I came into this season with a few goals on my list of races this year. The provincial road race being one of particular importance to me. Really though, this race was a carry on of my targets from last year. I felt maybe strong enough on Victoria's 2014 Metchosin Championship course, but found myself unable to get into the breakaway I needed for a win on that course, marked by Trek Red Truck's squad while I was riding for a rival team. I was excited about my prospects being with the boys in red for this year, hoping our collective flex would put Craig, Geordie or myself in a blue and yellow flag jersey for the rest of the 2015 season.
The Hatzic Valley 2015 course could not have been better suited to me if a tailor was making it. One long grinding climb seven times up as part of a longer 18km loop that, when it wasn't climbing, was slightly downhill or otherwise pan flat. A bigger rider like myself doesn't fare as well on short steep punches, but long steady efforts are really my jam. When I strode up to TRT's camp pre-race and Craig elected me as a protected rider, I almost couldn't believe it. It would be the first race that I'd started where the team was committed to me from the gun.
From the gun is exactly what the boys did for me as well. Willem ejected himself from the front of the pack before half of the peleton even realized that the neutral roll-out was over. And within half a lap, Craig and Geordie were also clear, meaning we had three of five men in the breakaway in TRT red. I found myself out of the wind, comfortably eating to prepare for the race's finish, while the peleton decided not to chase this early into the race.
In the middle repeats up the climb, before the group began its chase of our power breakaway in earnest, Joel and Trevor did an amazing job policing the front, making sure no one was going to escape the group without taking us. And after Russ Hays/Accent Inns had their single rider in the break drop back to the group, they sent their train to the front with just over two laps left to reel in our boys.
They wouldn't see Craig, the last breakaway survivor, until just after hearing the bell of the last lap, stopping themselves just short of making the full catch, perhaps looking to gather their wits and decide which approach to the finish they wanted. I didn't want them to gather their wits and launched my first attack of the race. Now, I'm used to making lots of attacks in races, I'm not quite used to having a team bury themselves for me so much, that when I attacked there was only one other rider able to escape the peleton with me. Dylan Cunningham from RH/AI cleverly got up to my wheel, and Craig, after being away the entire race managed accelerating to jump on. So we had two rival Dylan's jamming towards the base of the climb, with Craig giving us a little extra room to breathe.
Hitting the bottom of the climb, I swung off to let Cunningham, a good climber, set the pace up the hill. A lower grade means the draft on the climb is still quite significant, and his lighter weight wouldn't get the full advantage gravity usually offers him. I tried pulling some suffer faces to make sure I wouldn't need to hit the front until I wanted to. The small kick right before a short drag of false flat was exactly that point. When Cunningham slowed slightly with the incline I kicked as hard and steady as I could, hoping to make a gap, and set a pace on the false flat he couldn't keep after a long turn out the front climbing. And it worked! A yell from Craig to get me moving confirmed it, I started the process of making sure everything was left on the road when I crossed the line. I was able to extend my advantage, and crossed the line by myself, still rolling over 45k/h.
This race was a real target for me but more than achieving that goal, it showed me just what I can accomplish from racing smart, but more so what you can do when a team brainstorms and executing a plan so brilliantly. I can't extend my thanks enough to the boys in this race, they all left absolutely destroyed from the days efforts so I could this major goal ticked off my list for the year.