July 05, 2012 (Toronto, ON) – One of my favourite yearly races is undoubtedly the CHIN Picnic International Bicycle Race. Held on Canada Day every July the 1st, the criterium style race is one of the longest standing hallmarks of the Ontario Cycling season. Maybe it is the history of the event, or the nearby petting zoo that is part of the family oriented fun; regardless, I am always excited to compete at the CHIN.
To add to the excitement of the event, the race was a Points-Race format meaning that there were Points up for grabs every 5 laps. The winner was the rider who accumulated the most points and not necessarily the first person to complete the race. While confusing for some spectators and racers, this event is my absolute favourite. There were basic math skills, attention to detail and tight left turns. Basically, the description of this race reads exactly like my résumé.
OCTTO-Cervélo had 4 riders in the race: Kevin Black, Peter Morse, Yuri Hxxxcjjzjbac [Ed. That's the phonetic version, it's actually spelled Yuri Hryjac. This is not going to look good on Byer's résumé...]. Three of us had just returned from a week at a high altitude locale where the OCTTO-Cervélo team was riding with Cervélo’s favourite retailers. Our mid-season training camp was to about to bear fruit. Fruit Salad in fact.
But, as everyone knows, the only thing that can ruin a fruit salad is the dreaded Kiwi.
And there they were, right on the start line. Five members of the New Zealand based Pure Black Racing team right on the start line of the relatively small field. They had the numbers, the power and the King Kiwi – James Williamson, the current New Zealand National Champion. And to top it all off, I had found that my Meteorological and Weather Systems analysis equipment was malfunctioning upon my return to Canada less than 48 hours earlier. While I never make an excuse, I had no idea it would be SO hot and SO humid with SUCH poor air quality.
The race started hot and heavy with multiple attacks in the opening laps. However, nothing was getting too far before that first sprint. Once the dust started to settle on the opening, it was clear that we were getting buried quickly by a break powered by multiple Pure Black Racing riders. Fortunately, Kevin Black found his way into this break.
Most people know Kevin Black as a guy who never shuts up. Always talking and cracking jokes, he is definitely the most verbose rider on the team. However, once you really get to know Kevin, you see that below his affable exterior, there is a quiet, introspective and calculating persona. With almost robotic like precision, Kevin began taking points. However, he showed his strength a little too early and the Kiwi King attacked to take him out of the break.
With Kevin Black back in the pack and two Pure Black [Ed. No relation between Kevin Black and Pure Black!] guys up the road, Peter Morse and I started chasing. It was a tough job trying to keep the group under control as attacks were attempted again and again. I was nearly dropped twice. The second time, I dutifully made my way back to the front and put my head down in the wind. After a few hundred meters I looked back to see only Trevor Gunman of Pure Black Racing on my wheel and a nice gap behind us. Obviously, he wasn’t about to take a pull. Folks, I had just taken a big spoonful of Fruit Salad and it was marked by that squishy little green spoiler; the Kiwi.
But here is the thing about Points-Races; the scenario is ever changing. So, I soldiered on as Brent “Still-got-it” Aquino bridged up with Michael “where-the-hell-did-he-come-from” Aston and another Pure Black Racing rider. Great. Just in time for them to lead out and put me down in the sprint so I had only gained one point. Surging after the sprint managed to dislodge one of the PBRs but Trevor “who-needs-a-nickname-when-you-already-have-a-badass-last-name” Gunman returned the favour after I took the next sprint.
Everything after this point was a little fuzzy. One thing I am sure of is that Kevin, Yuri and Peter went back to the front in an effort to bring everything back together. I was sitting fourth and one of two things needed to happen for me to make the podium; I had to start beating Ed “the Real Deal” Veal in pack sprints or, we needed to make the catch early and go for broke before the last sprint. The boys rode impressively…until I sprinted a lap too late for points and blew it all apart! Like I said, it was all a little fuzzy. Had my weather predictions been up to date, I am sure I would have better prepared for the heat and maintained a cool head.
The race was hard, fast and full of action. The CHIN did live up to its reputation and at least we gave it our all. Unfortunately for us, there were more Kiwis in attendance than we had anticipated. And no matter how thoroughly we tong’d this salad, there was no avoiding a Kiwi in every bite.