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Mental(ly) Health(y)

After Canada Games I decided to take a little break from training and catch up with friends at home. I started with a mountain bike ride at the mountain bike venue with my old friends Ari and Terry. It was loads of fun to swap pavement for dirt for an evening, and check out a venue that was the result of endless volunteer hours from Manitoba’s cycling community. The hard work had paid off as it really was brilliant.

I then spent about a week doing coffee shop rides before flying home. Each morning I’d ride ~15 km to meet a friend at a cafe, where we’d sit and chat for 2 plus hours before heading home. I think I did at least 2 minutes chatting for every minute spent riding. My Tour des Cafés was a real treat- it allowed me to spend most of my morning out in the sun with great company, and I got to check out at all of my favourite spots back home. By the end of the week, I felt really, really mentally healthy. I’d had non-stop positive interactions with great people, and had allowed myself some proper recovery time from the past two months of hard riding.

On my flight home, I didn’t really know what lay ahead. I had no races scheduled for the rest of the season, but I wasn’t yet ready to stop riding. In the past, after a target event all I’d want to do is take a break from riding. But this time it was different; all I wanted to do was race. This drive felt like a testament to how far my mental health had recovered. Unfortunately, I had no goals to work up to, so I made some on my way home. I wanted to ride 300 km in a day, climb Mount Baker in Washington, and do the Triple Crown (three peaks) ride in Vancouver. If, as it appeared, there was no more racing for me, I needed something to keep me busy.

I got home on the 17th. In the evening of Sunday the 20th my Directeur Sportif called to inform me that I would be racing the Tour of Alberta, as Connor couldn’t due to a concussion. I couldn’t believe it! This is a race I’ve dreamt of doing for years, but had accepted that I wouldn’t be doing it this year. I would be leaving that Tuesday. Suddenly my Winnipeg Tour des Cafés didn’t seem like such a good idea. I started to fret seriously about my fitness. Alberta would be my first stage race in over a year, and the highest level road race of my career. I managed to get a grip pretty quickly though and turned my nervousness into simple excitement.

On Monday morning I set out around seven to attempt a 300 km ride. The loop we had planned was only 270 km, so I’d have to add some on at the end. Until then, the longest ride I’d ever done was around 230 km, and the longest one I’d done since getting back on the bike was only about 130 km. It was an ambitious goal and I didn’t really know what to expect. I packed a ton of bars, several tubes, and my credit card.

Pretty fresh 20 km in. 

Pretty fresh 20 km in. 

I rode with Emile, who had done the loop before. My plan was to ride easy, eat every hour, and wait as long as I could to look at my Garmin. I didn’t want to spend the whole day watching the kms slowly tick away, willing them to pass quicker. I wanted to focus on enjoying the ride. I’ve done far too many rides watching each kilometre slowly register on my computer.

The first ~80 km to Jordan River were pretty familiar, as I’ve ridden and driven the route many times. Once past all the beaches on the Jaun de Fuca, I was on a stretch of road I’d never seen before. It was gorgeous. We twisted along the coast before a climb and then a fast decent into Port Renfrew. We stopped for the cheapest gas station pastry, which tasted like ass but felt like fuel. Solid dollar to calorie ratio. I finally looked at my Garmin for the first time and we were already at over 110k.

The ride out of Port Renfrew was beautiful. After about thirty minutes, we found ourselves on a long, steady climb. We climbed for 45 minutes, which was a nice surprise, as I haven’t found a climb that long anywhere near Victoria. It was beautiful and relatively car free. A Twix bar from Port Renfrew made the climb even better. We weren’t rewarded with much of a decent after though, as a massive headwind forced us to work all the way into Lake Cowichan. I ran out of water on the climb, so a huge bottle of PowerAde in town was a real treat. We sat in the sun for a bit by the Esso station car vacuum, and drank, grateful for a break from the saddle.

Past the beaches.

Past the beaches.

