Tour de le Releve and BC Superweek.

We have a double header here! Tour De le Releve (July 6-10) and BC Superweek (12-16)

I flew out to Quebec City on the second to get onto the time zone as well as getting rid of “airplane legs.”  We (Team BC) stayed in Quebec City  for a few days doing short rides and sightseeing.   On the 4th we drove out to Rimouski, Quebec where the race was being held.  For the first few days we pretty much did the same thing in Rimouski that we did in Quebec City, nothing exciting happened so I’ll skip it.

Race day was on the 6th  and it was a 7km Team Time Trial.  It was the first time in a few years that race day had a tailwind as opposed to a headwind so everyone was super excited.   Warm up seemed to go well for everyone and in typical Riley fashion, Pjs were on until a few minutes before the start.  We were flying from the gate and with a 20km/h tailwind we were going 55-60 on the slight downhill.  The course had 3 main sections, the downhill tailwind section ,  a flat crosswind, and an uphill tailwind.  Once we turned the corner to the crosswind section we moved into an echelon.  (when in a crosswind you ride beside and about half body to maximize the rafting, google it).

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Photo credit: Tour de la Releve

Unfortunately, the memo wasn’t given out before the ride that in the crosswind we would do an echelon.  Once in the echelon the rider in the wind must swing off the front into the wind, if they swing the wrong way they could take out the entire bunch.  Well this unfortunately happened.  Ben, not realizing we were doing an echelon swung into Conor, who was beside him.  I was rotating back when this happened and Isaac was just barely dancing off the back so luckily it was only Conor affected and it didn’t cause a crash.   Conor did lose his visor and there was quite a bit of chaos.  Isaac, who was dancing just off the back slammed on his brakes and couldn’t get back on after that.  Ben was a bit rattled and no longer able to pull.  With 3.5 km left and only 2 of us our odds weren’t looking amazing,  however it didn’t seem to be much of a problem.  On the uphill we were sitting around 51-52 km/h.   We ended up winning the TTT by a mere 7 seconds and averaged 51 km/h.  We were pretty happy with it and figured we probably could’ve squeezed another 10 seconds out of it without the shenanigans.

The next morning was stage 2, a 74 (or so) km stage with 1200m of elevation gain in the span of 35km.   There was pretty much no team tactic discussion before the race but it seemed to work out fine.  It was a pretty crappy day, raining and cold, very miserable.  within the race there were sprint points (for the green jersey) and KOM points (for the polkadot jersey, KOM – king of the mountain).  11 km in was the first sprint and there wasn’t much of a contention for it.  I figured I would just test the waters, see how well people were sprinting.  It wasn’t a very hard sprint and I picked up maximum points fairly easily.  At kilometre 17 there was a KOM at the top of a fairly short but steep climb.  Ben and I knew Conor had a good shot at winning the KOM so we kept him at the front leading into it. Once at the base Conor went and Ben just tagged along.  Me being at the front of a 60 rider pack I slowly dropped back going up the climb, until when i reached the top I went up it far slower than everyone else.  There was a short plateau at the top before the climbing started once more and everyone slowed down by quite the margin.  Since I was still fresh I rolled to the front once again, just trying to stay out of danger.   The climb was a kind of rolling climbs which I didn’t find too difficult.  One point at kilometre 24 (or around that) was a long consistent section of the climb.  maybe 5-6%.  Conor was sitting on the front, with Ben on his wheel going up the climb quite comfortably.  I was sitting around 10th wheel at this point and I could see (and hear) people suffering.  I wasn’t suffering at that point, so I figured I would yell up to Conor and tell him to pick up the pace, shred some of the weaker riders who are dangerous in the pack.  He didn’t hear me when I called so I decided to roll to the front an pick up the pace myself.  However, if I roll to the front looking aggressive, it would seem like i was attacking.  People would swarm and we would lose our control on the front.  Instead, I straighten my spine, locked my core, and rolled to the front as smoothly as I could, taking the odd drink from my water bottle too.  Once I hit the front I picked it up by a few clicks,  and once we hit the top I took a look back to see if it worked.  Everything was shattered.  We had a lead group of 7 then the main group was no bigger than 25 after us. The rest were either trying to bridge up to the lead, or falling off the back.  It didn’t seem like a good idea to have all 3 of us in the break and Isaac crashed out early so we wouldn’t have any representative in the bunch.  Knowing Conor and Ben climb better than I do I dropped back to the bunch while Conor and Ben tried to get the breakaway working.  Unfortunately, none of them would.  However, as the groups were coming back together,  Ben rolled of the front with another guy.  4 km down the road, that other guy came rolling back to the bunch.  Ben was still out there.  At about the 40km mark, there had been no other successful breakaways however the pace was fairly high.  I was sitting second wheel going up this small roller when I heard my name shouted out, looking over I saw Conor flying up the hill on the other side of the road.  I jumped hard and was able to gap everyone and the 2 of us had a breakaway going.  From the day before, everyone realized we were extremely strong and all hell broke lose once we went.  Apparently there were 3 separate crashes in the space of 300m as everyone was scrambling to get onto a wheel.    Conor and I were drilling it trying to stay way from this pack.  Every time I looked down the Garmin told me 50-55 km/h and while going up the hills we never dropped below 40.  Yet, we still weren’t getting much time.  At the 55 km point I started to fatigue and cramp while we were going up the last KOM of the day and Conor dropped me.  The chasers were only 20 seconds back at that point and saw everything.  This lead to numerous attacks from the chasers up the climb and by the time they caught me at the top, the group of 9 had been reduced to a group of 2.  I jumped on the back of them and sat there not having to do any work because of Ben and Conor up the road.   As the 2 chasers closed in on Conor I jumped them, hoping that I would be able to bridge up to Conor once more and stay away.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work out and we got caught 3 km from the finish.   There were a few mini attacks after that but not much until about 1.5km to go.  In that last kilometre and a half there is a short 700m climb.  I was on the front at that point and I looked over to see Conor throwing his bottles.  When Conor throws his bottles, that’s when he attacks.  I swung over to the opposite side of the road hoping to make the distance between Conor and the other 2 riders as large as possible.  As Conor’s gap grew to 50m I figure I could bridge up to him.   He plateaued at 50 meters and I started to get worried that if I attempted to bridge the other 2 might chase and close the gap on Conor.  Sitting back, I waited till 150m to go and won the sprint quite easily.   Ben ended up winning the stage by 2 minutes, Conor had 6 seconds on me and the next 2 riders.

