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

Superweek: The Beginning

As Superweek approached I had many things to consider, and prepare for.

First of all, apart from going to school in Campbell River, this would be the longest time spent without Bryanna since California. And that hadn’t gone well. During the time that I’ve struggled, I’ve grown more and more dependent on her company and support. Being away from her as I’m reintroduced to the world of racing, where things could, and most likely would, be difficult, was a bit unsettling.

There wasn’t much I could do to prepare for her absence other than committing to spending time with others, especially if I started feeling lonely, instead of wallowing. And if there weren’t others around, I planned to busy myself.

The next thing I had to think about was the fact that I’d be joining the team mid-way through the season. Everyone would be friends already, with bonds formed through several months of travelling and racing together, with their own inside jokes and trust. Although I was technically on the team, I hadn’t been a part of any of that. I would be ‘the new guy.’ I feared that I’d be seen as a nuisance, as I’m probably the team’s weakest link at this point. There are many other riders who are stronger, and could serve the team better than me.

I relaxed a little when I found out that two new signings would be joining the team at the same time. Although they’re head and shoulders above me in terms of talent and fitness, they were also new, so I wouldn’t be the only new guy.

Being slow was something else I knew would be an issue. I didn’t know how slow I would be though. I feared that I wouldn’t be able to finish the races. I didn’t want the team to question why resources would be wasted on someone who can’t even finish a crit.

Despite all my worries, I was excited to see the team. I couldn’t wait to meet everyone, and most of all, I couldn’t wait to contribute in some way.

The day before I left Victoria I started feeling sad around mid-day. By the evening, I was almost in tears. I quickly grew frustrated. I mean, perfect timing, right? About to leave to try riding my bike again and I’m depressed. Awesome.

I told my dad, and he reminded me that as quickly as it comes, it can go. I tried to keep that in mind.

In bed with Bryanna I started to cry. Why was this happening to me? Why is it that just as I’m getting back on my two feet, I bring myself down again? Why does biking seem, to make me sad? How am I going to make it at Superweek if I’m suddenly feeling down again?

As we lay there, Bryanna said something I had never thought about before. I can’t remember what it was exactly, but something along the lines of ‘Racing isn’t making you sad. You’re just sad tonight. You want to race, don’t you? Well that’s all there is to it.’

It was simple. It wasn’t anything special. But it was all I needed. I smiled. She knows me so well. The following morning at 5:30 as I got out of bed, I was excited again. It had gone as quickly as it had come.

The first race was the MK Delta Criterium.  We had a big team, with 10 guys starting. The course was hard, at 1.2 km with a steep hill. We would do 40 laps to cover 48 km in an hour.

Our team plan was to cover breaks, but not to pull through. We would sit on to ensure that our team was represented, but we weren’t to work. With 10-15 laps to go, our guys would take over the front of the race to form a lead out train. In doing so, the pace would be high enough to deter attacks, and bring back anyone who tried to get away. This would set up our new sprinter, Ryan, to go for the finish. My job was essentially to survive. I had to ride conservatively, and try to make it to the end. Our director, Maxime, put no expectations or pressure on me to perform. He reminded me to have fun on the bike, which was nice.

Corner three at the top of the hill on the MK Delta Crit course. 

Corner three at the top of the hill on the MK Delta Crit course. 

However, I didn’t want to sit in. I didn’t want to watch my team race as a team while I rode on my own, unable to contribute. I managed to start in the second row, so I covered the first few attacks and managed to spend the first few laps off the front, riding behind the leader, and not pulling through. I wasn’t supposed to pull through, but I also simply couldn’t, as the pace was too high. I did what I could for the first half, chasing down a few moves and closing gaps (sometimes the gap was formed by me being unable to hold the wheel ahead of me).

By the time the team had organized a lead out, I was holding on for dear life near the back. I watched as they rode as a team, and wished I was there. I wanted to help. The lead out didn’t quite make it, but it looked good.

I was absolutely toast by the end. Mid-way through I didn’t think I would make it. But I was pleased to finish. I was happy to contribute a very, very small amount for the team, but wasn’t happy that I hadn’t been there when it really counted at the end.  Maxime seemed quite pleased with my ride though, and a few guys from the team gave me props as well. I had exceeded the expectations of a few guys, at least.

So that put me in good spirits. Although I hadn’t impressed myself, the reality was that I had done a decent job after a month’s worth of riding. And I felt that I was already perhaps starting to show that I deserved to be there. And maybe I only really have to prove that to myself, but it was a good start.