Getting back on the bike was tough. We were 175 km in. I felt pretty terrible as we started to make our way toward Duncan. We did about 5 km on the highway with no shoulder, before turning onto the old highway, which was empty. I started to get pretty nervous. Would I make it? I still had 125 km, some solid climbing, and at least four hours of riding to go. By the time we turned out of Duncan and onto a beautiful little climb out of the Cowichan River Valley, I was at 200 km. That milestone switched something in my brain. Now I had less than 100 km to go. Double digits! My legs felt amazing.

We stopped in Shawnigan Lake for some water. I bought and ate an entire loaf of chocolate chip banana bread for a dollar. Again, nailing the dollars to calorie ratio. On the climb out of Shawnigan it felt as though my legs were constantly being punched, but I was now on familiar roads which meant we were getting closer to home. The following decent to Goldstream also hurt. Emile felt awesome and was setting a decent pace.

We decided to treat ourselves to an extra bit of climbing by turning up Finnlayson Arm. Finnlayson is abouta 2 km climb, that is viciously steep, with several sections over 20% gradient, maxing out at ~29%. At 253 km into our ride, I climbed it in 10:55. I wasn’t riding full out, but rode a pretty hard pace to get it over with. It put me in 25th on the segment on Strava, which I’m pretty stoked about considering my ‘warm-up’. That would be the last victory for a while though, as 20 km later I hit a wall. I completely bonked.

I rode the last 15 km alone after dropping Emile off at his place. I could barely pedal. I couldn’t hold my head up. My legs were moving because that’s all they knew how to do at this point. There was no power behind each pedal stroke, simply gravity pulling my feet down. I rested my forearms on my bars and stared at my Garmin, finally succumbing to the habit I had fought most of the day, watching as every hundred metres was recorded. I could have taken a shorter route back, but I wanted to hit 300 km. It was a sick goal I had made for myself. I wasn’t miserable. I just wanted the ride to end. I wanted to hit my goal. I wanted to sit on a couch and watch Netflix. I rode at 15 km/h. I couldn’t go any faster.

Dr. De Brosney

Dr. De Brosney

My Garmin read 300 km 2 blocks from my house. I had done it. I got home, and immediately uploaded my ride. Strava said 299.9. You can’t go back out and add to a ride after, so that was that. Training Peaks read the same file as 300. I was so exhausted, I started to cry as Bryanna passed me some food. I cried because I was so proud of where I’d come. Having only ridden for three months, and still often feeling that certain lingering darkness from which I recently emerged breathing down my neck at times, I had done something I never imagined doing even at my healthiest. But going from being unable to get out of bed to riding for 10 hours and 300 kms filled me with a certain pride. I was proud of how far I’d come. I was happy that I was so mentally healthy. I might’ve also been a little pissed off at Strava, but, I also laughed about it. Of course I would end up 100 metres short of 300 km on Strava. Of course!

 

Here's a link to the route we did: Big Loop

 

Canada Games Summary

Canada Games wasn’t quite the experience I was hoping for. That being said, I’m grateful for the opportunity. And the highs were worth the lows. Needless to say, I’m glad I went.

Really, there was only one low, but it was a lingering low. The night before the time trial, I published a blog post about my pre-games thoughts. While I had no intention to offend, I obviously offended some readers, as my coach received some complaints.

Complainants were concerned that I had given away our team’s game plan by claiming that I was a weaker rider, and would not be one of Manitoba’s medal hopefuls. It was argued that teams might read my post, and then know that I’m not a rider they need worry about. I also mentioned in my post that I found it a bit difficult to be there in the position of a support rider and not a medal hopeful. It was not the role I had imagined for myself the year before.  Some people, I understand, were concerned that my competitive spirit may get the better of me, and I wouldn’t ride for the team. Others said something about me being there just to experience the games, and that I would not put any real effort into the races.

This was all a bit surprising; I had carefully worded what I wrote to try and explain that although it wasn’t the role I had hoped for before I had stopped riding back in winter, I had no intention of letting anything get in the way of me putting all I had into the races for the team.

