Calabogie Boogie: OCUP #2 2016

The usual first OCUP of 2016, Good Friday, was iced by freak weather

and I was OK with that; I did a recon on the course the week before, and that damn cowpath out of the Ancaster Fair Grounds looked like, well, a damned cowpath. Potholes and ruts in the crappy pavement, and only one very narrow strip of "asphalt" left in the first sharp corner. It looked like a recipe for a lot of mangled carbon fiber and associated body parts, some of which could well be mine.

So it didn't break my heart that Calabogie turned out to be the first race of the season. I had never done it before, but had heard it was fun. 800 kilometres of driving to get there & back, but worth it. And it was indeed a great day and a great race.

DHFlyers at Calabogie
Gregoire, Dan & RB: practicing podium faces
Having never ridden the course before, I went in taking the first few laps to get a feel for the course; and also to see what the pace was going to be like (fast but manageable) and how my legs felt (OK, a bit stiff). I'm never sure what kind of shape I'm in going into the first race, but I had seen some nice gains at The Cycling Gym recently (+30 watts in my latest 20 min TT test), so I hoped it would translate into being able to stay with the pack all the way. I just wanted that +00:00 after my name.

The one thing that has really been driven home by my limited racing experience is you have to take whatever space opens up, and if you aren't moving up in the peloton, you're moving back. And from what I had seen in previous results and seen in various YT videos (thanks, Seb Zdyb!), it was pretty clear to me that (in M3 anyway) breakaways don't work and it comes down to a bunch sprint. Though it was fun to see Dan D take a couple of flyers to see who was paying attention. (That's where the team name comes from, in case anybody was wondering.) It was great to have DHF teammates in the race, for a change. It really added to the fun to see the Dan and Gregoire up in the mix.

No plan survives contact with the enemy
So my plan going it was to surf the peloton as much as possible, and keep myself somewhere around 15-20 deep in the pack for as long as possible, and see how I held up. The only data I looked at the whole race was my HR and total distance, which helped me keep track of which lap we were in. (There were a few guys who missed the surge at the end because they didn't realize we were on the last lap). The HR was crucial for effort management, and I was able to keep myself just below OBLA (onset of blood lactate accumulation, or lactate threshold, or whatever you want to call that point where suddenly you breathe a lot harder and things hurt a lot more) and pretty much keep it there until the last lap when things ratcheted up. (One of the big benefits of working with The Cycling Gym is I now have a pretty good grasp on my numbers.) The real challenge for me is trying to develop some kind of race sense, and understand what's going on around me better. That's most likely a lifetime project, but every race seems to make a little more sense to me. In any case, I'll never be able to count on strength; to have any success I'm going to to develop some Fausto Coppi-esque treachery*.

The first few laps were about gauging the effort (can I maintain this? what if it cranks up?); the next few were about learning where I could get free speed and manage the effort to stay in it, and taking a few runs up the sides. And suddenly there were two laps left and I have gas in the tank; hey! I can take a run at this! It was actually kind of shocking. A bump in the final turn threw me off my pedal stroke for a beat or two and might have cost me a couple of places, but I wasn't happy with my sprint anyway. Felt like there was no real kick in it. Then I looked at my Strava data. Looking at my max speed (51 kph) and cadence (111 rpm) and the way my power dives down as I spin out, I realized that I didn't get down to my 11 or 12 cog. Checking my gear calculator app and most likely I was actually on my 14. Brain cramp. So better sprint technique would certainly have helped. (And maybe another gel 20 minutes earlier to help with the brain sugar.)

Danger: Squirrelzawinski
The sketchy squirrels of Spring
A few other notes: there was def a bit of bumping (especially in the final run in) and a certain amount of sketchiness; I got run into the grass at one point, and somehow I always seemed to find myself behind this one Kurzawinski guy who I was certain was going to cause a massive pileup – dude was like a giant black-and-white lycra squirrel on a bike; getting away from him was half the reason I stayed near the front. (He shall remain number & nameless, but if you were there you probably know who I'm talking about.) As ever, there was plenty of commentary in the peloton on the the inability of some riders to hold a line. (Quite probably directed at me.) Anyway, makes me want to get us out in the race team rides and do some contact drills, soon.

The point after
Bottom line: without question my best race ever. My only regret: 21st is one spot out of the OCUP points... that's all I want... just one lousy OCUP point... in my life... and I can retire happily.

Still: feels like progress.

Video by Sebastian Zdyb. He finished 6th. His race videos are awesome.
(I make a brief cameo at 1:15:00.)
Great view of the finish, including Steve Hart's come-from-behind 2nd place.

* "Age and treachery will overcome youth and skill." – Fausto Coppi


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