Below is a race report written by my team mate Cary Moretti from the stage race this past weekend in Elliott Lake. They put us old farts (Master 1, or M! they call us) with the Senior 1 field. That means racing against the legend Darko Ficko (good friend of mine and an inspiration to me), Ryan Roth (provincial champ) etc…the guys that race bikes very, very seriously.
The only thing I can add to it really is that being in a break for 105km of a 126km bike race at threshold HR and power is so f-in painful I am really not sure I EVER want to repeat the experience.
I also want to thank the team, we did a superb job up in Elliott Lake representing our sponsors and having a lot of fun. Great job team. Last, a big thanks to Darko Ficko for letting us play and go up the road, he emodies what is right about Ontario cycling.
From the fingertips of Cary Moretti:
As with all stage races, this weekend was packed with excitement and more than a fair share of pain. Since this was a stage race, the report is ... er ... longish so I've included a summary. :-)
Team Project Freeride recorded excellent results in Elliot Lake this past weekend. In a small but very strong field of Senior 1, Under 23, and Master 1 men, Rhys Spencer led the way with an early 4 man break - 105 km at the front and the last 15 km solo for a 3rd place finish. Cary Moretti missed out on a fourth Provincial Hill Climb Championship finishing 2 seconds behind the leader for third. In addition to the two stage podiums, the team recorded 2nd (Rhys) and 3rd (Cary) for the M1 GC (which is applied to the OCup season standings).
Full Race Report
When we arrived at Elliot Lake this year, they let us know that the fields were too small to run on their own. As a result, the S1, U23, and M1 fields would be merged. Similarly, M2 was merged with the S3. There was a bit of grumbling but, truth is, with less than 20 riders in those fields, running them separately would have been less than enjoyable. A pack of 30, while still small, made the most sense.
The Hill Climb on Saturday morning was my personal goal for this year. I wanted to break 7:30 for the first time and another M1 Championship would have been nice too. I wasn't sure if I had the fitness but I was going to give it everything I had. I managed a very respectable 7:42 finishing in 3rd (1st was Jon Gee at 7:40 and 2nd was Peter Mogg at 7:41). Rhys was our pick for GC and didn't disappoint with a 6th place only 16 seconds off the leader.
We were all concerned about the crit. The course was wet in the morning and although the rain has stopped and heavy fog and mist kept the roads from drying. The inclusion of the S1 and U23 riders also meant that the M1 field was now going to be on the course for a full hour. At race start, the course was mostly dry and, as expected, the riders lept off the line at full speed. Within minutes a significant portion of the field was dropped. I spent all my time in the top 10 knowing that falling back might end my race. The pace was high and the final corner proved the most difficult moment almost every lap. Our team didn't fare well overall - Rhys, Scott, and Andrew were lapped - but I managed to hang on by the skin of my teeth. Only 4 M1 riders completed the crit so this moved me well up on GC (at least for M1).
Sunday morning was tough, the Road Race was the same loop we've had in previous years with one extra lap (for M1) - 126 km. Since I was the GC rider, the plan was to keep me protected knowing that we had little chance against the Elite field. The hope was that I might slip into the lead group if any riders managed to roll off the front.
The first lap was aggressive (a Louis Garneau rider plus Darko Ficko and one other jumped right at the gun) but that break attempt was eventually reeled in. On the second lap, we sped through the feed zone at 51 kph (feed started on lap 2 - I was terrified of trying to grab a bottle at that speed). In the first K out of the feed zone, Rhys put on a surge to bridge to a lone rider up ahead. I sat on his wheel and we suddenly had a gap. Darko tried to bridge - when he got to me, he looked back and saw the entire peloton was chasing his wheel. He called across and told Rhys and I that the peloton wasn't going to let him go so he'd pull back (to give the break a chance). I shouted at Rhys to go - as long as Rhys was in the break, I was protected and if the break stuck, we'd have another podium.
Rhys turned himself inside out (and upside down) and with only 2 other riders pulling in the break (there was a Louis Garneau rider represented but he only sat in - no pulls) they opened a 4 minute gap. While there was no concerted effort to close down the break, there was constant surging in the peloton as rider after rider attempted to break free and bridge up. Ryan Roth, Darko Ficko and Derek Ivey were heavily marked and any move by the three was instantly covered. The M1 riders in the peloton played it safe and sat in for most of the race any moves were covered by Scott, Andrew or myself.
In the final lap, A group of four (including Roth, Ficko, and Ivey) pulled off the front and none of the remaining riders had the legs left to give chase. At this point, Rhys was solo with just under a 3 minute gap and the four strongest riders in the Elite field chasing. Rhys put it all into his last 15K and held on for 3rd finishing almost a minute ahead of the four chasers.
Rhys took a podium in the Road Race and the his high finish also lifted him up to 2nd on the M1 GC. A successful weekend for the team with two stage podiums and 2nd and 3rd on the M1 GC for OCup points.- Cary