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The Bird Report – KW Classic Elite Men’s 1-2 Race

by Bruce Bird
June 05, 2013 (London, ON) – The start time for the Elite Men’s  race on Sunday June 2nd, was 2:30 pm. Leading up to the start, rain clouds blew through the region dropping the temperature to 16 Celsius. While it rained the temperature climbed back up to 23 Celsius and fortunately a strong wind blew the rain clouds away for good in time for our race. Only 30 riders lined up at the start as several Elite teams were down in Philadelphia to tackle the Manyunk Wall at the inaugural Philly Cycling Classic.

I was happy to have teammates Gaelen Merritt and Woody Marouch beside me. Gaelen and I decided to take turns following the moves of the better represented teams until one of us got into the break. Typically the winner in the Elite 1-2 field has come from the break. The KW loop is 4.6km long with 60 meters of elevation gain per lap. The road surface was in good condition evidenced by almost zero flats during our race. The direction of the course was reversed this year with riders now heading clockwise from start to finish.

The pace was fast from the get-go with Real Deal animating as the race got underway. A few solo riders were permitted to ride off the front to suffer in the wind alone for a spell before being swallowed up by our small peloton. At one point during the first few laps I counter-attacked while a small break group was getting caught and ended up breaking free of the peloton with Pete Morse (Octto-Cervelo) and Andrew Bradbury (Darkhorse). We rode hard for about one lap but were ultimately brought back by a determined and still energetic peloton. I let the whole peloton pass me by while taking stock of the group, noting that no one had been detached at this point – we were still a group of 30 riders.

I made my way back up to the front on the back section of the course and then let a gap form after Colin Busby (Real Deal) shot off the front. Colin was joined by Dave Byers (Octto-Cervelo) and new comer Anthony Sreblowski (Cyclepath Oakville). The three of them built up a 30-second lead while the rest of us looked at one another waiting for one of the marked riders to make a move. After a lap of this stand-off Casey Roth (Ride with Rendall) drove the pace for about a minute on the downhill and then Gaelen attacked on the outside during the climb through a neighbourhood. Gaelen’s forceful move split the pack into three with all fragmented chase groups strung out single file.

I was near the front of the second group and managed to bridge up to Gaelen and three other riders in the first chase group by the time we hit the start /finish line. A few other riders joined us including Ken Ng (Real Deal) and I commented to him that the pace was hectic over the first 20+ minutes as evidenced by my power meter that showing an average power output of 415 watts. The leaders were now just 10 seconds in front of us.

Thanks to Gaelen’s attack the peloton was shattered and the riders in the lead chase group were in full recovery mode; the situation was perfect for a counter-attack. As soon as we turned right into the chicane off the cross wind straight section, I upped my tempo and bridged the gap to the three riders in the break with Colm Cassidy (Octto-Cervelo) not far behind me. I rode up to the front of the break and pushed the pace harder increasing the gap between the break and the peloton. Colm’s teammate Dave Byer dropped out leaving four of us in the break – myself, Colm, Colin and Andrew.

Colm demonstrated right away that he was strong and committed to our cause by taking regular turns in the front and coming through each time with a sense of urgency. Anthony was steady while Colin was hanging on at the back; after the race Colin told me that he was three beats off his max heart rate.

The first time we hit the climb as a foursome, Anthony punched it on the steepest portion just before the feed zone. I was putting out 700 watts and losing contact with Anthony and Colm. Fortunately Anthony slowed down when he crested the climb and hit the head wind, and I managed to rejoin them with Colin in tow.

We now had about 21 laps to go. We started to establish a routine that held out for a few laps. I took the lead on the downhill sections, while Anthony led the on the climbs, with Colm doing his share in both sections. Unfortunately it did not last. I noticed that Colm stopped contributing. I said nothing and kept working with Anthony for two laps hoping that Colm would work his way through whatever he was going through and recommit to our breakaway, but it did not happen.

With 17 laps to go on the way through the finish I made out from the loudspeaker (that was badly broken up due to the wind), that a chase group of seven riders were just one minute back, with the remainder of the peloton fifty five seconds behind the chase. Despite Anthony’s best intentions, I could see that his strength was giving out a bit, we needed some help. I swung wide after the chicane and looked back to check on Colm to find out if he was tired or playing games or both.

Given the effort that he had been putting out I knew that there must be more to it than just being tired. I asked him what was up. Colm was clearly annoyed by Colin hanging back collecting tickets and stated that he was not going to work if Colin did not work, noting that he had teammates in the chase. I had no problem with Colin collecting tickets as he had at least eight teammates behind that would all start chasing if we dropped him. I yelled at Colm to get him to work but to no avail. Yelling is seldom an effective motivator with a competitor, so bad on me for wasting my breath.

I moved back into the lead as I was not ready to relinquish the precarious 60-second gap that we had worked so hard build. I quickly devised a makeshift plan to shake up our break group which required a buy-in from Anthony. I asked Anthony to let me lead a hard pace until the steeper part of the climb and then asked him to hit me hard with a vicious attack. I told Anthony not to worry about me, that I would find a way to catch back on after dislodging whoever else was dislodged by his attack.

Anthony was a willing participant but he started moving forwards too soon, so I called him back. Then when we got to the steeper part I told him to go and off he went with an impressive burst. I could not have followed him if I wanted to. After seeing a small gap form, Colm was the first to respond with Colin following close behind. I watched it all happen from the best seat in the house hoping that Anthony’s strength would hold out as the Colm and Colin struggled up the climb in chase.

Colm was the first to catch Anthony, then I watched as Colin made his way back to the lead riders as well. Now the result of my make-shift plan was that I was the only rider detached with 100 meters left to make up. It must have been a puzzling scene to comprehend for the people in the feed zone who had been watching the race develop.

Anthony was left to lead the other two riders into the head wind and he slowed considerably, which allowed me an opportunity to catch up by the time we passed the finish with 16 laps remaining. I stayed at the back through the long straight section while Colm kept shoulder-checking over at me anticipating an attack. He did not have to wait for long as I accelerated just after the chicane when Colin had just finished a turn in front.

I hoped that Anthony or Colm would be able to join me, but it was not to be. I quickly built up a lead and it was not long before I was out of sight and determined to keep it that way. I fought the temptation to look back and kept my pace as high as I could. When my pace slowed on the climbs I just looked at my power meter and kept my output at a pace that I knew I could maintain.

My strength held out well until there were just four laps remaining, then I watched as my average power output steadily declined. It was not until I had two laps remaining that I found out I had a three-minute lead. I kept on pushing right up until I raised my arms at the finish line and then almost lost control of my bike in the tough cross-wind.

Thank you for to all of people shouting out encouragements along the course, it really helped to block out the pain associated with the effort. Thanks to Malcolm and Blake (event organizers) for picking up this event last year and keeping the KW Classic tradition alive.

Full results HERE.

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