This years’ Nationals road race was once again on a short, crit-like circuit in downtown Ottawa, partly within sight of the parliament buildings. For the elite men’s race we traded the sweltering heat and humidity of last year for much cooler temperatures and intermittent thunderstorms. Nevertheless, Kyle and I felt optimistic as we rolled to the start under clear skies.
I had a strong feeling that the memory of last years’ winning move going on the second lap and the rest of the field getting pulled before the end would be fresh in the riders’ minds. Sure enough, as attacks flew from the gun no move was given any leash. I spent the first few laps following some moves and throwing in an attack or two of my own, but regardless of the composition of the riders I was with we never got a gap of more than a few meters. Then on the fourth lap the skies opened up as the first storm of the day rolled into town, and the officials stopped the race.
15 minutes later, all the dropped riders back in the mix, we emerged freezing from the lighting-proof tents at the start/finish line to be sent back on course. The first two laps back were hard, forcing my frozen legs to sprint around dropped riders getting myself back to the front. I’ve only been back on the bike for about a month after a long recovery from a concussion I suffered in March, and this made me very reticent to take any risks around corners or in the bunch. I generally kept my distance from other riders, and picked my own lines through corners, even if it meant I had to spend some time in the wind.
While I was focused on not crashing, the bunch continued not letting anyone up the road, and the weather seemed to be improving. Then with around three laps to go the second thunderstorm rolled in, and brought some crazy winds and rain with it. For a few kilometers through the feed zone and the start finish there was chaos, no one could see anything, riders tilting their bikes a steep angles in to the wind gusts. The pack split into many groups, before slowly re-forming into two groups as the eye of the storm moved on. Unfortunately, Kyle and I missed the front group of 27 or so riders, and rode in that group until the end.
Overall I’m fairly pleased with where I’m at with my return to fitness, given that I was unable to finish smaller road races just a few weeks earlier. I definitely still have some work to do, but this was a good sign that I’m on track to being close to 100% for Superweek and Cascades. I’d like to thank the Steven Engh and the team for making the trip out east to support us here in Ottawa, next year – Kelowna (and hopefully some hills!)