I also felt a bit offended that readers had chosen to complain to my coach rather than approach me directly. Perhaps they didn’t respect me enough to voice their concerns to me directly or perhaps they were more comfortable enlisting a messenger. It was requested that I delete my post, which I did (from Facebook. It is still on my site). I let the episode get to me, in part because I had written my blogs through-out the season to work through my worries and anxieties. I felt that I was in a pretty good place before Canada Games. The Canada Games blog was part of the same exercise.  But that particular blog had made the situation worse. In addition to being anxious about it, I was also irritated. 

TT Pain. Taken by Bryanna.

TT Pain. Taken by Bryanna.

The next morning, I started the time trial in a pretty bad head-space. I was angry with myself, and at several people who didn’t appear to have made an effort to understand what it was I had said or think about either their misgivings about what I had written, or how to approach me.  No matter how hard I tried, it was all I could think about during the 30 or so minutes that I was out there on my own. I couldn’t focus. I was full of negative thoughts. I rode terribly, and finished 19th. In part my frustration stemmed from my willingness to be pretty open in my blogs versus the complainants’ lack of openness.

I rode on my own from the venue to Bryanna’s house instead of going with the team back to the village. It wasn’t a wise move if I intended to show that I did in fact have team spirit, but I knew what I needed to do to clear my head. I rode hard for the 30 km to her house. I put out the same power I would have in the tt, and might have yelled profanities every five pedal strokes to rid myself of my anger. The ride was fantastic, and the time I spent with Bryanna and her dad really made me feel better.

Two days later, I was in far better spirits for the road race. The racing started with attacks left and right from the first kilometre. We took turns covering moves, until I found myself off the front with one other rider. We lasted a few kilometres as we started the second lap, and then were swallowed by the peloton as a counter attack went. Eventually, that attack would form the lead group, which swelled to around 16 riders. Four of those riders were from Quebec, which was by far the strongest team. Three were from Manitoba. The only Manitobans left in the peloton were Danick and I.

I waited until the gap was around 25 seconds before trying to bridge on my own. I made it within five seconds of the lead group as we went through the start/finish. Right then, I saw the orange helmet of a Silber rider riding for Quebec look back, see me, and then accelerate, not interested in having a fourth Manitoba rider in their group. The group in front of me followed, and the pace was too high for me to make contact. I rode in no man’s land for a while before rejoining the peloton.

It was shit watching the race ride away from us. As pissed as I was, I knew it was harder on Danick. In an effort to lighten the mood, I joked about the peloton stopping and taking a break at the beach, before agreeing with Danick that we should get a proper training ride in, if nothing else. So the two of us spent the day at the front of our group, setting tempo. We weren’t chasing the group ahead, but were simply trying to control the gap, and prevent anyone from trying to attack (although an attack would have been useless). I decided to try and contend the field sprint, and somehow beat everyone in our group to finish 14th. It wasn’t an impressive result, but I still posted up and pointed at ‘Manitoba’ written across my chest, proud to represent in front of a (small) home crowd.

Little celebration after my sprint. 

Little celebration after my sprint. 

The last event was the criterium. It was a points format crit, which meant that there would be a sprint every fifth lap with points awarded to the first three to cross the line. This meant that whoever had the highest accumulation of points would win, and the winner wouldn’t necessarily be the first rider to cross the line at the end. I had never done a race like this, and was in for a real treat.

From the gun, the race was full-out. I tried to attack off the start line, but I think several others had the same idea, as it was a full-out four up match sprint to the first corner. I slotted in second, and tried to attack before the 180. I couldn’t get away, and the pace never eased up. By the second lap, nearly half the field was dropped, and I almost found myself caught in the split. I barely bridged to the lead group.

Quebec controlled the entire race. No one could challenge them. I did my best to help Kurt out, as our designated sprinter, but even he was struggling. I crossed the line in 6th, but finished 8th as I had no points. Unanimously, the team agreed that somehow, that was the hardest crit any of us had ever ridden. It was full gas for 75 minutes. It was relentless.

