By Stefan Schreiber
Last Sunday I competed in my first Cat 1/2 road race at Pigeon Lake. This race is considered to be quite difficult with short hard climbs, strong winds and stiff competition. This year it was also host of the Alberta Provincial Championships. So my expectations were quite modest and I wanted to only observe, learn and feel how it is to race among the top cyclists in Alberta. Since I really enjoy road racing and really do it for fun I was not under such a huge performance pressure as other riders who were going for the title. I wasn’t even sure if I could have gotten it legally since I am not Canadian and my license says GERMAN and my UCI code starts with DEU. So, the goal was to have fun and distract myself a bit from triathlon training, which is quite demanding these days.
The weather was sunny, windy and a bit chilly in the morning, but the best thing was there was no chance of rain!
After we got started the pace went up immediately – not crazy intense, just fast. We passed the feed zone for the first time and shortly after, I cannot recall the exact moment anymore, a few attacks were launched mostly initiated by ERTC riders. I wasn’t really sure what to do about that, since we still had over 100 km to go and I do know how difficult it can be for an early breakaway, particularly in this race! Anyway, after the third or fourth attack I forgot about all these things and my legs were just itching to go with the next attack. Sure enough more attacks went and I was right in there. It took a few attempts and then we had the first “real” break, although it lasted only a few kilometres. Once the pack had us reeled in again, counter attacks went right away. I tried to follow all the time, and then, finally we formed the leading group, which lasted for about 90 km. In this group were Kris Dahl (H&R BLOCK), Paul Tichelaar (ERTC), Cameron McKnight (ERTC) and me. I couldn’t believe that this was happening! I was absolutely excited! This is the perfect constellation for a group to stay away. The most dominant teams were in the break and I was part of the group. If we would have had someone from Rundle Mountain Cycling Club with us, I bet we would have made it.
Anyway, for me this was the perfect situation in that moment. I was totally aware of that and that’s why I was working my ass off to keep this group alive. I didn’t wanted to start all over again with attacking, counter attacking etc. We were working quite nicely together but after a few laps it become difficult and we started to slow down a bit. According to the officials our lead was always between 50 and 80 seconds – not enough to take it easy, so I mobilised everything I had and went all in trying to keep our lead steady. As it happens with most of the breakaways, we got caught eventually with about 10 to 12 km to go. I thought this was it and I was ready to give up and just roll home. After a couple of breaths though I felt good enough to follow the counter attacks and, believe it or not, made it again into the next breakaway. This group consisted of Kris Dahl again, and this time Jonathan Wood (ERTC). He was working the hardest and I tried to do as much as I could at this moment. Kris didn’t do anything at that point remained in third position until the last 700 m or so. Then him and Jonathan started their sprint games and I was just trying to keep the pedals turning. I was absolutely done!
I turned around saw the pack coming but was still hoping to remain in third position but 50 m before the finish I got passed by Sean Crooks (Rundle Mountain Cycling Club), Garvin Mackenzie (Bow Cycle) and Aaron Schooler (H&R BLOCK). I finished in sixth place and was really happy with my performance. It was a wonderful race, not boring at all and with a lot of action. Jonathan came in second and Kris became the Provincial Champion.
Special thanks to my wonderful wife for making sure I am staying motivated and fuelled every time I came by the feed zone, as well as to Jan and Lenka for giving me a ride and taking pictures. Also thank you to Aaron Schooler’s mom who gave Sanja a ride to Pigeon Lake and Josh for taking her back to Edmonton.