Contributed by Justine Clift
Nationals was a week of ‘character building’ (because that’s what bike racers need... more character), as Devon Moonie and myself, Justine Clift, headed to 2015 Global Relay Canadian Road Championships, kitted out in GS-team issue socks and believing firmly in our dreams.
As Devon’s first outing at Senior Nationals, this week was about building experience racing with the top names in Canadian cycling including Christian Meier, Rob Britton, Zach Bell and Will Routley to name a few. I returned to St. Georges, in the Beauce Region of Quebec, looking for a result at my third national championships, but was unable quite to deliver this time around.
The time trial was a challenging 30km race, that typical of nationals, was extremely hilly, though not as punchy as previous years. Best ridden as a series of intervals, going above threshold to climb, then spinning out my gearing and trying to recover on the downhills, I really struggled and had to settle for 15th position.
Eager to redeem myself at the road race the next day, I was hoping for an all-out smash-fest, where fitness would play significant role in the final outcome. Though the day started out that way, with a selection of 30 forming in the first 30km of the 106km race, the pace soon slowed and became a tactical battle between teams. Riding alone, I was forced to be patient and make sure I made it through the hard efforts up the hills with as little effort as possible. Coming over the last real climb into a rolling 30km downhill to the finish, Denise Ramsden attacked a small break, and put over a minute on the chase. With Optum on the front trying to catch her, the pace ramped up, and our group dwindled down to 11 women. Just barely catching Denise in the last 1.5km, her teammate attacked at a km to go, and in a last ditch effort, I countered and was able to open a small gap on the sprinters around the last corner. It definitely wasn’t enough though, and I hit a wall in the last 200m, providing an inadvertent lead-out to the eventual winner, and riding in for the last spot in the front group.
Devon’s race was more dynamic with a break going up the road early, and the strongest men bridging up and then just barely catching the leaders at the end of a long 186km day. A victim of the pothole-ridden Quebec roads, Devon was caught behind a group-splitting early crash which cracked his wheel, and then rode until he had no choice but to call the day.
Sunday dawned grey and muggy, with the skies opening up mid-morning and Spring Series-style conditions ensuing. Not helpful was the fact that the crit was on a 500m hill, with a 90 degree downhill left turn. On a 1.3km course this meant that the race was a series of hill repeats, 28 for the women, and 40 for the men. With a headwind on the downhill, it was an experience akin to riding in a washing machine, with water coming up off the road, and rain being blown in one’s face and off the wheels of the riders in front.
The women’s crit started fast and furious, with the hope of whittling down the field, and making it safer for everyone. This was perhaps too successful, as the initial selection saw half the field of 49 riders reduced in the first 15 min, while another 15 or so would be dropped quickly thereafter. I managed to hang in until the last selection, making a final group of only 11 that would finish the race. Our group was blown apart in a series of attacks in the final 10 laps or so, with Alison Jackson and Denise Ramsden forming the winning break. Having spent a few too many matches earlier in the race when I found myself on the wrong side of a gap and team tactics, and didn’t quite make it through, riding in alone for 10th place. On a day where conditions were brutal, positioning was everything, and this race was a good reminder that the little things add up.
Young Devon had an equally challenging race, which saw only 18 men finish. Well positioned in the early laps, aggressive racing reduced his field quickly as well and he managed to hold on for about half the race. At the end of the day, one team went 1-2-3-4-5 at the finish in an absolute domination of the men’s field.
Thanks go out to Cycling BC for supporting the project that helped us out with logistics and accommodation, as well as all the GS club members who have been supporting all our racing efforts this year, alongside all of our sponsors. We’re looking forward to racing at home soon, with BC Superweek coming up next! If you aren’t racing and want to get involved, the GS racers are always looking for support in the feed zones at the Delta and White Rock road races, so please get in touch.
Cover photo: Cycling Canada