The team had some strong performances, but we left with no medals. That certainly wasn’t the expectation of the games, but we definitely rode hard and well. I was pleased with my performance in the crit, as it wasn’t an event that suited me, with it being flat and full of sprints. I was obviously disappointed with my time trial. I was happy with my sprint (I know it was for 14th) in the road race, but really wished I had been in the front group and finished higher up.

This winter I plan to work on time trial focus. This will help me deal with a mind that tends to wander.  The key to a solid time trial is focus. You shouldn’t be thinking of anything unrelated to the task at hand. No matter what might be going on, you need to give your performance undivided attention. I need to train my mind. If anyone has any tips on time trialing, I’d love to hear from you!

Team Manitoba. Left to right: Willem, Danick, Oli, Mitch, Kurt

Team Manitoba. Left to right: Willem, Danick, Oli, Mitch, Kurt

Pre-Games

I’ve been pretty busy during the approach to games. Putting in my last group rides to complete my two months of riding before the competition, running around finding loaner wheels and gear, travelling to Winnipeg, and now keeping up with the busy life of an Athlete’s Village.

I planned to blog while infected road rash kept me off the bike for a week, but sleep filled any time I thought I would have had for writing. I thought I could write on my way to Winnipeg, but again, the plane provided an opportunity to rest which was too valuable to pass up. Upon arriving in Winnipeg, I’ve been going non-stop trying to complete the final details in my preparation, and taking in all that the Games has to offer.

But I’m here now after a long journey. Maybe the journey started four years ago when I didn’t get to go to Sherbrook in 2013. Maybe it started in 2015 after Westerns, when I switched my sights to Canada Games. Or maybe the journey really started in March, when I thought I was walking away from cycling, and was certainly moving in a direction opposite to Games. Either way, I’m well aware that the journey I’ve taken to games has been less than direct, sometimes directionless, and definitely not ideal.

I’m here with different goals than what I imagined I’d have when I dreamed of being here. I realize that I’m not in the form that I had planned to be in last year, when I was having the season of my life, and thought it would only get better, continuing on a trajectory that would prove unsustainable. I’m not here with the expectation that I’ll get a medal. No one has that expectation for me. And I think I’m okay with that.

It’s not always easy at the team meetings when we discuss our medal hopefuls, and I’m not one of them. It’s simply not what I expected a year ago. And of course, not what I want now.

Something I’ve been working on is eliminating the envy I feel when my peers succeed. Often, I feel sorry for myself instead of proud of them; stuck wishing that I was the one winning races, or in a position to do so. Maybe that’s part of being competitive. I need that desire in order to find myself in that position again one day. But it’s not nice to catch yourself almost hoping your friend doesn’t win a race, just to spare you the jealousy. It’s almost toxic. It’s something I’m fighting.

But on that note, as I said before, I think I’m okay not having the expectation to medal. Instead, it’s expected that I will race for my team mates, and help them to medal. I wonder though, how will I feel after the races, if they do medal, and I’m left with 20th or something on the results page.

My goal for the races is to pour my heart into them. A team victory is still a victory. Jealousy has never gotten in the way during a race, only after. Jealousy aside, I’ll do what I came here to do. I’m not in the position to have the team behind me. I know that. So I don’t expect it.  Nor do I want that pressure right now. I’m here to ride for Team Manitoba. That’s just what I’ll do.

Me, Kurt, Danick. Heading to the village. 

Me, Kurt, Danick. Heading to the village. 

Apart from the races, I’m also here to experience games. Meet new people. Hang out with friends from around Canada. See family and friends from my hometown. Soak it all in, and have a good time off the bike. Racing isn’t only about the races. I’m here for it all. If I happen to have a bad race, it won’t ruin my week.

So far, it’s just been a lot of eating, trading pins, and helping my team mates with their Tinder game. A lot of swiping right has taken place in these past two days. The guys need to work on their pick-up lines a little, but they're getting there.

