Thomas’ ‘cross initiation: “Just Let them Come to You”

The Fiera Race Team was out in force yesterday for the first race of the Eastern Ontario Cyclocross Series, thanks in part to the fact that Shari doesn’t go back to Edmonton until today, in part because Naomi is ready to rock the whole series this year, and thanks in part to the fact that Thomas Dunne has arrived on the scene, new ‘cross bike in hand, ready to give this whole bike racing thing a go.  Below is the dispatch Thomas sent me last night (with editorial comments in italics):


It was with no small amount of trepidation that I approached my first-ever race and event for the Fiera Team, and my first-ever CycloCross series race. Although I’d been riding and feeling good, and loving my new steed, I wasn’t sure how I would respond once the proverbial gun went off.   And as John knows, I’ve been talking about a new bike and “getting out there” for years – so it was time to put up or shut up.

Having gleaned all of the wisdom I could from Fiera teammates (not much help there) and other racers, and recalling John’s experiences from last year’s OBC series, I felt confident that I would enjoy my novice experience…so I promptly registered for the (uber-competitive)  Masters A category (30-39 years old), and prepared to have my a$$ handed to me.

As most people already know, strategy is a huge part of bike racing, and I have listened to years of Phil Liggett, so I knew to remind myself to pick a wheel, stay on it, and wait for my time to strike! This system failed even during the warm up lap, when John immediately dropped me as we surveyed the course, lest I get any ideas about how things would go in the actual race. This was a key sign that a new strategy was needed.

Near perfect technique over the barriers...

As we lined up for the start and I maddeningly dropped some air from my tires, I slid in beside John at the back of the pack. Within seconds of the start, it was clear that I had picked the right place to position myself. It didn’t take long for me to get dropped off the tail end of the group, and despite feeling strong and hammering the first few hundred meters, those lonely 30 seconds would turn out to be a lonely ride as I struggled to bridge back to the last racers ahead of me.

Thomas looking like his picture belongs in every "Bicycling" magazine

Who would choose this position as part of their strategy you might ask. Anyone who, like me, just wanted to give the leaders a chance to come to me…and come they did, as they were kind enough to push me onward and remind me of my line each of the successive times they lapped me (we’re nice here in Ontario – we lap you but don’t pull you, allowing your suffering to continue). Quickly I realized that I could chase them, or I could enjoy their company as they lapped past…and astonishingly I never had to wait very long for their return.

It was an unfortunate mess when I did take one of them down upon crashing into his line – but he pressed on and called after me to get up and keep going. There were lots of lessons in the race – about how it can be fun to ride from the back…and stay there. About finishing the race despite how utterly trashed the legs feel, and about how a rainy, muddy, and sloppy OBC Cyclocross inauguration was about the best I would have hoped for (welcome to the club Thomas…).

Thomas "thank God I'm done" Dunne


The rest of the Fiera squad had excellent races as well.  In the first race of the day, Shari showed John how to ride his ‘cross bike fast, finishing a strong 3rd in the Women’s A category.

Shari and her vocal fans... Evan's new favorite cheer? "You don't look tired!"

Shari all smiles after the race... maybe if she didn't smile during the race she wouldn't get mud on her teeth

Naomi also impressed the assembled crowd (well, at least me and Evan), finishing 6th in the Women’s A category in only her 2nd ever ‘cross race.

Naomi with her head down, hammering hard

Naomi and the Fiera cheering section: Evan and Kitty

Naomi and the Fiera cheering section: Evan and Kitty

And in the second race, John finished a respectable 24th in the Men’s A category.  He was vying for a top 20 finish, when he drove his bike straight into the last set of barriers on the last lap, having failed to control the speed going in and not unclipping in a timely fashion.  This left the front brakes jammed solid on the front wheel and required a longish run into the finish.

The second last barrier... the one John didn't crash into...

Where does this expression fit on the Fiera Grimace Scale? The "slack-jawed" grimace.

Full results are available here.  Next up, the always fun Madison race next Sunday.

Entertaining race reports can also be found on the Tall Tree Cycles Ride Blog, which includes unfortunate photographic evidence of Thomas’ crash.  And Ottawa Bikes has some really cool video from the race, including the view from phenom Evan Mcneely’s cockpit.


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