September 22/11 16:36 pm - Bruce Bird Report - Centurion C100
Posted by Editoress on 09/22/11
In 2010 Graham Fraser held his first Canadian Centurion and 518 people finished the 171 kilometre distance C100 event. Judging from the bib numbers there were some 640 people who registered. The good word must have spread, as 943 people participated in the event this year, with over 1400 people registering. Those numbers do not include the 1216 participants in the 50 mile event.
In 2010 both the C50 and C100 waves started at the same time. Due to the increase in numbers a wise decision was made to send the C50 waves off 30 minutes earlier than the C100 riders, at 7:00 am. It was a chilly 7C at start time but warmed up to 20C by the time we crossed the finish line at around 1:00 pm EDT. The skies were clear and there was a moderate wind out of the Southwest.
Within the start coral there was a very relaxed atmosphere with plenty of lively banter, and I had no problem finding a spot near the front. Everyone knew that it was going to be a long race and we were all freezing. Some words were spoken, the national anthem was sung, a helicopter flew overhead to film the start, there was a count-down, a horn sounded and then we all started moving.
There was plenty of chatter in the peloton over the long chilly neutral start, which lasted a good 13 minutes. The racing began in earnest once we turned west onto route 19. I was solidly wedged into the pack about 40 positions back with nowhere to go but up the long gradual climb. As the pace picked up and some daylight began to appear between riders. I moved to the far left so that I could find some open space and move forwards in the peloton. Carmine Caravaggio (Z-team) had the exact same plan and I waited for him to move over to the left of the road and then forwards before doing so myself.
Once I started towards to front of the group I spotted last year's winner Ed Veal (Jet Fuel) sitting in second position and rode up beside him. As the rider in front slowed down Ed moved out and took over the lead raising the pace. I moved in right up behind Ed and followed him. Ed looked steady and in control as he continued to apply pressure, which started to string out the riders in behind him into a single line. As soon as Ed lost a bit of speed I decided to take over and continue pushing the pace at the same rate. We traded off efforts a few times and I noticed that Steve Baker (Team Cross) was right in behind me and willing to continue driving the peloton up route 19.
It took about 12 minutes to get to the top of the climb and as we turned left onto route 2, I noted that I was part of a select group of six riders: Veal, Baker, Jasper Blake, Jay (I am not sure who Jay is but he has the heart of a lion), Andrew Watson (winner of the hill climb) and myself. I had no plan on getting into a break this early on in the race but decided that it made sense to work with the group given the strength of the riders who were with me. At this point I had no expectation our break would be successful, I just thought that I was with some strong riders and that it was good to be at the front of the race. Maybe later on another group would join us and then I would be well positioned for any further moves.
Note: Kevin Davis (Nacsworld) and Rob D'amico (Z-team) had been with us, but decided to return back to the peloton at the end of the climb.
The six of us in the break started into an echelon, working extremely well together without having to say a word. Watson dropped out almost immediately and waited for the peloton. The remaining five of us continued working together for the next 15 kilometres and into the first descent, where Ed and I took advantage of our weight to lead the other three lighter riders down past the first feed station. I knew from last year that it was pointless to even attempt a bottle exchange during the first feed, as we would be approaching it coming in hot.
Even though it seemed like we slowed considerably, we were still moving too fast when we hit the feed, as evidenced by Ed reaching for a blue Gatorade only to see it bounce off his hand and hit the dirt. Ed said "same as last year" and we had a laugh. We were actually fortunate to be in the lead at this point as later on many riders ran into trouble navigating this aid station and a few people crashed.
After the missed first aid station the five of us got back up to speed quickly and got back into a regular rotation. I glanced behind us several times but could not really see the next group, as there were some vehicles in the way. At this point we must have been 45 seconds up on the chase group or maybe a bit less. As we turned right onto Fairgrounds Road I looked back and saw a large group of about 70 riders closing in on us. Ed said to me "we might as well make them work for it" and we pushed on at around 42 kph, continuing to rotate evenly. The cameraman came by on a motorcycle and confirmed the size and proximity of the group behind us; this coincided with Blake sitting up and waiting for the peloton.
I kept hoping that a smaller group would detach from the 70 riders and bridge up to us but it did not happen. Back in the peloton the chasers seeing that they were moving in for the kill decided to let up and let the four of us wear ourselves out in the lead. This was a key decision point in the race that ultimately helped to decide the final outcome.
The four of us continued on up to the second climb leading up towards Creemore and I moved to the front of our group to push the pace. Baker gladly followed suit as did Jay and Ed. Once again Ed led us down the descent and we all successfully took advantage of the feed station on the way out of Creemore. After the feed we got back to the business of riding and continued sharing the work load evenly as we headed up to the third main climb on the course.
Steve and Ed pushed the pace a little in during the third climb and Jay started to lose contact with us. I called to Steve to ease up so we could let Jay rejoin us, as we had a 40 kilometre flat section on top of the climb where we would greatly benefit from an extra set of legs. Jay was so determined to help out that as soon as he bridged back up to us he moved up to the front to take a turn. I cut him off signaling for him to skip a turn fearing that he may over-extend himself before we reached the summit.
