Posted by Editoress on 05/3/12
The third edition of the Tour of Bronte race was held under ideal spring condition on April 29th in Oakville (Ontario), with light winds and a temperature of 18C. The course profile is almost completely flat, and made challenging by wind and a dirt / gravel section accounting for 50% of the 8 kilometre loop. Fifty-seven Masters 1 and Elite 1/2 riders assembled at the starting line at 2:45 pm and began racing at a brisk tempo. I started the race near the back with five teammates interspersed through the group (Victor Pwu, Ian Scott, Bobby Mrvelj, Matthias Schmidt and Chris Firek).
The start-finish area, which is outside of the main loop, is on a narrow paved road with only enough room for three riders abreast. Within the first kilometre I rode by a teammate on the side of the road; it was Matthias who had won the prize of being the first to flat. I dropped to the back of the peloton, which was only a few riders behind me, and followed the group as we moved onto the dirt section. Having just raced at Battenkill two-weeks prior (25% dirt roads), I felt prepared for the road conditions. However, as soon as we swung onto the first dirt section I came to the quick realization that the Bronte dirt roads were completely different. The loose gravel combined with the relentless bends in the road made it feel like riding on ice.
I stayed at the back of the peloton continually looking back for Matthias while I slowly grew accustomed to the conditions. The dust kicked up by the peloton in front of me and the cars behind me made it impossible to pick out Matthias. I kept looking back but made sure to stay in contact with the pack, which was surging as well as maintaining a high tempo in between the surges. At the U-turn at the end of the first lap I could see that a group was forming off the front and that Matthias was nowhere to be seen behind me. The lead group did not have any of my teammates in it but I could see Ian at the front of the peloton keeping us close to the break.
Back onto the dirt sections for lap 2 of 10, the tail end of the peloton was beginning to blow apart and I continually had to bridge back up to the peloton past riders who could no longer keep the pace. Most Video coverage of races only follows the lead riders and you rarely get to see the impact of a hard pace on the back end of the peloton, you only see the results as the number of riders dwindles. It is amazing to witness the effects of a hard pace from the back, watching riders digging deep to maintain contact with the group before ultimately succumbing to legs that will not shut up.
At the turn-around section at the end of lap two I could see that the lead group had about seven riders, including Chris Gruber (Kalisto), Peter Morse (Octo Cervello), Jeff Schiller (Garneau) and Mike Mandel (Bicicletta) and three others now had a 45 second gap and were working well together. I tried to move up on the paved section but the pace was too fast and the road too narrow. As soon as we rounded the skid-out corner near the start of the dirt section the pace of the peloton dropped as I watched the break disappear up the road.
Thanks to the wide roads at this part of the race I was able to move up to the front fairly quickly and set a pace intent on closing down the break, which now had a 90 second lead. I found teammate Ian at the front amongst several Garneau, Octo and Kalisto riders who were intent on disrupting any attempts to pull back the break. I pushed the pace hard for a while and then signalled for the rider behind me to take over, but that was not happening, as the next three riders in line all had teammates up in the break. Unfortunately, Ian snagged a piece of wood in his wheel and had to stop to pull it free, which took him out of the equation for a while. Seeing that the pace was quickly slowing I decided to push on with the three blockers right behind me and the rest of the peloton following. Matthias and Chris Firek made their way to the front contributing to the chase but we were continually disrupted by the blockers. Jason Vincze (Sound Solutions) provided some much needed relief on the dirt section.
After a few more laps of chasing we pulled back a strong rider who was dislodged from the break; Steve McKee (Nacsworld). As soon as Steve rejoined the group his teammate Kevin Davis came forward and helped out a few times with the chase. Other riders pitching in were Marc Polsinelli (Z-team) and ultimately Brian Kelly (Nacsworld). It took us four laps to catch the break, who had established a maximum lead of two minutes. Ian Scott bridged the final gap with Kevin Davis in tow.
The next two laps saw numerous attempts at breaks, mostly by a well oiled Garneau team who used the slingshot to send riders into solo moves. One of the Garneau moves stuck as a single rider gained 30 seconds on the peloton. Ian, Chris and myself were very active at the front during this period. Near the end of the dirt section in lap eight I slipped back 15 riders to regain some strength.
With two laps remaining I waited for midway through the dirt section to launch an attack and rode up the right side edge of the road. I put in a maximum effort for a couple for minutes and looked back once I got onto the paved section to see six riders behind me and a 250 meter gap back to the peloton and just 100 meters remaining to bring back the solo Garneau rider.
I signalled for some help at the front and quickly looked back to note that the rider behind wearing the black & green colours of Octo-Cervelo. Despite my signal and slowing of the pace no one made any effort to help out in the chase. I then called back asking if the rider would help noting that he did not have a team mate up ahead...still no answer. Of course, actions speak louder than words so I quickly understood the tactic. Of the seven of us in the break Wheels of Bloor was the only team with two riders, so the other five were counting on us to keep the pace.
Knowing that teammate Chris Firek was with me and has an excellent finishing kick, I decided to bury myself with an final all out effort to give him a chance to sprint for the finish. We quickly caught the Garneau rider, which must have been Schiller, who decided to save his energy for the final sprint. The other Garneau rider Matt Degiacomo tried a move midway through the dirt section after a corner, gaining 30 metres on us but quickly decided to shut it down and return to our group as I kept the pace constant and as high as I could. I was intent on making it to the paved section in the lead knowing that it would be nearly impossible for anyone to break free after that point and the race would end up in a sprint finish for our lead group.
I kept pushing on the paved section until finally a rider behind me jumped and the other six riders followed suit. Chris came by me last yelling and riding in the ditch as he had been ridden off the road during the sudden tempo change. I kept my pace constant and watched as the riders reformed into a group of seven just 70 metres in front of me. During the final sprint Peter Morse (Octo-Cervelo) launched with 400 metres remaining but was ultimately passed by the other riders with the amazing Jeff Schiller taking top prize, Chris Firek in second place and Chris Gruber in third.
Chapeau to Schiller, who not only got in the first break but went solo with about thre laps to go, and then still had enough to dust the rest of us in the sprint.
Courtesy Bruce Bird
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