A lone ‘Dog’s battle @ Calabogie Road Race

Written by Giordano Piccolotto, Duke’s Cycle Cannondale LapDogs Road Squad.

Planning for the S3 road race in Calabogie was pretty minimal.

Racing solo doesn’t lend so well to team tactics, so I was forced to go into this race with a dynamic game plan. That started with dinner the night before. From the get-go a shoddy set of knives kept me from making the julienne fennel salad I had intended and the homemade sausages that had to be use instead of ground beef for our pasta sauce kept me on my toes. In the end dinner was good and filling, a good omen entering into Sunday. It set the theme of the weekend for me which was adaptation.

I woke up Sunday morning (at Calabogie Highlands Resort which is fantastic by the way, highly recommend staying there if you plan to do this race) relaxed and without an alarm which was fantastic. Breakfast was yogurt and granola with a bagel, banana, and one of Dave Hamel’s homebaked cookies. I watched some TV while I got ready and braced myself for the cool temperature outside and made sure everything was in order on my bike and my nutrition was set up.

We were housed approximately 7km from the track so the ride to the course was a great way to warm up. I was able to catch the finish for my M3 compatriots, and with Dave Chong finishing 28th and Dave Hamel finishing 12th in his second race ever I couldn’t help but feel a little pumped up in spite of the chill morning.

11 o’clock rolled around and we were called to the starting area and assembled at the line. I looked around to see who I’d be dealing with today and saw some familiar faces. Some that I knew and planned to work with and others that I knew I wanted to make regret ever making the trip north to Calabogie. With no teammates to back me up I’d have to play it very safe particularly with two opposing squads that were both strong and had numbers.

It was going to be a hard day. The race started and the pace was high, there was no warm up lap. The guys at the front wanted to break a few spirits early. Maybe they did, I don’t know as I stayed towards the front for the first lap to make sure I didn’t get caught in any early gaps. The pace settled down a bit by the second lap. That might have had something to do with the wind picking up as the race progressed. There were certainly sections of the track that the pace dropped to about 22km/h as we rounded corners into the wind.

I let myself fall back into the back third of the peloton for a good chunk of the race, marking certain people, sizing them up to see if they looked strong, and also to avoid the chaos at the front. People started weaving in third of 15 laps trying to shake people off their wheel in attempts to have them pull through.

After 10 laps of this I decided it was time to move to the front and over the course of the next two laps I jockeyed my way up. Stealing wheels and cutting inside some corners I found myself in the top 15 which was where I wanted to be, close enough to the front that I’d be able to react and deep enough in that I could find shelter. With about four laps left I found an ally on an opposing team sitting behind me. He jumped off my wheel and broke away coming across the finishing area with about a 50m gap. No one seemed interested to chase him down so I waited a little bit hopped out of the peloton and bridged with no one on my tail. Success.

We worked together for a lap but decided that with just two of us and the winds the way they were we would not be able to sustain the break. We eased up and allowed the peloton back in sight but made them work a bit to reel us in. I noticed now the some of my “rivals” were toward the front. Good, I’d made a statement and had got their attention. At this point I was determined to stay in the top five for the remainder of the race.

Six members from another team came straight to the front and asked if I would be willing to work with them. I couldn’t as I was completely alone and wouldn’t be able to hold off six guys if I found myself alone with them at the end. They understood and proceeded to lead a high pace and strung out the race. I held in sitting in seventh watching these guys echelon working the peloton over. A few of the guys I had been marking earlier came up and worked with the team of six and at this point I started to get a little worried. This was a bad situation no allies, a team of six that I had declined to work with, and a few rivals that I knew wanted to break me were controlling the race.

One of my marked riders attacked… so I went. I knew he was strong so I bridged the gap making sure to bring the peloton with me. I fell back into shelter and rested for the sprint. I was pretty sure I had made some enemies over the course of this race. With two laps to go it became distinctly more difficult to hold my position.

The pace had picked up some more and the guys that had done nothing all day decided now was the time to make their move. I was having none of it and yet still found myself slipping back in the final two turns. I began to wonder if I’d done too much work in chasing that solo attempt. It was too late now though and all of a sudden we were in the sprint. I was still seated and holding in, a good sign. I stood up dropped a few gears and mashed on the pedals, I was making my way back up. I could see myself passing riders in the blur that was the sprint, because that’s what it really is, a blur of wind, speed, emotion, and pain. I crossed the line knowing I’d finished well but how well I had no idea.

