I was nervous leading up to this race. I had applied for an upgrade the on the same day I raced GFRR and still hadn’t heard anything back only a few days before this race. Being a meticulous planner I was stressing over what my strategy would be since they would differ drastically depending which category I would race. As an E4 I was confident I could win based on the strength of the field at GFRR. I wasn’t sure how things would go as E3 and having the junior Kallisto-FCV team with me in the E3 race would change tactics slightly. On the Wednesday before the race, the upgrade came through. I was in a tougher field but I now had teammates riding with me.
The morning of the race was typical of spring weather in Ottawa. Bright and sunny but with enough of a bite in the air to remind you that you were indeed in one of the coldest capitals in the world. The wind was brisk and coming out of the East. Because of the nature of the course this would make breaking away difficult. The sections with lots of turns and hills where a breakaway would have the best chance were also exposed to a headwind.
The course itself runs along the Calabogie Motorsports speedway, a wide and smooth track with lots of bends and bumps. Perfect for bike racing. Being a wide closed course meant moving up would be much easier than normal road races, which must adhere to the yellow line rule. This means that breakaways are harder because more riders are in a position to respond, but it also means breakaways can come from nowhere.
Now that I was riding with the junior Kallisto-FCV team, I was instructed by our coach, Rob Good, to cover moves for the juniors. It was my job to reel in breakaways and make sure our guys weren’t left behind. I knew this would mean sacrificing a potential podium but learning to work as a team is as equally as important as winning so i was happy to oblige.
As we rolled onto the start line, the energy and impetuousness of the juniors was obvious. They were whispering to each other rumours that the NCCH team was going to attack at the start. As I suspected would be the case, this never really happened and it wouldn’t have gone very far anyway. The pace was hot from the start and stayed like that the whole race.
We did 15 laps of the roughly 5km track and the attacks never ceased. Since it was my job to prevent breakaways from succeeding, I stayed near the front of the group and chased down anything that looked threatening. The other strong and well represented team in the pack was NCCH. I knew that they would never let anything go without any of their riders in the break so I played it smart to save energy. If one of their riders was in the attacking group, I chased it down. If they weren’t, I let them do the chasing. I spent the first half of the race playing cat and mouse with the other riders on the front. They would attack and I would chase. Eventually I realized that NCCH didn’t have anyone strong enough in the field to make a breakaway stick but they also weren’t going to let anyone get away. Instead of continuing my hard efforts on the front, I dropped back near the middle of the race and started building reserves for the sprint.
In the last 2 laps a breakaway of 3 riders did eventually get away for a little while. One of those riders had been attacking all day. He was clearly strong but there was no way he would have had the legs to stay ahead of the pack in the last laps. I put in one more chase effort and the pack responded in kind. We swallowed up the escapees near the end of the last lap. Putting in the chase effort was a smart move because the pack, trying to save energy for the sprint, was more willing to let me move up to the front and do some work. I only did enough to spark a reaction from the pack and then dropped back to around 10th place. As we entered the final turn into the finishing straight, I went wide on the first turn hoping to move up a few places while also giving me the inside line on the final turn. The plan worked but the two big sprinters in the race, Rune Schaeffer and Cameron Mason had gone to the opposite side. I was left with no wheel to lead me out. One of the Kallisto juniors who was better positioned than me came around at the end and crossed just ahead of me, he earned it. I ended up in 5th place among the E3s and 12th place overall, not a bad showing for my first race as an E3.