The next day was the individual time trial.  Those are kinda boring so I will make it quick.   My warm up felt really good,  but it still wasn’t amazing. It could be that my early season training was all based around the short punchy efforts of the track, but I just wasn’t feeling it.   Ben won the thing, Conor second, I was 6th, and Isaac came in 27th.

Photo credit: Tour de la Releve
Photo credit: Tour de la Releve

The next day was the Criterium and with Conor, Ben and I getting call ups, we decided to go from the gun.   It didn’t work at all but it set the tone for the race.  From the gun, Ben and I got clipped in right away and we were off.  Conor had some difficulties and didn’t get on to Ben.   Everyone else filled in behind us and we kept the first lap and a half at 55 km/h.  After that the paced settled down yet never by much.  It was one of the more dynamic Crits I’ve been in with and average speed of 45 km/h.  At one point a rider came up beside me and said to me, “You BC kids, you guys don’t F*@k around!”  I responded with a laugh and an attack followed by a string of curses by the same rider.   As we approached the last lap, the crashes started to become quite plentiful.  In a bunch of 60 riders all fighting for position, it was understandable.  I got myself into an OK position coming into the last lap, 7th wheel but the team on the front had a lead out train organized and with 2 lead out men and their sprinter I wasn’t as concern with my position.  Coming into the back straight the 2 riders in front of me were bumping  each other fighting for the leadout train’s sprinter’s wheel.  After one of the more aggressive bumps they sprung apart by about a metre.  With that door open I sprinted for about one pedal revolution to get onto the sprinter’s wheel.  The 2 riders initially tried to fight for the wheel but from a good amount of track training they realized they wouldn’t be stealing the wheel from me and dropped back.  The leadout train was organized amazingly, and with the last lap nearly 60km/h nobody dared attacking exiting the last corner.  The finish wasn’t far after so the sprint was tighter than I would have preferred. I was still able to win the sprint by about half a bike length though.

