Crashbank. Bloodbank. Two nicknames I had heard other riders use to refer to the Springbank Ontario Cup race in London. Held every year on a closed loop in Springbank Park near the end of the Thames River pathway system, this race is one of the most exciting races on the O-Cup circuit. I had ridden the course many times before the race, most of which were before I had known a race was held there. On a casual ride through the park, the paths are innocuous and enjoyable to ride. Once I had started to do serious recon for the race taking note of the obstacles, curbs, bends, dips, and width of the paths, I realized that this race would be as technically challenging as it would be tactically. The course makes sharp 90 degree turns and narrows and widens abruptly.
Prior to the race, several experienced riders gave me advice, which often varied, as to how to avoid crashes and stay upright:
“Stay in the middle.”
“Stay near the front.”
“Stay in the back.”
“Stay to the inside.”
“Avoid the sides.”
As it turns out all of these little tidbits of advice were useful at different parts of the course. With 18 laps, I had plenty of time to workout at which spots to use each nugget of information.
The race rolled out relatively gently. The sharpest turn on the course comes just after the start/finish line and shortly after the turn, the course narrows and a curb impedes anyone who can’t move to the left in time. Opportunistic riders at the front tried to use this to their advantage and press the pack as we went around the first corner and the pace jumped quickly. The pack stretched out along the aptly named Goose Valley, a long ‘straight’ next the river which features geese (and their droppings) as potential obstacles. I was pushed well beyond my limits in the first lap but thankfully being well rested and having done a thorough warm up, I was able to hang on and not lose any ground. After a few laps the pace slowed and the attacks started. These first attacks came from the typical hooligans that can be found at any race. They attack when the pack is fresh and eager to respond.
Once these gratuitous attacks were over, the real attacks started. Eric Hueston from To Wheels had the best attempt at a real breakaway. He managed to hold off the pack for at least a lap, if not more. Eventually these attacks ceased and the pack eased into a steady flow for the several laps. In the last laps of the race, one of my Kallisto teammates, a junior, escaped up the road and put so much distance between himself and the pack that I didn’t realize there was a breakaway until they started to reel him in. If I had known sooner, I would have tried to block but that’s racing. I later learned that an NCCH junior was still up the road at the end of the race. Out of sight, out of mind as they say.
Going into the final lap I was feeling great. I knew that if I could stay near the front I would have good shot in the sprint. The pace was relatively easy along Goose valley. It wasn’t until we came through turn 3 in the semi oval course that the pace quickened. I moved into position for the sprint. As we were coming through the final chicane, a small bend through a round-a-bout, I was sitting in 5th position and getting ready to wind up for the sprint. The podium was within my grasp. Just as the turn started to close and straighten out, one of the juniors from the NCCH team snuck up on my left side on the inside of the turn and created a wedge in front of me as the rider to my right (and slightly ahead) moved left along his line through the turn. Before I could react, my front wheel went into the back wheel of the rider to my right. My hub sheered 11 of his spokes and his hub sheered 8 of mine. I came to a standstill in the middle of the race. At the same time, possibly as a result of this impact, a crash happened just behind me taking out most of the rest of my team.
This was my first crash in a bike race and I’m sure it won’t be the last.