I really didn’t know who was in front of me or whether they were even in my race. Finished…tired, happy, sore. I find my results later. ( editors note: Giordano finished a very strong 5th place – an amazing feat for a solo racer in a team sport)

A huge thanks to my teammates who were there to watch, and for their distinct cheers I knew it was you every single lap. Thanks guys.

Mud, Blood, Guts and Glory at the P2A

A right of passage into spring for many riders and racers, the 2012 Paris to Ancaster event drew a huge crowd of cyclists of all levels and capabilities, including recently retired British Cycling Pro Roger Hammond, and Canadian Olympians Sue Palmer-Komar and Leigh Hobson. In what can only be described as one of the toughest editions of this Ontario Spring Classic we had a large group of Team and Club Racers participating along with almost 2,000 others in a race that became a battle of the elements.

Racers fought, rain, winds, mud, more mud… and still more mud. Following this event our best wishes go out to Duke’s Cycle Cannondale LapDogs racer Rob MacEwan who suffered a big crash early in the race. He went down hard enough that medical attention was required. Please know that he’s okay and will be racing again soon. Very special kudos go our to several LapDogs…, Robin, Ben, Tom, Michelle, Kate and Peter, who noticed that something was up with Rob. They all stopped and sacrificed their own races to ensure Rob was okay and waited by his side until medical attention arrived. A very classy gesture by all.

An additional shout-out comes from our injured Rob to Giro helmets… which, in his own words, prevented him from suffering a more serious injury. Sadly… the helmet did not survive the crash.

2012 Paris to Ancaster, Team & Club Rider Results

  • Jennifer Crake, 1st , Women, 40-49
  • Andrea Bowker, 8th, Women, 40-49
  • Lenka Branichova & Alex Sanchez, 6th, Mixed Team
  • Bevin Reith, 99th, Men, 30-39
  • Stuart Duncan, 132nd, Men, 30-39
  • Edmond Melina, 24th, Men, 40-49
  • Jouko Haapanen, 45th, Men, 40-49
  • Lorne Anderson, 54th, Men, 40-49
  • Barry Cox, 113th, Men, 40-49
  • Mark Besednik, 124th, Men, 40-49
  • Mark Montgomery, 153rd, Men, 40-49
  • Stephen Hart, 315th, Men, 40-49
  • Peter Kraiker, 169th, Men, 50-59

Good Friday Road Race


By Edmond Mellina, on behalf of the M2 squad

In the days before Good Friday, the four M2 Lapdogs – Roderick Grant, Mike Bandurchin, Mark Besednik and I – had an e-mail exchange to discuss and agree on two things: 1) the kind of spirit we want to bring to the start line in 2012; and 2) a specific race plan for this first O-Cup race.

None of us are natural sprinters. Hence we felt the best strategy for our team this year is to come to the start line with an aggressive mindset. We want to use the first races of 2012 to build a reputation as attack-minded racers who are committed to breakaways. In other words, the kind of team who is not satisfied with remaining in the comfort of the peloton until the bunch sprint and hopefully a 15th place! If we can build such a reputation, we believe that attack-minded strongmen will eagerly join us in the offensive – which will help build a bigger gap quicker and increase our chance of making it to the end.

Of course, as Roderick wisely reminded us during our e-mail exchange, “getting in a break can be surprisingly hard, you really have to pay attention to activity on the front, which means being at the front, which means fighting for position…which means working pretty hard.”

With that in mind, we studied the course and looked at the wind forecast. We discussed our collective “intelligence” about the stronger / larger M2 teams this year, which are VinyBit | SixS and Morning Glory. We decided to make a point of having one of us in all attacks (we thought this was doable despite being a small team, as there are few attacks in M2). We felt there was no point in waiting for the last lap (i.e. #4) to try something. Indeed, once the bell has rung the bunch is always very excited and any attempt is usually brought back. Therefore, we decided to use lap #1 to observe the competition from the front of the pack and join the strongmen attacks if any. During lap #2 or #3, we would have no choice but to create or join a breakaway.

The race started one hour late because of a terrible fatal car accident that occurred after the first wave of races (no cyclist were involved). The police blocked a portion of the road, so the OCA officials had to extend the course and turn the original 4-lap race into a 3-lap affair. In our e-mail exchange, we had discussed we would most likely have to adapt our plan based on the race conditions. Well, the race had not even started that we already had to do it! We now would have to attack somewhere between the end of lap #1 and the very beginning of lap #3.