On Saturday we raced the Ladner Crit. The plan was similar to the night before. We wanted a field sprint for Ryan. The course suited him better too, as it was pan flat. This time, I started at the back. The pace was pretty high, and I tried to fight my way to the front. I was quite timid in the pack though, not quite accustomed to being bar to bar, shoulder to shoulder. I had a lot of trouble moving up. It was also a really fast race, so without proper fitness, I was having a lot of trouble.

I never saw the front. I got caught behind a couple crashes. One was pretty big with around 20 laps remaining. Once I got back in the race I was tired, and at the back. The pace was high, and I was even more cautious. Caution doesn’t really earn you anything in a crit. I watched my team mates on the front form a lead out, and Ryan finished fourth. I held on and finished near the back.

I was expecting to do better on the second day, but I was definitely not proud of that race.

On Sunday I rode with MA to the UCI Delta Road race. Only 6 of our guys were racing, so we decided to get some training in. I couldn’t believe how tired I was, and after only 30 km I tucked into his draft until we got to the race. We spent the rest of the day in the feed zone with the other guys who weren’t racing, handing bottles and gels to the guys.

The team put on an incredible show. With a huge lead-out over the last 2 km, Ryan managed to pull off a second place in the field sprint. It came down to a bike throw, and he was no more than a few inches from the win. It felt good to play a tiny part in it by handing the guys bottles as they did the hard work. It felt like the whole team was committed to getting that result.

After two races, I know that I’m nowhere near the level that I want to be. I’m happy to be with the team, and I’m happy to have made a decent first impression in the first race. Today is a much needed rest day, and the racing starts anew tomorrow with the New West Grand Prix.  I’m planning to be of some assistance to the team then too, somehow!

Warming up for the Ladner crit. Photo taken by Stirl and Rae.

Warming up for the Ladner crit. Photo taken by Stirl and Rae.

Week Three

I took Monday off and tried to plan Tuesday’s training. As I anticipated the ride I grew anxious. I had to do intervals. I hadn’t done any intervals since getting back on the bike. What if I couldn’t do them? No one would be available to ride with me except Isaac Leblanc. And Isaac was only available at 7:30 am. I wanted someone to go with, but later in the day, when it would be warm.

At 10 pm on Monday, I still didn’t have a plan.

I saw myself 6 months ago, reading and re-reading my workout description on Training Peaks, constantly finding some task to avoid having to get on my rollers, eventually deciding that it was too late to ride. I feared intervals at that time, as they were a daily reminder of how much I sucked. At least, that’s how I saw things then.

Basically, I was afraid that I would be disappointed with my numbers again. I was afraid to be alone. I was afraid of my past. But, intent on continuing with my positive trajectory, I texted Isaac and told him I’d meet him at 7:30.

On Tuesday I set out for my first intervals of the season. I had to do three sets of three intervals. The first two of each set were three minutes long, ranging from a functional threshold power, to slightly over. The third interval was 4.5 minutes, with the power increasing from threshold to max. Each effort was based on power, but I never-the-less failed to set aside my fear of numbers, and opted not to put a power meter on.

I was in good company with Isaac. Trevor Mackenzie also joined us.

I based the intervals on feel (not the most advanced technique). Right away I knew this was silly, but there was nothing I could do at this point. I had made a choice, so now I’d need to deal with it. I think it was for the best in the end. I rode hard. And riding hard was the point; not being glued to a screen. I also didn’t risk upsetting myself.

I felt good enough about Tuesday to throw on a power meter later that afternoon for Wednesday’s intervals. Dylan Cunningham, an old team mate from Russ Hay’s, had kindly lent me his.

On Wednesday, after speaking to coach Jay, I set out for an hour and a half ride before my intervals. I’m not a fan of going out for a short ride constructed around a handful of short efforts. An hour and a half riding doesn’t leave me feeling accomplished. You spend half the time wishing time would speed up as you push through an interval, and then you kill time between efforts as you wait for the next. Or you wish time would slow down to allow adequate rest between intervals. Either way, you don’t exactly focus on simply enjoying the ride.

For my six, five - minute intervals, I managed to hold the prescribed power. I struggled on the first two, often falling just below the goal. It was sort of strange, as I talked to myself about it.

‘I feel like I can do the power, I’m just not doing it. It’s not like I’m super tired or sore during or after.’