That brings us to the messy last stage.  There was one big climb consisting of 3 steep sections from 15-20% and the rest between 5 and 8% for 2.2 km.  The rest was rolling descent to the start /finish, then it was all repeated 4 times.  I was feeling pretty good coming into the stage and was climbing well on the other hilly stage so I wasn’t all that worried about being dropped.  The climb started immediately after the start which was a bit of a slog but I didn’t mind it all that much.  We came into the climb with a bit of speed and went up it at a respectable click however not terribly difficult. Right near the top there was a minor acceleration, one you don’t even need to stand up for.   Right as I did a sharp pedal stroke I heard a pop and was falling over.   I had broken my chain and was unable to get unclipped so fell over like someone at a stoplight.  I got up, stood on the side of the road waiting for the team car, pretty boring.  With the group shattering as we were going up, it took forever for the team car to get to me.  It took even longer to fix the chain.  Once the chain was fixed there was nobody left.  I was way off the back.   I rode up the last section of the climb then after I had a serious motor pacing session.  We had a massive gap to close but eventually, 12 km later, we were moving up to the back of the caravan.  Luckily we arrived right before one of the steepest descent of the course.  In a gear smaller than a junior gear (50-15 for anyone who understands it)  it’s impossible to pedal on the descents.   I told Wes and John (in the team car)  to go ahead. Once they were 10 meters ahead of me I sprinted into the back of there car.  I was going 70 when I started going around the car, then the descent started.  I was sitting on my top tube trying to get as much speed as I could.  After about 90 km/h the wind resistance becomes too much and it’s difficult to go any faster.  Luckily I had all these cars in the race caravan to slingshot off of.  I would accelerate into their slipstream and right before hitting the bumper I would go to the next one.  Unfortunately the caravan isn’t the most logical of traffic patterns with cars moving out, in, forwards, backwards and passing them at Mach 10 it was a little nerve shaking.  Once I made contact with the back of the bunch I realized 2 things:  one; I hit 109 km/h which was awesome and two; a little less awesome,  there was a split and the lead group was 5 min up the road.  I was not happy to hear that and I wasn’t allowed to be motor paced up to the leaders.  I sat in for a few km and realized nobody was motivated to pull back the bunch.  I started doing TT pace long pulls on the front to try to shrink the gap.   The second time up the climb, Heather called a time split of 2:40.  With nobody doing any work  I wondered if I would be able to close the gap solo.  I was sceptical but at that point I didn’t have much to lose.  I went over the top alone and TT’d attempting to close the gap.

Photo Credit: Tour de la Releve
Photo Credit: Tour de la Releve

The group I had left didn’t want to let me go and liked having a carrot so 15 km later they pulled me back, however they promised to work and we had already closed a good portion of the gap.  The promise to work didn’t seem to hold very long as we had 3-4 people doing pulls where the other 10-15 weren’t doing any.  As we passed through the start/ finish a time gap of 1:15 was called, which was a huge decrease. Big enough that you could close onto dropped riders coming from main bunch on the climb, and because the caravan is stuck behind them you could draft off the caravan after the top, which would be a massive slingshot to the front.  Heading up the climb for the 3rd time however luck wasn’t with me.  Due to my pathetic fall after breaking my chain I bent the derailleur ever so slightly.  Well anyone who rides bikes knows what happens when you do that.  When shifting into my easiest gear my derailleur (that is hard to spell)  went into my spokes and with a horrid snapping and crunching noise I was quickly put to a stand still with my rear wheel unable to rotate.  Learning from my previous mistake I quickly and pro-like unclipped without falling over.  I dismounted and saw what happened.  I figured my race was over and was surprisingly carefree about it, there wasn’t much I could do so I didn’t really care.   I started hiking up the climb when I realized I was still in green and by a solid margin, and on top of that, anyone within 15 points of me was dropped and unable to pick up any more points. I started running (in cycling shoes, sorry already empty bank account)  and with my bike on my shoulder.  As I was running up I was asking any spectator for a bike to use, none of which had one.  Luckily the feed zone was only 100m up the climb and with over 100 people there I figure one of them must’ve had a bike.  When I was about 60m away I saw Heather  running down to me to see how she could help. I yelled for her to find me a bike and she sprinted of in the other direction bike hunting. Someone walking up the hill offered to carry my bike to the feed zone which I accepted (finable offence apparently, leaving your bike before getting a new one).  It’s quite a bit easier to run without a bike on your shoulders, no matter how light.   By this point the adrenaline was seriously flowing, and thinking was not on the highest list of priorities (probably should’ve been).  John and Wes drove up beside me at this point flung open the door of the car and yelled “get in!”  Like I said, thinking wasn’t high on the priority list and being the dumb teenager I am, I jumped in.  We started driving and after about 25m I went, “I can’t be in a car can I?”  I started yelling to let me out, I pushed open the door while we were still moving and hopped out, nearly tripped while I was at it.  (It was at this point I was disqualified, apparently you can’t get in a car during a bike race… weird)  not knowing I was DQ’d I ran into the feed zone yelling for a bike.  Eventually someone (Domingue family, shoutout to them) gave me one.  It was a bike and as a bonus it had the right pedals so I wasn’t going to complain.  Only problem is the bike must’ve been the smallest size you could buy.  We raised the seat post as much as we could and it was still to low.  The reach was so short I felt like I was riding a cruiser with drop bars, my knees hit the handle bars every pedal stroke.  At this point I wasn’t concerned with GC, but if I finished I could keep green (if I wasn’t DQ’d which I was, but I didn’t know that).   I would’ve been pulled if I got lapped so in other words, I was going for the last not lapped prize.  I did the next 10 km fairly hard to make sure I wasn’t going to be lapped after that I wasn’t as concerned.  I ended up catching up to Philippe Gélinas who had mechanical problems which put him out of the bunch.  Without a threat of being lapped we started having some pretty good conversations for neither of us saw the point of killing ourselves to save a few minutes on the last stage.  Coming into the bell lap I was pleased that we were safe to finish the stage and very uncomfortable on the tiny bike (the seat was making my butt go numb).  Traveling by the feed zone was quite a bit of fun for I figured that taking it seriously at that point was a mistake.  I was giving Highfives to everyone, pretty much making the most of the situation.  At one point I got too far ahead of my riding companion Philippe, so I turned around, rode back, and started pushing him because why not?   After the climb we rode at a fairly good clip, chatting.  He was telling me about how he goes hunting and fishing in the winter because he can’t ride – a bit of it was lost in translation but we (he) made it work.  We rolled across the finish line 36 min behind the winner which ended up being Conor (Yay!).  After the race I was told to immediately go to the officials and I was already expecting the outcome.  They were quite apologetic but insisted they had to disqualify me,  It seemed fairly reasonable that you would get DQ’d for getting a car ride in a bike race.  It worked out well in the end with Ben taking the GC and stage 2 and 3, Conor taking the KOM classification, 2nd in GC and stage 5,  Isaac being the domestique of the century after his crash on stage 2 took him out of contention for the classifications. As well I took stage 4 and the first time a rider has been DQ’d for a car ride at Tour de la Releve.  The team as a whole also came away with the Team GC win by 15 minutes, and the Team Time Trial.

