Monday, June 6, 2016

Steve Bauer (Niagara) Classic: Effingham Still F-ing

The venerable Niagara Classic was re-christened The Steve Bauer Classic this year

Which was a nice touch and a tip of the hat to a local guy who was only one of the greatest cyclists Canada ever produced. Steve himself was fully in attendance, running stuff and presenting prize vegetables at the podium ceremonies (the lead sponsor was a hydroponic farm company, prompting many to comment that the prize pack might have benefited from some other type hydroponic vegetation along with the admittedly gorgeous sweet peppers); and if he had a hand in changing the finish to the top of Effingham, I would add that he's not only a great cyclist, but also a sadistic bastard.

We also got some nice team results on this one, with Dan Donovan coming in 2nd and Mike Fawcett 11th in M3; Chris D was 27th in E4; Nat Wise got 5th in E3 Women (in her first race!) and Molly Mac got 19th.
Dan gets 2nd (w/ manspreading from #1)

Different day, same result (64th of 70). 
As for me, I'd like to make excuses on this one and I have a few; like: I had a crappy night's sleep, there was a long delay to the start that killed my warm-up, and (yet again) I ended up starting too far back in the paddock, and so had the feeling that I was pretty much beat before it even started. That is exactly the feeling that beats you on a hill, and there were six climbs of Effingham on tap, so I was feeling the dread of the pre-beaten well before the horn went off to start this one. At least the neutral start really was a neutral start (unlike the lemming stampede of previous years), with everybody gathering at the foot of Effingham, wheeling neutrally up to the top, and then starting from there.

According to Strava, the climb on that neutral start was my second-fastest time up Effingham. Which is a good indicator of how the rest of it it went.

Nat (left) receives the Ceremonial Vegetables
If there's one single lesson I've learned from my meagre racing experience, it's this: The peloton is the place to be. Lap One, it's great, I'm in there in the mix, but on the first Effingham climb I skidded back in the pack, but stayed on. On the second Effingham climb I had almost no cushion of riders to pass me and still stay in the pack. I lost contact near the summit of the hill, and watched helplessly as the last guy attached slowly wheeled away from me down the long, fast, back side of the climb. No way to catch up; I'm gassed and the peloton travels way faster as a group on downhills. Crap. Here we go. It's only Lap Three and and it's another goddamn time trial.

"C'mon. That's not a hill. That's a bump."
However, the other thing I've learned is: I'm probably not last. Which means there are likely a few other losers who have also been shelled out the back, and it's possible to get them working together and make the whole thing less painful and ignominious. So I didn't hesitate to take charge this time (unlike last year's fiasco riding with two goofs who didn't know what a paceline was). So when I tracked down two other riders, I got us organized rotating through 30-second pulls, and made introductions, and it actually worked pretty well. (Bauer was standing on the road halfway up Effingham on one of our climbs, and as the three of us struggled past him I have to say he looked decidedly unsympathetic to our plight. Just sayin'.) One of my crew bailed on the last lap for some reason, but the other (Renson Clouden, Independent, shout-outs) stayed with me til the end (actually rode away from me on that damn climb to the finish), and there's no doubt that we both did better as a result. And y'know, there's some fun in that kind of instant camaraderie.

But that damn climb...
OK I'm gonna do this bastard race one more time, next year. For my pride, if not for the vegetables.
And I'm gonna come prepared.

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