We met with a sport psychologist as a team last night as well. We discussed the certain pressures and potential triggers of multisport games. I can’t help but think my coach organized that with me in mind. I’m grateful for that. Canada Games has actually done a lot to consider the mental health of the athletes, with dogs coming in every evening from St John’s Ambulance as animal therapy, and sport psychologists available around the clock. It’s uplifting to see that level of awareness and effort.

We start the competition tomorrow with the time trial. It’s a 21 km race against the clock at Birds Hill Park. The racing starts around 10. If you’re in Winnipeg, you should come check it out! My plan is to ride hard. Really hard. We’ll see how it goes.

Before the competition starts though, I have some people to thank for getting me here. The Manitoba Provincial Team Committee has given me the chance to compete, despite clearly not being the most ideal candidate. They’ve given me an opportunity, and put faith in me that goes beyond letting me compete. The belief in me has motivated me in my training and racing leading up to Games. I know I might not have been a favourite, but I am so grateful to be here.

I also need to thank anyone who has read my blog. Anyone who has commented or wrote to me to encourage me on the way. Thank you for joining my team. Thank you for riding with me.

To all the volunteers at Games, all 6,000 of you, thank you so much! It’s uplifting to see the energy of so many people here feeding us, keeping us safe, putting venues together, and doing all the things we don’t see as well. Volunteers make our events possible, and without you there would be no games. So thank you.

Several people have also loaned me gear, so thank you John Holland, Erin Attwell, Chris Graham and Danick.

My point is, I didn’t get here alone. I’ve realized that I don’t have to try to get places on my own anymore. I’ve never been alone, it just took me a while to figure that out. I’m happy to be here, with a massive team. I hope to do you proud!

White Rock Road Race

Saturday, the 15th of July, the day before the White Rock Road Race, I started stressing. I was causing myself to become unnecessarily nervous and anxious.

I didn’t race on Saturday, as the plan had always been to rest the day before the road race. I got up and went for a morning spin as usual, but while I was waiting for the guys to meet me at the coffee shop, sitting/leaning on my bike’s top tube, I felt something poking through my shorts. I turned to examine my bike, and found a large hole in the carbon tube.

As I looked my bike over, I realized that my crash the night before had badly damaged the frame and it had gone unnoticed. Luckily, the damage was on the top tube, so racing for another 40 minutes after the crash had gone okay. I felt pretty lucky that the damage wasn’t on the fork, for example, in which case I likely would have crashed again. Either way, the damage had now become another stressor for me, particularly, as I didn’t want to give my mechanic more work or cost the team more in terms of equipment.

Doing my best to be relaxed during the race. Pic by Tammy Brimmer.

Doing my best to be relaxed during the race. Pic by Tammy Brimmer.

I remained in my home stay’s basement suite. As the day went on, I developed a head ache, a stomach ache, and my leg was killing me. It swelled so much that I started to wonder if I had broken my shin. It hurt more than road rash should have. I felt really tried all day, in part because the pain in my leg had prevented sleep the night before. Also, the week of racing had caught up to me.

I began psyching myself out. With nothing to do but sit on my bed, I told myself that I was screwed for tomorrow. I hadn’t done a road race in a year, less a week, and I was exhausted. White Rock is also the hardest road race I had done before, so it wasn’t exactly like I was easing into things. The truth is that I had no idea how I would do, so I scared myself into thinking that I would be shit.

I knew I needed to relax. I wanted to go spin to a coffee shop near the beach, but without a bike (our mechanic, Kevin, was in the process of building one up for me), and a leg too sore to walk, I stuck around.

I made myself lentil pasta for dinner. The idea was to use up all my food, and have leftovers for on the ferry the next day. I also thought that lentils would help ensure that I had no extra weight when I started the next morning, if you know what I mean. The race was essentially 134 km of hill repeats, so I wanted to be light.

I woke up on Sunday in much better spirits. I made my oatmeal, which I pre-mix at home and take with me everywhere I go. Having the same breakfast every morning is important to me. I keep things the same. I know what I can digest, what provides me with sufficient energy and what I like. It also allows me to save money. Spending causes me immense stress for some reason. Control what you can control, right?

