprint as folks jostled for position.  It also meant that by lining near the back of the mass of riders for the pre-race instructions, I had no hope of getting up into the top third of the peloton as Joe had suggested.

As a result, by the time I hit the official start of the course, a thin line of riders stretched out in front of me… and within 5 kilometers the group had blown apart into a number of smallish groups.

As a result, what followed for me was about 1hr and 40 min of racing – whereby I would reel in a group of riders ahead of me, decide that they were going too slow, and then drop them to try and reel in the next group of riders which hung tantalizingly just up the road.

Then at about the 45 km mark things changed abruptly.  I went from racing mode, very quickly, to survival mode.  I stopped thinking of catching the group ahead of me and instead focused on keeping them in sight.  That quickly gave way to trying to latch on the riders that were started to pass me… to no avail.    As I hit the 55km mark and what seemed like the hardest part of the course (loose gravel up a series of steep little hills), I just concentrated on not puking or falling off my bike.  When I hit a switchback of loose sand, I had a flash of relief thinking about having to walk the short section.  This evaporated a millisecond later as my foot hit the ground and the muscles in my leg protested in one giant spasm and I almost crumpled to the ground.

After a while, I seemed to catch a second wind, and for the last 40 minutes or so, I seemed to get into a groove.  However, if there was any question about whether or not I went out too hard, it was answered with about 10 km to go… when a group of 4 riders passed me like I was going backwards… the same four riders I dropped at about 10 km into the race.  I tried valiantly one last time to grab a wheel… but to no avail.  Yep, I got schooled.

So, bottom line: I finished in 3hr 24min in 119th place.  Full results here.

Much better race-reports that deal with the actual racers and assorted hi-jinx (there was drama) here and here.

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2 responses to “Race Report – Paris to Roubaix

  1. Great report John. I especially liked the references to pukeing and cramping–signs of a good race. It sounded epic. You in for next year?…or is it too soon to ask?

  2. I will definitely race again next year – I would hate to have the hard-earned lessons go to waste… things like:

    1. When the race organizer announces at the start “remember, this isn’t a race but a gentlepersonly ride” he is only talking to you.

    2. Make sure you close your water bottle when riding on gravel.

    3. When the eventual race winner passes you going the wrong way doing his cool-down ride, that does not necessarily mean you are close to the finish… you may still be 20 minutes away.

    4. Don’t get too smug when passing an elite rider fixing a flat. You will see them again before the finish line… probably in about 20 minutes.

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