Calabogie was the second “O” Cup in the Ontario road race season, and it was supposed to be my race. I came in 12th there last year (my best result to date) and I expected to do as well this year. Things got a little muddled up, partly because of a lack of attention on my part and partly because of poor race management. I will do my best to explain.
Calabogie is West outside of Ottawa, and pretty much in the middle of nowhere. What they have is a private racetrack where you can learn to drive and it is busy every weekend during the summer. However, in the early spring it plays host to hundreds of cyclists. It is a great place to ride and if you are thinking of getting into racing it is a good first race. Unlike Ancaster, there is no yellow line rule in effect; so there is lots of room to move around. And because it is a race track the road is smooth, well maintained and wide. The course turns left and right and in a car would probably seem like hairpin corners but on a bike are very manageable. What makes Calabogie so good for me is there isn’t much in the way of hills. I’m not much of a climber so races like the Niagara Classic and even KW tax me severely for my love of sweets.
There were five LapDogs in the M3 category but poor race team director Roderick was on his own in M2. The five of us were Dave Chong, Colin, Mark, Wallace and I. The race started smooth enough no crashes or anything and my plan had been to just hang in the middle for most of the race. I hadn’t been on the bike for two weeks since I was away on vacation and I didn’t want to bonk or anything. The race proceeded with it’s usual ebb and flow, racers moving around jockeying for position which is really unnecessary the course is so open you can just wait until the end. In the M3 classification no one ever breaks away it just ends up being a massive sprint anyway.
The laps go by quickly, the course is only about 5.5km long so it is easy to lose track of what lap you’re on. About 8 laps in, I moved my way to the very front of the pelaton. Nose in the wind, feeling good I began to move into the big gears and start pushing a little. This only lasted for a kilometre or two because there in the middle of the road were two bodies, with one on the side! It seems the ladies race had a bad crash and the ambulance hadn’t been able to respond yet. One girl was on the side of the road crying and one was out cold. A volunteer was in the middle of the road waving at us to stop. Being the responsible racer that I am I raised my hand and slowed the pelaton down.
There isn’t much prize money in M3 racing, not a lot of glory either so there was no point in trying to race away. Plus I would be really upset if someone bombed past one of my teammates when they were injured. Now here is where the poor race management comes in. When a race is neutralized, no one is supposed to gain position, like in a neutral start no one tries to move up. I was the leader, no one was supposed to pass me. About a dozen racers came by saying “keep it easy, guys” while pedaling forward. As the guy in front, when a race is neutralized I set the pace, not them. If this was a pro-race all of them would have been called out for it, and booed should any of them get to the podium. Just think of Contador when he attacked after Schleck’s chain malfunctioned, he got booed when he put on the yellow jersey. The two incidents are not exactly comparable but there is an etiquette to cycling and as far as I am concerned, they broke that etiquette. When we came around for the 9th lap the ambulance was there so again the same slowing and jockeying.
On the 10th lap the pace really picked up, and this is where I got confused. With all the excitement I forgot what lap I was on and looking at the counter it read “2.” After we came around again it read “1″ and the pace slowed again for some reason. I took this to mean I had one more after this one, like there was one lap remaining. As a result I was hanging out near the back waiting for the last half lap to make my push again. You can imagine my disappointment when we crossed the line and everyone stopped. There is nothing worse than finishing feeling like you still had gas in the tank. At least at Ancaster I had done all I could but here I hadn’t even made my move! Thankfully Colin and Dave had good races with Colin finishing 8th and Dave finishing 19th. I ended up in 62nd, kicking myself for getting distracted. This was supposed to be my race and I blew it.
Roderick and the M2 racers had a similar situation only for them the accident was on the start of the straight-away to the finish, and the accident was on the second to last lap. When the riders came around for the last lap the ambulance was in the road, as they came into the last “S” turn before the straight away there was a commissionaire yelling that the ambulance was still there . That should have neutralized the race but when they got there the ambulance had just left and so some guys punched it and took advantage of the situation. That should have never been allowed to happen. The race should have been neutralized and then an additional “race” lap added. As it happened Roderick finished in a similar fashion with still some energy left.
Calabogie wasn’t a total loss though. I learn every time I race. I learn to handle the bike better, how to position myself better. I learn that I can hang out at the front and push the pace. The next race is Springbank, which will be my first criterium. I can’t wait to see what I learn there!