Letting Smart Savvy chase. They were the only guys chasing. Nice rides guys! Pic by Tammy Brimmer.

Letting Smart Savvy chase. They were the only guys chasing. Nice rides guys! Pic by Tammy Brimmer.

My director had told me that he believed I could finish the race. I didn’t, but he did, and he had been watching me race all week. I took the pressure off myself. I’m not racing for a result; I’m racing to help my team. I decided that I probably wouldn’t finish, and that would be fine so long as I raced until I could race no longer. As we rode to the race, Chris asked why my bag was so full. I joked, and told him “I brought my laptop so that I could blog about the race after I get dropped.” My spirits were high, and the pre-race jitters were back, giving me the energy that I imagine a cup of coffee gives other racers.

Around 45 minutes to the start, I went to the washroom. This was perfect timing. The lentils worked. I felt light, and my stomach/gut felt perfect. Maybe the placebo effect was the greatest result, but small things can make a big difference.

Off the gun, team mate Alexis attacked. He broke away, and a few riders joined him. I stayed near the front of the peloton covering attempts to bridge. I made it through lap one, but the second and larger hill hurt. A lot. I covered an attempt to bridge by Paco Mancebo of Hangar15 at the start of the second hill, and my chest screamed at me as I pushed myself to hold on.

On the second, third and fourth lap, I lost contact with the peloton as we crested the second hill through the feedzone. Each time, I could see the orange kit of my best friend, Danick, barely holding on to the pack ahead of me. I wanted to be there with him. It was enough for me to put in a massive dig each time to get back before the decent. I knew that if I tried to slowly reel them back in, the gap would grow before the decent and I’d never see them again. I spent the rest of each lap at the front, covering what I could. I told Travis and Connor that I wasn’t going to make it and offered them my water and gels. Connor asked for a caffeine gel, and I was happy to contribute even if it was minimal.

We tried to get in a break once. Also by Tammy Brimmer.

We tried to get in a break once. Also by Tammy Brimmer.

On the fourth lap, as I caught back on, I rode beside Danick. He was dying too. I told him we could do this. But I told myself that it was okay that I wasn’t going to finish. I thought: you have an excuse. Your leg hurts. It’s okay. But my leg didn’t hurt. Not because of the injury anyway. I was just suffering. Don’t make excuses for yourself. You’re finishing this race.

Right then and there, I got my shit together. There’s a difference between having to work hard to achieve something, and not being able to achieve something because it’s simply impossible. I didn’t have a real excuse not to finish, and I wasn’t going to trick myself into thinking I did. I made the goal of finishing. It wouldn’t be impossible. Just hard. I had to ride defensively: riding at the front to cover moves and allowing myself to sag on climbs.

Somewhere within the next lap or two, the breakaway established itself. We had Travis, Connor and Alexis in it, along with the favourites from the other teams, such as Paco, Nigel Ellsay and Steve Fisher. The large teams were content with this, and the pace calmed down. I spent the rest of the day riding in the top 5-10 wheels. That’s where I’m most comfortable. I could cover attempts to bridge or chase.

My goal quickly changed from trying to finish, to getting a top 30. Then a top 20. With 30 km to go, I wanted a top 15. With 10 km to go, I wanted a top 10. With two laps of the small circuit remaining, we caught a couple of riders from the break, and a few others distanced themselves from the pack. I couldn’t hold their wheels.

As we crested the final hill, and all that remained was a descent into a sharp left, and then a 300 metre uphill drag to the finish, I tried to attack the peloton. I knew that if I could get a small gap there, then it would increase my chances of a decent result (I can’t sprint). My legs were pretty done by that point though, so I couldn’t get a real jump on my opponents. One rider managed to get ahead of me before the turn, and 5 or so guys jumped on behind me. I sprinted, and crossed the line right beside two others. It would have been a photo, but I got 12th, the same time as tenth. My team mate, Travis, had remained in the break, and pulled off a huge result by finishing second.

