This weekend everyone in the Ontario Racing community was perparing to trek up highway 401 to Calabogie, ON (just outside of Ottawa) for the annual Calabogie Road Race was being held on the Calabogie Motorsport Speedway. I've done this year the last few years, and I can't say this year I could get excited about it. Last year, I did the race more or less to prove to myself I could keep up with the pack in the 15 laps around the 5km circuit. The course is generally flat with a few tight turns and a few "bumps in the road" for hills. Nothing hard. Last year, it was like riding around group ride at 40km/h with a single sprint. I would not say I was challenged to be able to keep up with the pack in my category. Racing Calabogie is a two day affair by the time one books the hotel. travel to the town, do the race prep ride, do the race, drive home, etc. all for 80kms of riding and a chance at the podium (and because this is Ontario, a podium spot generally doesn't even guarrenty your registration fee back). It's a big expense.
So, this year, I decided not to make the trek. In it's place, I joined the Milton Bicycle Club and did two rides with this guys (and Jane) this weekend. These guys are a dedicated local cyclists and some out of towners that meet up weekends in the west end of Milton at a park some 3km or so from the Milton Velodrome. I would argue it was far more challenging that the 80km race. In my infinte wisdom, I volunteered to lead the ride. While Saturdays with the club generally are 60km rides, I proposed a 100km option. I was completely unprepared for the Saturday ride that have 17 riders in total. The route included some 900m of climbing - something I'm not used to. These guys are fit...and the Saturday quickly turned into a hammerfest - race pace efforts on roads that would permit it, guys (and Jane) attacking the hills, and generally pushing the pace. It took some 40kms or so to get used to the group and to expect that this wasn't going a normal group ride - you know, a nice pace of riders riding two by two exchanging off the front, etc.. It was more akin to the Toronto Donut Ride where they don't ease up, or the Windemere ride in Clermont, FL which starts hard and finishes harder. I ended up getting a PR on Strava for climbing the back side of Applebee Rd - where some of the nastiest climbs in the area are. These group pushed me to do things I would not normally do. Serveral times I was fighting to hold a wheel and I don't know how many times, Jane, the only woman on the ride, managed to tow a group of us back to the pack. We did regroup at stop signs and such to pickup the slower riders, but that could mean they could be chancing for some time. Good times. I went home completely spent -far more than if I raced - and the ride start is 15 mins from home. Now, as I understand it, this isn't the type of ride the club executative wants, but it happened. I think it's just a matter of who happened to show up.
The Sunday ride with the Milton Bicycle Club was a bit more relaxed - well, for the first 45km. Some 30 riders or so it seemed came up. The larger group met everyone was a bit more relaxed...until the top of the ride, when a few people got a bit anxiuous and attacked off the front. We had a few good hard efforts to the bake shop at the half way point - if only races stopped at bake shops. After the bake shop, the pace picked up a bit....and on the return route to the town the group ended up being strung out single file as guys took to the front holding a hard, but manageable pace. 85 km later, I got a good ride in. At the ride conclusion, another ride and I headed into downtown Milton to get a espresso and pastry. Good times.
So, while it left me with some envy seeing the photos of the race up the Ottawa way, by not travelling to Calabogie, got in some 200km of hard riding and started to work on building my endurance base in, arguably, some of the nicest weather we have had in some time. I was challeged and enjoyed a few good coffees in the process. The Milton Bicycle Club has some fit riders and I intend to get out as much as I can with these guys. By being dragged around some of the hilly roads around Milton, I can only get stronger. I'm happy to have not raced this weekend.
If there is one race I would like be strong enough to complete, it is the Niagara Classic Road Race in Fonthill (or whatever it will be called). My first year of racing I finished 10th in my catagory. I would like to see that kind of result happen again....and that will require alot of work getting good at climbing hills. Perhaps, February next year, a training camp in Europe is in order. I want to get back to being about to ride my 11-21 cassette on my be able to tackle any hills in my path.