By Stefan Schreiber
This past weekend I represented the Fiera Race Team at the Velocity stage race. For everyone who doesn’t know what a stage race is, it consists of multiple races (or stages) and at the end the rider who has the fastest accumulated time over all stages wins the general classification (GC).
The Velocity stage race consists of a 10 km Individual Time Trial (ITT), a Road Race, and a Criterium (Crit). The distance/duration of the RR/Crit depends on the racing category. There are 5 racing categories grouping people with similar abilities. The difference between a road race and a criterium is that the latter is a fast paced race on a short course (~ 1km) with lots of corners, accelerations and quite some action.
Here are the details for my races:
1) Time Trial:
I went into the time trial with no expectations since I haven’t spent a lot of time on the bike this winter, and I know Cat 3 is pretty competitive. My goal was to pace myself evenly and keep some grains for the last 3 km. It worked quite nicely and I felt good all the way through. On the final km, I was even able to add some speed and after I crossed the finish I was happy with the result and how I felt. Eventually, it turned out to be the second fastest time in my category, which was great, but at the same time I felt the pressure was on me.
2) Road Race
Going in second place into the road race (the first guy was only a few seconds faster) I decided to play it safe, wait for my chance and do one big attack with about 5 km to go. That was the plan. I really didn’t have any backup plan this time and was wondering whether this will work out. After the race started, I felt really miserable, mentally. I needed to pee after about 10km (only 100km left) and it was freezing. I was ready to pull over and quit the race. But of course I cannot just quit because it’s cold and I have to pee. How embarrassing would that be?? [And what kind of race report would it make?] Instead, I tried to focus all my negative energy towards my tires and was hoping for a flat – but it never happened. What was really interesting is that I didn’t pay attention to what happened during the race – instead I was just cycling somewhere near the back and was chatting with myself. Something, I usually do during an Ironman because it gets boring at some point and it helps to make the time go by quicker. On our last lap however, I heard the commissaire yelling that the breakaway has 4 minutes on us. “BREAKAWAY??? I didn’t know there was a breakaway!!!”. Great, finally in a road race there was breakaway with 3 people, 4 minutes ahead on the last lap and I am chatting with myself. I asked another rider and he told me they went off quite early in the race. Then I knew these guys must have been really suffering by now. So, actually I was happy again not to be in the breakaway. Anyway, I woke up, reminded myself there was a plan to execute and I felt good again. There were so many possibilities to attack on the last lap but I restrained myself and decided to give 100% exactly where I successfully broke away 2 years ago. I reached the spot, accelerated from the middle of the back and played the only card I had. I was really hammering it for the first minute and I realized I would soon have to slow down a little or I would blow up. I quickly turned around to see whether my attack was successful or not. I couldn’t see anyone close and went on cruise control. Then my inner voice wanted to chat again, but this time I told it I was busy and ignored it. It was actually kind of funny and I had to smile a bit. After the final turn I saw that I still had some distance between the peloton and me. But I kept on pedalling as hard as I could. Two years ago, I was in the same situation and it looked good after the turn but then, I just barely made into the finish in the end. So, even though I couldn’t see anyone after the turn, I kept on pushing the pedals hard. Then I saw the 2 km sign and another flash back from 2 years ago reminded me how long it still is to the finish and how much it hurt. Finally, the 500 m sign, I could see the red pylon now and was aiming for it. I also passed the third guy from the breakaway, which I absolutely didn’t realize until after the race. About 50m before the finish I turned around and knew I was safe and enjoyed crossing the finish line.
After the road race I was still 2nd in the GC and somewhere around 25 seconds behind Jeff Perron and somewhere around 15 seconds ahead of Craig Fraser.
I was very happy with the result but was certain I couldn’t really gain more than 25 sec on Jeff in the Crit. So, my main goal was to make sure Craig wouldn’t pass me in the GC.
I slept very well that night and arrived early and relaxed at the Alberta Research Park. I was quite nervous. Crits always make me nervous because they require a lot of skill and chances to crash out are high. But what shall I do now? I calmed myself down and reminded myself to ride safe and only make sure to stay ahead of Craig and take 2nd place home. I did a quick warm-up and shortly after we were lining up at the start line. I got a good spot right in first line. The commissaire blew his whistle and we were off. Samuel Beaudoin was leading the pack for the first lap and we kept the speed high. I always tried to give all I had on the head/cross wind section around the lake to make it difficult and soon enough the pack split. I felt really good and my legs were amazing. I couldn’t believe it. It was 40 min of fun. I enjoyed every minute because I know it can also be quite the opposite! I was also able sprint for third place during the prime lap and won one bonus second. Hooray!!! I kept on turning around and I couldn’t see the main field. I did realize though that Jeff wasn’t in the lead group and I was wondering what the time difference would be. Then we got the bell for the last lap and the group sped up again and slowed down shortly afterwards. Since I knew I wouldn’t have a chance in the sprint, I tried again to pull away in the head wind section without success. Finally, the sprint was on and I finished 8th. It was a very great race!! And then to make it even better our group had a gap of ~28 sec which was enough for me to win the GC with 4 seconds ahead of Jeff.
Thanks to everyone for cheering, Jan and Lenka for giving us their car and of course Sanja for her amazing support!
Next Stop: Pigeon Lake! And if my calculation is correct it will be in Cat 1/2 J