Once we turned right on Fifth Line in Badjeros after finishing the third main climb we had the benefit of a tailwind over a long flat section. The four of us worked together for about 30 minutes before Jay and then Ed started missing a few turns up front. I could hear Jay breathing heavily but Ed displayed no signs of fatigue. Ed said that he was experiencing some cramping in his legs. Steve was looking solid.
As we turned left and headed into Feversham on River Rd we lost our inspiring tail wind in exchange for a cross-wind. On a few slightly uphill sections Jay began to fade and Ed let us know that he was hoping to work through his leg cramps. I continued to try and keep the group together but the 90 kilometres in the break were beginning to take their toll on our group. On a slightly uphill section I gradually increased the pace and put in a long pull at the front. Steve who was right on my wheel told me that we had a 200 metre gap on Ed and Jay. We decided to push on given that Jay and Ed were no longer taking regular turns.
Steve and I and continued riding at a high speed in order to discourage the chasers but we could see that Jay and Ed were fighting hard to stay close. We kept increasing our lead gradually until we hit the next big descent where Ed used his skills to close the down the gap to less than 100 metres. Steve said to me 'Get me to hill and I'll lead you up' as we rode on the flat leading up to the KOM hill climb. Last year at this exact point I was on my own on a break and very tired, I ended up losing two minutes of my lead on this climb. It was great to have Steve with me this year. In that spirit, I made sure to cross the timing mat first at the start of the hill climb so that Steve could take the hill climb victory that he deserved. Steve had competed in the Hill climb event the day prior and finished third while I rested.
We climbed the KOM hill taking turns in the front with Steve leading over the steeper sections while I took turns when the gradient was not so severe. We kept our pace constant and near max effort and increased our lead over Jay and Ed to 60 seconds by the midway point of the climb; we had a 3:45 lead over the peloton at this point. The cameraman on the motorcycle gave us the gaps. Steve crossed the KOM finish timing mat first with what ended up being the best time of any participants in the C100 distance event; congrats Steve.
Ed and Jay had slowed up and rejoined the peloton during the climb. Once the peloton caught up to them there were several unorganized counter-attacks that were chased down before the group settled into a slower pace when no one succeeded in organizing a chase.
Steve and I both grabbed a drink at the feeding station at the top of the hill. I knew that it was time to put in all my chips. I gave up on the idea of being joined by a small group of riders breaking away from the main chase group. I went to the front and pedaled hard aided by the kind tail wind, we probably averaged 46-47 kph over the next 10 kilometres before turning right onto Dave McNichol Parkway where we cruised down the long descent.
I could not see anyone behind us but there were a few cars in the way and for all I knew those cars were being driven by event marshals leading the peloton behind us. A support van rode up beside Steve and I and told us that we had about a minute lead over a large group. One minute! One minute is nothing on the final climb up the back side of Scenic Caves; this was not good news. I did not let the news deter my efforts. The bitter memory of being passed last year on the final climb by the chase group was at the forefront of my thoughts as I rode on into the wind and up the hill towards Ravenna. By this point Steve was at his limit and told me so, he stayed right on my wheel and every so often I circled back around him to take a brief rest, stretching my back before driving the pace again.
The were a lot of spectators on the side of the road during the last climb and even a kid dressed as a purple wizard who ran beside us briefly as we rode up the hills - how great is that? Very, very great! Once again, Steve rode to the front during the steepest sections,which was a great help. I looked back several times but still could not see anyone. I started to think that the support van had fed us some inaccurate info. I took great pleasure in riding past the section of road where I was caught, passed and left for dead during last year's event. The helicopter that had filmed the start circled above us for a while during the final stretch which was extremely cool.
I moved into the front for good with about 10 kilometres to go and kept riding hard. I called back to Steve that we should be safe during the Scenic Caves descent and got no argument from sensible Steve. Safely at the bottom of the hill I rode on into Blue Mountain village and ramped up my speed at the final corner carrying my momentum through the finish line where the barricades were lined with cheering spectators. Steve and I dismounted our bikes and hugged. The cameraman asked us how we felt and people took pictures. The whole scene was surreal and provided us a glimpse of how professional cyclists might feel.
Note: Most of the top elite and pro local cyclists in Ontario were competing in the UCI sanctioned Univest Grand Prix race in Doylestown Pennsylvania. Ryan Roth (Spidertech) claimed top prize in the Saturday Road Race event.
Steve Baker and I stood there past the finish line talking about the race and waited for over eight minutes until the main peloton rode in with Steve McKee (Nacsworld) taking the group sprint and claiming his first podium position of the season. Steve has been a workhorse in the Ontario Masters field this year it was great to see him smiling from ear to ear. No stranger to the podium, Merill Collins (Jet Fuel) was the top female finisher.
In addition to Graham Fraser's team, some 600 volunteers helped make this event so memorable.
All results can be found HERE