Report by: John
The first real bike race of the season for the FRT out here in Ontario took place last Sunday, April 15th, with the 3rd annual running of the Clarence Rockland Classic, put on by the Ride with Rendall cycling club.
The race (along with the Ottawa Valley “Paris-Roubaix” which takes place in about a week) plays homage to the northern classics of Europe, with the parcours serving up equal doses of pavement and nasty gravel sections. And for you Albertans reading this… I don’t mean nice, cuddly smoothed-by-the-passage-of-glaciers Alberta style gravel .. I mean big, sharp and nasty crushed-rock gravel.
About 150 racers lined up Sunday morning for the 86-odd km loop. I got off to a decent start, comfortably in the main group… Much better than last year when I was chasing the back of the peleton within the first 5 or 10 km.
A couple of attacks went off the front in the first half of the race, but no real breaks managed to get away for long. The group seemed to slowly thin through a slow war of attrition, with riders either falling off the back through rough gravel sections, or by virtue of one (or more) flat tires.
Alas, this was to be my fate at around the 45 km mark or so, when my front tire punctured. My time at the front of the race was over, and I rushed to replace the tube and hopefully hook-up with someone (and not be forced to solo the rest of the race).
About 6 or 7 minutes later (I really gotta practice changing a tube) I was back on the road, by my estimate about a minute behind a fairly sizable group. I hooked up with a couple of other guys who had also flatted, and we worked to hard to make contact with the group ahead. Unluckily for one of the guys, he flatted again just as we reached them.
After the hard effort of chasing, I hung in the group to recover for quiet a while. With about 15 km to go, I took my turn on the front, and was surprised that I had opened a bit of a gap on the group, which has thinned by about half. I decided what the hell, and decided to soilder on.
After a couple of minutes, 4 guys came past at speed, chasing back from, I am sure, flats of their own. I managed to get on a wheel, and hammered to keep pace. It was all I could do to keep up, and with less than 5 km to go I slipped off the pace, leaving me to solo in the last bit.
All in all, I was really happy with the race. This was the first time I had really spent any sizable amount of time at the front of the race. I guess we will see in another week whether this was a fluke… or if ever other racer in Ottawa somehow got fat and slow over the winter (cause I am pretty sure I haven’t gotten any faster).
I can’t figure out how to make the Strava plugin work on the blog (yet) so click here if you want to see geeky details.