Overall, we were able to execute our team’s plan pretty well… albeit, not the finish line.

After a couple of kilometers, Roderick and I moved to the front of the pack and fought to remain in the top-15 positions all the time. During the first half of the race, we saw a few breakaway attempts. Roderick and I took turn covering them. Unfortunately, the attackers were not really committed, so these attempts went nowhere – with the bunch closing the gaps almost right away. By now we were well into lap #2, with the 4th turn of the rectangular course approaching fast.

We were running out of time: we had to make a move… like right now! Fifty meters from that 4thcorner, ex-Lapdogs Jeff Kerr attacked. I jumped behind, reached and passed him as we turned into the corner, and told him to come with me. I know he is a solid “rouleur”. Furthermore, his new team – VinyBilt | SixS – is made of seven fit and experienced racers. So my thinking was “Perfect, most likely his team will help my team-mates block behind us!”. Unfortunately, Jeff couldn’t take my wheel. I reminded myself that I didn’t want to finish the race feeling like another “bunch filler”. So I decided to keep going. I pushed hard on the pedals and when I looked behind I had a gap of about 300 m. I kept this solo effort for the next 5 km – which allowed me to show our brand new kit (with the new Cannondale green) to the crowd at the start. I heard the bell announcing the last lap.

As I approached the next corner, I peeked under my right arm to check behind. I saw a Cancellara-kind of rouleur who had managed to extract himself from the bunch and was closing the gap really, really fast!!! When he reached me a few hundred meters later, I told him to give me one minute in his wheel as I needed to recover a little from my effort – but that I would help him right after. Man, it really hurt to grab his wheel! I really thought I would never close the bike-length he had on me. I jumped as hard as I could, got into his slipstream and rested there for one full minute. Then, as I had told him, I got to the front to take my pull. We worked well together for the next 4 kms. The good news was that the gap with the peloton was not decreasing. The bad news was that it wasn’t increasing either!! After all, we were in the last lap, the peloton was getting excited and we were in full sight all the time (too bad the roads here are not like the narrow, curvy roads of Basque Country where I used to race as a junior!). Next time I looked behind, I saw two guys chasing in between. They must have been working well together, because they managed to catch us before we turned North into the headwind. I told my three breakaway companions that our only chance was to worked together and take very short pulls into the wind. They told me they were ok with it, so we got going. Unfortunately, the two guys who had just joined us had nothing left. Having closed the gap so quickly, they were obviously swimming in a pool of lactic acid. So it was up to “Cancellara” and I to try to save the breakaway. We worked hard but with the wind and the excitement of the last 10 km approaching, the peloton brought us back with roughly 12 kms to go. My breakaway attempt had lasted about 15 kms. I shook hand with the three other guys and got back inside the peloton.

Things were starting to get hectic, but I was pleased to see that Roderick was still very well positioned. As we got into the series of short hills, Mike-the-natural-climber was able to move up very easily to join Roderick near the front. On my end, my legs were pretty tired and close to cramping, so I focussed on staying out of trouble. I reminded myself that our race plan called for one last attempt to surprise the peloton in the false flat 2 kms from the line. But I didn’t have enough left to try anything like that! Furthermore, I was nowhere near the 6th or 7th place, which is typically the best spot to extract yourself from the peloton. Things were getting pretty rough in the front of the pack, which is what happens when you put 80 guys full of adrenaline on half a narrow road with an aggressively enforced “Yellow Line” rule! Fortunately, I could see that both Mike and Roderick were retaining their position. There were several close encounters nearby, but luckily nobody crashed. The bunch took the last corner very carefully, which was quite surprising. Then it was all out for everyone, with nobody hitting the pavement. Kevin Tearle, from Team CHCH, took the win convincingly (last November, he won in the same fashion the last M2 race of the cyclo-cross season).

We feel it was a good start of the season: we have a team strategy for 2012; we used it to build a plan for this first race; and we raced according to our plan. On Friday, our competitors saw the team in orange-green-and-black try to make things happen. The key now is to carry forward this aggressive mindset to the upcoming races. As a team without sprinter, earning a reputation as “attack-minded” racers is the key to getting some exciting results down the road. So let’s go, one small step at a time!