Photo Credit: Tour de la Releve
Conor Martin, Ben Katerberg, and Isaac Van der Vliet      Photo Credit: Tour de la Releve

We flew back the next day and I spent the next 2 days after doing short rides and baking cookies then it was time to hit the road again and go to Vancouver for BC Superweek.  The youth crits weren’t anywhere near as dynamic and fast as the racing in Quebec so I’ll skip over those races and tell you about the Cat 3 men.  The first Cat 3 race was PoCo GP and even though it was there first year holding the event it was put on fantastically.  By far the most organized and family inclusive crit of the entire week.  Anyway,  Cat 3 wasn’t the fastest but it was good fun.   The course was weird with 6 corners and awkward bending road it kept the crit interesting and enjoyable.   I missed a break after a prime and regretted it as that ended up being the winning break.   The group shattered with one lap to go from all the corners and I was able to sprint for 3rd, only beating out 4th by .003 of a second.

Photo Credit: Tour de White Rock
Photo Credit: Tour de White Rock

The only other Cat 3 Criterium I raced in was White rock which had a 30 second power climb that suited me quite well and a steep descent so not much recovery.  By the end I was feeling really good and was fighting for the wheel of the Langlois Brown’s leadout train on the last lap when an attack went on the other side of the train.  With no way through the clearly blown up leadout train I had to go out and around losing 5 bike lengths on the attack.  Luckily the attack went up the climb and I had no trouble closing the gap.  I was just about to make contact when one of the most powerful sprinters in the race, Vince Marcotte, launched his sprint.  Since I was still accelerating onto the back of the bunch, it was far easier for me to get on his wheel.  The finish was just after a downhill corner which meant first one into the corner won the race.  I was just able to get beside Vince before he took the corner and since our handle bars were equal I gained control entering the corner.  I was able to enter first and ended up winning the race for the second year running.  Best part of all was receiving a $50 prime, for not sprinting for primes, thank you Kerry Olohan.

Ended up Premier Series Winner for Cat 3 Junior
Ended up Premier Series Winner for Cat 3 Junior

Special thanks to Argon 18, Straight Up Cycles, Bruce Hale for GIVING me a set of carbon wheels and Dave Attwell for loaning me another set.

That’s pretty much all, pretty long blog, wonder how many people make it here, I’m guessing 5%.

Til next time,

Riley Pickrell

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