I definitely suffered a bit. Thanks for the proof Tammy Brimmer.

I definitely suffered a bit. Thanks for the proof Tammy Brimmer.

I was proud of my result, and my contribution to the team and the team’s result. Last year I finished 15th, and that was a big deal. Somehow I bettered my best result, after just over a month of riding. I was shocked.

I said goodbye to my team a couple of hours later. I left with a sense of satisfaction. I felt that I had proven my potential to my team mates.

BC Superweek: The Middle

I took last Monday totally off the bike to spend a little time walking the strip in White Rock along the beach. My one goal was to find the perfect chocolate dipped peanut butter cookie. Upon succeeding, I was ready for the action to resume on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s New West GP is BC Superweek’s newest event. For the race, our team only started eight of ten racers. We wanted to keep Ryan and Jure fresh for Gastown the following evening. Without our two sprint hopefuls, we were given a little more freedom in the hilly crit. Instead of working to keep everything together for a field sprint, we were to cover breakaways and try our hand at getting off the front. This meant that I was given the opportunity to try and finish well.

I started at the back, and by the third lap was leading the peloton and covering moves. During the first half of the race, I managed to spend a bit of time in different breakaway attempts. The longest I spent off the front was probably only twoish laps. The effort on the hill each lap was really taking its toll. I eventually found myself around the middle of the pack. I spent a bit of time there, too tired to get back to the front, and with three laps to go my team mate Travis yelled at me from behind to move up. I accelerated beside the peloton with Travis on my wheel and MA on his, with the intention of dropping them off at the front to set up for the sprint. The effort blew me up. With my work done, I moved back to 30th or so.

Off the front at New West GP Photo by Tammy Brimmer 

Off the front at New West GP Photo by Tammy Brimmer 

Just before the decent on the final lap, I saw a split form ahead of me. I had enough momentum to swing past the riders that were slowing, and sprint my way to 15th. That actually made me the third U23 finisher as well. It was my best result at a Superweek event.

I took Wednesday off to watch the Gastown GP, and returned to the start line for Thursday’s Giro Di Burnaby.  

I wasn’t looking forward to this race. Each lap is composed of a false-flat downhill leading into a hairpin, followed by a false flat uphill before four 90 degree corners leading back to the false-down through the start/finish and back into the hairpin. The course design meant that there would be a constant fight for position to be at the front, in order to lessen the effort of the sprint out of the hairpin every lap. I am not much of a sprinter- I don’t have the power. So doing 50 sprints out of the corner over the course of an hour would really wear me down.

Another breakaway attempt at New West. Photo by Scott Robarts

Another breakaway attempt at New West. Photo by Scott Robarts

As soon as the race started, a rider rode off the front solo. The course is perfect for a breakaway, as a single rider can ride through the hairpin much more quickly and efficiently than a peloton. It took me a few laps to get to the front, and as soon as I did, I started to chase. At first, only a couple of guys were there to share the effort. Eventually my team got organized and we started to chase, but by then it was too late. The gap was too big.

At one point, a gap opened up in front of me as we were chasing. A handful of riders, including three from my team, had a couple metres on me, and the rest of the peloton behind. Normally, you wouldn’t chase if your team mate’s were off the front, but in my head, I was thinking: they didn’t attack, the gap formed because I’m not strong enough to hold the wheel. I need to regain contact to keep the chase organized. In my head, I had ruined the chase because I couldn’t hold on, and I had to get my ass in gear and fix this.

Then I heard my team mates that were still behind me. “OLI!” “Fuck OLI” “RIDE OLI”. At least, that’s what I thought they were saying. I thought they were mad that I had let a gap open. I put my head down and hammered to close the little gap, determined not to let my team down. Once it was closed, my team mates that were behind rode up and asked me what I was doing.

Third wheel.

Third wheel.

