September 01, 2011 – I know what you’re thinking…a Gran Fondo is not a race. I realize you may be reading this “race” report wondering why I’d bother to re-capture what went down on a Sunday ride put together by Heath and Henry from LaBicicletta. What kind of report is this going to be? Will he describe the wine and cheese you ask? Maybe he’ll talk about how bored he was… how interesting could this write up possibly be when it was just a Gran Fondo?
First off I treated it like a race and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. I ate an amazing meal the night before and got about 10 hours sleep to prepare for it. And secondly… Michael Barry was there! If you can’t get up for a 130km ride (race) with Barry from Team Sky then can you really call yourself a cyclist?
The day started early. I woke up 10 minutes before my alarm was to go off. That told me I had enough sleep and that I was excited for the day to come. The LaBicicletta Gran Fondo started at 8:30 am at the Endras BMW dealership in Durham. There were over one hundred riders in attendance and our Jet Fuel Coffee/LaBicicletta race team was to be the escort for the day.
The job was to hold a solid tempo on the front making sure we didn’t miss any turns along the route and to have a few guys on the back to pick up and help any riders who may have been in distress. I also took it upon myself to deliver the win. We had the entire group of riders split into two at one point along the ride. Sean Kelly our team director was in charge of the 130km group and the majority of our team including Mike Barry went with us. Heath Cockburn took Darko Ficko and Merrill Collins and lead the 80km group.
The course was quite hilly and we rode into the wind right away. The pace was pretty consistent and the boys in the red, white and black did a great job of pulling everyone around. I had a camera mounted on my handle bars courtesy of Erik Davis of Ryeka sport to capture the action so I was going back and forth trough the group trying to capture as many guys as possible on film.
The whole time I was watching Mike. I knew who the next strongest rider was. He was being nice and chatting with guys giving them a ton of his time and answering all their questions but I was watching and sizing him up. There aren’t too many opportunities to ride with a pro cyclist and the chances to hurt one of them and beat them in a Gran Fondo are even slimmer. I watched as he pretended not to take things seriously. This rider is a pro because of his incredible poker face and even if he had all the other riders bought in to his act I knew he wanted to win this event as much as I did. I worked my way up to the front hoping he wouldn’t see my strength.
I have been told recently this is a weakness of mine. I let too many people in on my good days by showing off and when I’m hurting there is no poker face and everyone can read me like a book. I looked at my opponent and once again he was pretending not to notice me advancing up the side. He purposely made eye contact with the rider beside him so I would think he wasn’t watching me like a hawk. No matter I could feel his eyes on me as soon as I looked away.
I got on the front of the group and decided it was time to hit the throttle a bit. I could see some rollers in the distance and I knew this is where I could split the group and hope that it would maybe find Mr. Barry on the wrong side of things. I settled in and focused on driving the pace. I thought about how Mike had everyone fooled that he was just here for fun and wanted to pretend he didn’t want the win as much as I did.
I turned to my left and saw the impressive black and blue Team Sky kit and knew right away Mike was up front to mark me. We chatted a bit about life and racing and I did my best to pretend I was interested in what he had to say. I saw through his nice guy routine and I knew he was only there to keep me from winning this event.
We continued to play this game of pretending to get along and enjoy each other’s time while both of us knew at any moment the other was going to attack. This entire time we had been on the front. Then Mike said let’s let someone else pull through. I got what I wanted folks. He was starting to crack and I felt weakness from him for the first time. I said “Ok sure…” with a smile and knew my attack was coming sooner than later.
He was still in “nice guy mode” when I was around but I knew he was now driving the pace chasing us down because of what this meant to him. I knew this break was on borrowed time because he was coming.
A few minutes later the group rolls up and Mike isn’t even on the front. He must have just switched to third wheel so I wouldn’t realize it was him who closed the gap and how much power he had to spare. I thought what a smart move for him to get off the front right before I turned to look… man this guy is good!!
Mike then went to the front with my teammate Peter Morse and pulled the group. I sat back and enjoyed the draft wondering why he was up there wasting energy and talking with Pete. I started to become more confident as he worked and worked while I lurked in the shadows. I knew there was only a few kilometres to go and I jumped and picked up the pace.
He tried the old get a random rider in the group to fake a flat. When you stop to help he sprints by you for the win. Haha…not this time there Mikey. A few slowed to help the rider who Mike convinced to fake a flat and I took off!!
I was ready… I knew full well it was a trick! I dropped the hammer and BOOM!!! I made it back to the BMW dealership first. I beat Mike Barry folks! I beat him bad. He tried every mind trick he had in his arsenal.
He tried everything he learnt in Europe on me and I wasn’t going to be a fool. When he rolled up he even asked why I didn’t stop to help the rider with a flat? I told him “I’m no dummy!” and left it at that. It was a great day and my most impressive win to date.
I want to thank Heath Cockburn and Mark Endras for including me and making this event and this 2011 season the best ever! Thanks to everyone who came out and rode as well. I loved catching up with all you and meeting some new faces too!
But please do me one favour….make sure to read this report a second time. I think you might find it a bit more amusing when you realize I’ve been joking the entire time and most of it is fictional.
Special thanks to Michael Barry for giving me ton of his time and answering all of my questions plus being just an awesome guy and putting up with me writing this silly story.
Ride All Day Baby!!