Noah’s Recap at the Nationals
June 21, 2018 // Nationals this year was in Saguenay, Quebec; about two hours north of Quebec City. This region is kind of like a more mountainous version of Ontario’s cottage country; lots of lakes, rocks and rolling hills. And this year, the ‘rolling hills’ played a part in every single event.
ETHAN, KURT and I arrived on Tuesday afternoon, got some groceries, made a late lunch and got out for a 2-hour loop to La Baie to preview the road-race course. Wednesday was all about the Time Trial, so the three of us headed to the course for the pre-ride. It was 37.8km long with the way out being mostly uphill, and had four major steep pitches, each around 2 minutes. The way back was fast and exposed to the wind and would be a difficult test to everyone racing. We analyzed the course on the drive home, with everyone agreeing the wind direction would play a large role in the race. Finally, we washed up the bikes, cooked a big quinoa salad and hit the hay.
The actual TT was on Thursday, and with everyone starting around 3:00pm, we had a pretty relaxing morning. We got the event site, pre-checked our TT bikes and got the trainers out for warm-up. My warm-up is 30 minutes long divided into 5 minute blocks, staircasing the power until I get to my threshold. I wasn’t feeling amazing throughout my efforts, but I knew it was a long TT and didn’t need to be red-hot off the gun. So, I got off the trainer, threw my Velotoze on, did a last check of my bike including the skewers and brakes, then headed for the start.
Originally, I wasn’t super happy with my performance. I felt like I couldn’t get into a rhythm or put down power but after analyzing my training vs. the course, I could see why I struggled. I do all my TT efforts on the local 15km time trial course, which has manicured pavement, no sharp corners and is dead flat. So, when I got out on the Nationals course, I wasn’t used to the interruptions, so I kept having to “reset” mentally and physically every time I hit a pothole, wooden bridge or a steep hill. What I learnt is that in training, having the perfect power output is only half the battle. And in the future, I’m going to have to look for rougher and hillier roads to practice for legitimate courses, because let’s be real... Currently I’m struggling with a couple of potholes on a wide, two-lane road, but imagine doing time trials in Europe? The races over there are filled with roundabouts, road furniture, cobbles, etc. I can't imagine they have too many mind-numbing out-and-back courses. But anyways, to improve you have to fail sometimes, and that was my learning experience.
ETHAN had an awesome ride; Landing 11th in U23, and the 2nd best '99. I was 15th and KURT was 21st. Friday was a rest day, so we went for a little cruise as the rest of the guys rolled in. The group cooked up a monster feast; featuring ANTON’s 10lb bag of potatoes. And with the daunting 180km road-race on our minds, everyone was early to bed.
The Road Race was based in the town of La Baie, and was a 15km circuit featuring an approximately four-minute climb, finishing with a two-minute steep section. Then it was a 4km false flat to the feed zone, and all downhill back to the start/finish.
The start was right at the bottom of the climb, so things began fast with several riders attacking, but it got serious on the second lap. RALLY took the front with four guys and smashed it up the climb and over the false flat and we were soon only left with 30-ish riders by the time we crested. They repeated the process for the next two times up the hill and soon only about 15 of us were left. It was pretty surreal making that front group. I remember looking around and only seeing the guys I watch on TV. I was hoping to play the “Hey I'm only 18” card, so “please take it easy on me”, but they weren’t having any of that...
The peloton swelled to 30ish riders after a brief slow period and then it got tactical. The group would attack itself, split into two or three groups, then condense back to a peloton, slowly cracking riders one-by-one up the climb until there was only really 12 of us left, including three U23’s. At this point I realized that I had a good shot at the U23 podium and just had to hang on as long as I could.
On the 3rd last lap I totally cramped up the climb, not like anything I’d experienced before. Watch it here. Pretty much every muscle underneath my waist just seized and I was swerving across the road with my dreams of the podium out the window... But somehow, I managed to shift to a different position and keep pushing over the hill and catch back up to Connor Toppings; another U23 who’d also been dropped. Him and I went into Team Time Trial mode to stay away and keep our top three spots.
On the second last lap I heard ANTON yell at me that Silber’s Nick Zukowsky was closing in on our group, so the two of us just kept pushing the pace, and by the last lap we started to distanced Nick. On the final climb, the podium was safe and I was beginning to think about how I would steal 2nd from Connor, but I heard ANTON yell again, and this time it was that the leader of the U23 classification had been dropped by the main contenders and was only 1:10 up the road. So, we kept pushing, by the feed zone the gap was only 40 seconds, with 5km to go it was 30, and I went for it with a kilometer to go but was too late, I finished 8 seconds away from the Ed Walsh who won; although, I have never been so stoked to finish 2nd. It was definitely the hardest effort of my career accumulating 404 TSS (for the data nerds out there) and averaging 175HR. The day was made even better when I heard my teammate TREVOR rolled in for 5th place in the U23 category! Not bad for a couple amateurs, eh?
One of the best parts of the day was seeing my teammates when I finished. Our team TORONTO HUSTLE is built around a community of athletes, friends and family who are all so supportive. You can’t help but to love this group. Even though it was crazy hot out, everyone still stayed and watched my podium which is pretty special. We got some dinner, shared war-stories of the day and all jumped ‘La Baie’.
The Criterium was the final day of racing on Sunday, and the course was difficult, with no flat roads; it was either up or down. I was really feeling the effort from Saturday but I knew TREVOR, KURT and ANTON had a shot at the winning and I wanted to support them. Silber was the main contender with 12 riders signed up out of the 100-person field. They let us know immediately they had the intention of winning by sending two riders at a time, countering every move. I got to the front immediately where it would feel easier and once I saw Anton and Trev up near the front I set to work closing gaps until I blew up. TREVOR and ANTON made the front selection of 20ish riders and held their own while the Orange jerseys kept attacking. Heading into the sprint, ANTON was looking great and finished just inside the top 10! What a week for the squad!
Every time I race and travel with TORONTO HUSTLE I love cycling more and more because everyone on the team is so incredibly positive and fun. Often, my personality tends to take things too seriously and focus solely on the race and my prep, but I'm lucky to have friends that can pull me away and remind me to enjoy the process. I believe that a large portion of my success is because of the atmosphere around the team; every person that's involved is constantly supportive.
I love racing for this team! Now let's get Critty at BC Superweek.