That’s when I realized they were telling me not to ride. They wanted me to let them go. They wanted our guys to get off the front. I felt like such an idiot. That’s like the number one rule; don’t chase your team mates. I was so mad at myself. And I was upset that the team was mad at me, and rightly so.

I continued to ride, but with less heart. I wanted to stop. A few laps later as we approached the 180, I delayed hitting my brakes to overtake part of the decelerating peloton. As I tried to slot into the group, a rider elbowed me out of position right before the turn, so I had no choice but to dive in, and lean against my team mate Chris through the corner. He got pretty upset with me too and yelled at me for cutting him off. Again, I didn’t mean any harm, but I had fucked up.

I was feeling miserable. Questioning my judgement and decisions and wanting the race to be over. Then, a rider named Kyle on another team rode up next to me and said “Hey Oli. Three laps to go. HA!” There was nothing funny about it, but the guy was so relaxed, not a care in the world, and let out the funniest, loudest, single ‘HA’ I’d ever heard. I started laughing too. He had just informed me that the race was almost over, as well as reminded me that it was just a race. That’s all. He brought me back to earth.

And as I rode that third-last lap, I wondered if I should thank him. I decided not to, as he probably had no idea what I’d be thanking him for.

After the race, I rode over to my director. I was aware of how I felt – on the verge of tears, afraid that opening my mouth to speak would only permit me to cry. I quietly asked if we could for a walk.

With tears in my eyes, I explained what had happened. I told him I knew I made a mistake. I apologized. He told me I had no reason to apologize to him. He told me what he liked about how I rode that day. He helped me breathe. We hugged, and then he went back to pack the team van while I sat on the curb behind a building to take a minute. I smiled. I walked back to the van, and apologized to the guys.

This was a big deal for me. I wouldn’t have known how to properly handle this situation before. I would have held it in. I would have stayed mad at myself, assuming everyone hated me. Instead, I talked to the guys about it. I made sure people knew what I had intended, and made sure they knew that I owned my mistake(s).

Solo at PoCo... for a lap. Photo by Stirl and Rae

Solo at PoCo... for a lap. Photo by Stirl and Rae

I was determined to have a good race at PoCo on Friday, to make up for my less than ideal race on Thursday. Last year, I managed to finish 40th in the fast, technical crit. That was an accomplishment to me. This year, I was determined to help my team to a result, so I intended to work hard to get either an ideal breakaway scenario with our team represented, or to chase any move without one of our guys.

Off the gun, the same guy who broke away the day before rode off the front. It took a lap or two for me to get to the front, but knowing he was dangerous I chased him down as quickly as possible. When I had almost caught him, I attacked. I rode a lap or two with him before getting caught by the pack. I attacked again soon after, and rode a lap solo, before being joined by three others. We worked for a few laps in our breakaway, and as the front of the peloton made contact with our group, I entered a corner a little too fast, and my front wheel slid out over a ridge in the apex. Fortunately, I managed to get out of the way of the field and avoided getting tangled with other racers.

I went to the pit and took my free lap. I told Maxime that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get back in. Then I said ‘fuck it’ and got back on my bike with Kevin, the mechanic, holding me upright. I rejoined the back of the peloton, bleeding from my leg and elbow, but properly fueled with adrenaline. It took me five or six laps to get to the front. In the meantime, a breakaway of five had formed with team mate Jure in it. This was perfect, as he was strong enough to ride the break, and would likely win the sprint out of the small group. Unfortunately, he crashed out after a couple of laps on the same corner that I had.

I got to the front and chased hard, with the help of a few of my team mates and some others. We caught the break before the end, but weren’t able to secure the sprint without Jure. I was very happy with how I rode, and pleased with how I felt. I was proud that I continued racing after my crash as well. I also finished 26th, which was an improvement over last year.

So that’s a summary of the second part of Superweek for me, and concludes the criterium portion of the series. Those three races were host to my worst, and some of my best, moments of the week. I took Saturday off to rest and recover from my crash, before returning to the start line on Sunday. More on that later.

Photo by Stirl and Rae

Photo by Stirl and Rae