The organizer Steve Rover (whom I rode with as a junior on the National Team in 1990) put together a very tough course making sure the winner would be a deserving National Champion. We rode out on big rolling climbs to a circuit of 14 km which included a 2 km climb over Mt Mourne. We would ride this circuit 7 times before heading back to the finish in Megantic.
I was the sole OCTTO-Cervélo rider racing Nationals this year, as my teammates were either resting up from injuries or tied up with work commitments.
After a neutral start the race started fast and furious with many attacks. Then the sky opened up and started pounding torrential rain on us as we hurled down the first big hill. I could hardly see the road let alone the other riders. I was not the only one as I could hear other riders complaining about the same thing. About 15km into the race we hit a big roller and the field was strung right out. I was holding onto the top 50 with all my mental and physical fortitude. I kept thinking I was not going to get dropped so early into the race, but here I was looking at the real possibility I may be dropped.
I made it over the top and recovered moving to the front of the field right away when we swung left towards the circuit. Here the break was established. I saw 10 riders ride away thinking it was too early. There was a chase group that went after it and I followed thinking if the 2 groups come together, it could go the distance. Our group was caught and the break rode away to a 5 mins lead quickly.
On the big 2km climb, I had to stop to get a neutral wheel change. As I worked up through the caravan, Steve Rover shouted at me to say “Hello” and to get back in the group which I did. I also realized that about 50 riders had been dropped already and we were only 40km into the race.
We plunged down the mountain at 93km/hr and then turned left. I knew this was a critical moment. The favorites were on the front and we were in a crosswind false flat section so they strung out the field into a single line. I was at the back as a result of my wheel change and hung on for dear life. As expected weaker riders started popping and I would sprint around them teach time to the next group. By the time we finished this section, another 15 riders were gone and I was starting to really enjoy the race. It is rare to have torrential rain, crosswinds and super strong riders in a race all at once. This is why I love to race. When you suffer so much, you wish you were back with your mommy, you realize just what type of man you are. I know I will not go out without a fight and at this point I was looking forward to the rest of the race.
We started back up the climb for a 2nd time and as I neared the top, I shifted into my 27 tooth low gear only to have my rear derailuer get stuck in my spokes and tear the rear stay off.
So there I was standing in a torrential rain storm watching 20 dropped riders ride by. I picked up my bike and started walking up. Eventually a van full of beautiful women from another team tried unsuccessfully to put my bike on the roof rack…but did not fit. Thankfully the sweeper van picked me up after that and while I did miss the chance I could have had hanging out with beautiful women, but instead I got a chance to know Matt from the sweeper van really well.
He is from the Beauce region, is a landscape designer, has 2 kids, has a mortgage and likes women. He told me that a lot of Granite is mined from that region. We listened to the race radio. We heard the updates, we got scolded by the head commasaire.
The break eventually got caught by chasers and the field came to the line in small groups. Ryan Roth won and Michael Barry was second. It was nice to see the race from this point of view, but I would much rather be one of the riders finishing.
Next year, the Nationals are back in Megantic and I look forward to being a part of it.