Following a disappointing performance at Provincials, wherein a misjudgment of my abilities (in addition to catastrophic cramping) resulted in near disaster for the team, I quickly re-evaluated my goals, packed my bags, and headed south, determined to force my body into some semblance of form.
The team was very fortunate this year in being welcomed back by two exceedingly generous hosts, Cheryl and Jr. At this level of the sport the generosity of people like this is crucial; there would be little chance for upwards progression without their selfless charity. Our abode for the week was equipped with all that we would need: ample supply of coffee, muffins and an idyllic location in the middle of a golf course.
The first stage of the Cascade Cycling Classic of 2019 was a unique, rolling course, with a 3 kilometre sector of gravel leading into the finish line. The consensus was in favor of a sprint finish; we would work for Riley. In true Buckoskian fashion, following the immediate start of the race, Kyle leapt into an early break. This allowed the team to sit back and focus on position. After Kyle was brought back, a new move slipped up the road. With a little under a lap remaining, Jordan Cheyne and myself took to the front. We eliminated the gap, bringing the break back with around twenty minutes to race.( I will say, this was a highlight of the racing week, for myself. To be on the front and controlling a race at this level, with an athlete of Jordan’s calibre calling the shots was very cool.) As we approached the final sector of gravel, Brendan made his way to the front of the race, ensuring a fast and safe entry. In the end, Riley spun out his junior gearing, finishing 6th.
Stage two was a perfect reflection of how valuable this race is to the North American calender: 2500m of climbing, over 150km, on picturesque roads, culminating with a summit finish. As we rolled out, there were no surprises, with Kyle taking advantage of the fact that no one noticed the race had started, attacking from the gun. It turned out to be an excellent move, one which was only brought back within the final 10k, and by a group severely reduced by the pace being put forth by Cory Lockwood. I was pleased to be climbing better than I had expected, and found myself within this group. Unfortunately, the level with which I was pleased to be climbing at, was not enough to weather the pace for much longer. As the group further disintegrated, I found myself unlatched from the GC leaders, and fell to chasing, within a small group. I finished 11th on the day.
The third day was billed as a climbing stage, but the defining feature of the course turned out to be a supremely vicious sector of gravel – one which we would be racing over twice. Heading into the stage, I felt as though my body was responding well to the racing; that I might be able to put in a worthy performance. Perhaps, though, I should have taken a cue from my teammate, and sought a position in the early break. The early break turned into the winning break, and in the end a frustrated group was left to contest the remnants. It was a well fought day for the team as a whole, however. Brendan spent the day navigating us around the pack, bringing food and drink, and then as we approached the final sector of gravel, with the aid of Ollie “Grav Dog” Evans, maneuvering me into good position. Thanks to their efforts, I emerged onto paved road with only a handful of GC leaders. The composition of the break up the road, however, meant that our small group was unwilling to cooperate. We ended up being caught by smaller groups from behind, and by the time we reached the final climb, the peleton was large, once more. I ended up 13th on the stage, with Kyle following closely behind.
While the criterium is usually my least favorite of days during a stage race, the highly technical course that was offered to us during this year’s CCC made for an exciting prospect. The goal, of course, was for the team to put Riley in the best position for a result. We determined the best way to do this would be for a late race effort to bring him to the front. Brendan, Kyle, Ollie and Chris did an excellent job all race. I did not do such an excellent job, alas. I found myself well out of position, and suffered a minor crash. Riley pulled off another excellent result, finishing 6th on the day once more. Ollie, unfortunately, also suffered a crash, taking a knock to the head. Wisely, he decided to withdraw from the race. One can never be too careful with head injuries. The final stage was a hilly circuit race; if anyone is familiar with the White Rock road race from BC Superweek – this was very similar. The day was hot, and we were heavily reliant on feed zone support. Steve, Brian and John, our mechanic for the week, were superb. Throughout the stage I found myself managing an undesirable pattern: falling back on the descents, and moving up on the climbs. Following my little tumble the evening prior, my confidence on the technical descent was not very high. Floyd’s took control of the race, monitoring breaks and keeping their leaders near the front. After a small break made its was clear, Kyle, Brendan and I found ourselves contesting from a withered-down peleton. In the end our finishing places were unremarkable.
Heading home, I was pleased with the invaluable race experience I gained, as well as with the excellent block of training. The team came together really well during the course of the week, both on and off the bike. Meals were seamless, spirits were high, and all was made possible by the brilliant logistical support of Steve and Brian, the relentless efforts by John to ensure our bikes were in good shape, and by the generosity of Cheryl and JR, our hosts. Ultimately, the team would like to express our thanks to all of our sponsors and supporters – thank you!