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.
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.
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.
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).
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.