‘You can do it. Obviously you just have to be willing to push past the point of pain, and sit in it. Grow comfortable there. Hurt now, hurt less later. You’re capable of this. You’re only a few watts off’

It may sound ridiculous. I don’t know if it is or not. But these conversations (thoughts) I’ve been having are really beginning to allow me to address and overcome issues I face.

The intervals were fine, and the ride was actually enjoyable. I made it about more than intervals. I was happy to hold my target power.

The original plan for this week had me taking Thursday off, doing an easy spin on Friday, and then heading to Hurricane Ridge on Saturday for the annual Canada Day climb. Then, I would race the Windsor Park crit on Sunday. However, on Tuesday I called Jay to suggest I do more. As much as I wanted to take it easier to be fresh for Sunday’s race, I have limited time to train. I need to make the most of it, and I felt that more volume would better prepare me for bigger races later on. The Windsor Park crit would be great to do well in, but with bigger races to target and not a lot of time to train for them, I have to pick my battles.

Canada Day ride to Mile 0 of the Trans Canada after Oak Bay.

Canada Day ride to Mile 0 of the Trans Canada after Oak Bay.

After taking Thursday off, Friday started with the 6 am hammer fest once again. I felt strong this week, and stayed near the front over the kickers, and then managed to make a selection of 6 strong guys for the final 15-20 minutes of the ride. We rode hard, but steady, rolling through like a proper breakaway. Everyone pulled, determined to cross the line first, and get a hard morning of training in. I finished second in the sprint.

Andrew Russel joined me after winning the sprint, and we went for another two hours. We did almost the same route that I did last Friday, except it was slightly hillier and much harder. A-Russ is one of several Victorian strong-man masters, and he always knows how to put the hurt on.

On Saturday I did the Oak Bay ride. The group was quite small, as many were doing Hurricane Ridge, and some were taking the day off to rest before Sunday’s race. Craig Ritchey of the Garneau-Easton professional cyclocross team made an appearance, so I knew we weren’t off the hook.

Once we reached Lands-End, where the flag drops with about 30-40 km to go, the pace quickly picked up. Soon we were in a selection of six. Just like Friday, we rolled at a hard, steady tempo. Each of us doing our share of the work, like a proper breakaway. No bullshit. Just riding bikes. Hard.

I sprinted over the top of Panorama, just to feed my ego. No one else tried, so it meant nothing, but I just wanted to make sure I could. Little things like that can keep it fun.

Again, I got second in the sprint, after the group had reduced to four. Nothing special, but I made it.

On Sunday I got up before the crit and watched Taylor Phinney claim the polka dot jersey in the Tour, after completing around 200 km in the break and being caught as he approached the flamme rouge, indicating one km before the finish. For those of you who don’t know, Taylor injured his leg terribly a few weeks before what would have been his Tour de France debut in 2014. He was forced to take a long, long time to recover, and spent a lot of time in contemplation. He also took up painting. Three years down the road, he’s finally racing his first Tour, and on the first road stage, at the first opportunity, he found himself in the Tour’s first breakaway, claiming the first polka dot jersey, and came very close to a podium.

I was inspired.

I spun down to the race, feeling tired, but confident. I had been really strong all week, and for the first time this year, I went in with the goal of winning and the necessary, cautious, confidence that I could be in contention.

The race started, and on the first lap a break of two went up the road. I put in a couple efforts to chase, and on the fourth lap as the pack caught me, I saw Emile de Rosney accelerating up the right hand side of the road with another rider in his draft. I looked across and watched as I accelerated to match their speed before swinging across and jumping on. Soon we were a group of four, and a few laps later we caught the original break of two.

Around mid-way through the race, a bee stung me right on the nose. It was frustrating for a second, but served as nothing more than a bit of a distraction for a few laps. As we entered the last 10-15 minutes of racing, two guys in the break collided in the second corner. Somehow, miraculously, they stayed up, after rounding the corner on their front wheels. The collision resulted in a flat tire and our group slowed down as we re-organized. Now we were down to four. The chasing peloton had us in their sights - about 10-15 seconds behind us.

Entering the second to last corner on the final lap, Nick Rowe attacked, and I followed Nick Monette. He looked fresh, so I expected him to chase after Rowe. Simultaneously, Isaac Leblanc made contact with us, bringing the peloton with him. Nick Monette wasn’t as fresh as I had thought, and led through the corner a little slower than I’d have liked. I came around him as we exited the final corner, but Nick Rowe was long gone. The race was for second now. I sprinted as hard as I could, only to have Isaac get me on the line with a bike throw. We’re still friends.

