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.