I was disappointed for a second, and that was all I gave myself. At the end of a hard three week block, I managed to get on the podium. I knew I was strong enough to be there, and I lost due to a tactical error. For once, I felt fit enough to win, and that’s a big victory for me. I’ll definitely push it next time, and try an attack like Nick’s if I’m ever in a similar position. I had considered trying to do something like that, but figured it was too risky. Races are about taking risks though, so I’ll know for next time.

Emile de Rosney and I went for a solid ride after. Each time we completed a section of the ride, we’d decide to ride further instead of turning home as per the original plan. We were both just stoked on riding. It was a great feeling to have. Usually, after a race, I would go home. But I wanted to keep training.

Post Windsor Crit. I was super happy to see that my room mate and his son, Justin, were there cheering! Justin even got to ring the bell indicating the last lap. 

Post Windsor Crit. I was super happy to see that my room mate and his son, Justin, were there cheering! Justin even got to ring the bell indicating the last lap. 

So that’s week three. Another 17 hour week with 530 km ridden, and a ‘podium’. In the scheme of things, it’s a small, local race, but it’s a testament to how much I’ve improved in the last few weeks. It feels good too! And it’s good timing as well, because I’m going to BC Superweek.

I’ll tell you more about it in a couple of days, but I’m extremely excited (and nervous). Next Friday I’ll finally be kitting up with the H&R boys, and will be entering my first race of the season.

If you're interested, click to learn more about Taylor Phinney!  I think he's pretty cool.

Week Two

After my first week of hard work, I took Monday off to recover a bit. My motivation was high going into week two, and with sunny days in the forecast I was looking forward to riding.

Sydney Velo cycling club hosts a 17.5 km time trial every Tuesday evening in the summer. I decided to give it a shot last week, so I hopped on a time trial bike for the first time since last July. It was my first time ever riding my team-provided bike.

Pre tt shot to mark the occasion.  

Pre tt shot to mark the occasion.  

 I rode to the race, trying to get comfortable with the faintly-familiar aero position. I stopped several times to adjust the saddle height, and was pleasantly surprised by how good the bike felt. Perhaps I felt a bit relieved as well. I was still stressed on the way there though, anxious about the tt. I hadn’t pushed myself in a time trial for ages, and I’ve not been fond of them since returning to racing after my concussion in 2015. My mind always wanders during the effort, and I’m invariably disappointed by my time.

I made an effort to start the race with a positive mindset. The last thing I need to do is psyche myself out. There was no pressure on me, and physically I felt good. I told myself to forget about any of my past time trials. I’m starting over with cycling, so this would be my first tt. You can’t express negative thoughts toward an experience you’ve never had, right?

I wasn’t sure what to aim for, but figured 25 minutes would be a decent goal, keeping in mind that I’m not yet fit. I paced it quite well, with a first lap of just under 12 minutes. As I crossed the start/finish, I decided I should have been aiming for a time of 23 minutes. I tried to pick it up a little, but ended up with 23:40, which was good enough for fourth, 30 seconds off the winning time set by Jay Lamareaux. I was pleased, and rode up Mt. Doug on the way home.

On Wednesday I rode (hammered) with the Victoria Wheelers team to get to the Caleb Pike VCL. Caleb Pike is another 2.7ish km circuit race, which we ride around 18 times. I spent the day on and off the front, safe from crashes and prepared to bridge to attempted attacks. I didn’t spend a single full lap in the pack, but was unsuccessful in all of my attempts to stay away. With Caleb Pike being the final stage of the Broad Street Omnium, teams in contention for the overall were never happy having anyone up the road. My main motive was to get a hard ride in though, and that I did.

Coming into the finish I was in a decent position on Isaac Leblanc’s wheel, but a rider with more momentum came from behind and took my line, forcing me to brake. Lots of guys got around me and that was that. After the race, I rode the long way home with some Wheelers.

I took Thursday off, and on Friday I did the 6 am Tripleshot Hammer Fest again. This time, I felt strong, and made it further than the 20th minute, which marked my fate the previous week. I was leading the group over the little kickers on the route, and held out for a photo finish with my old team mate Raph in final sprint. I continued on for another two hours of endurance, on a beautifully sunny morning. I finished with 105 km by 9:15. It was a really, really good day for my morale.

Third wheel at Caleb Pike VCL. Photo taken by Maxim Ellison

Third wheel at Caleb Pike VCL. Photo taken by Maxim Ellison

I then spent several hours hiking and swimming at Sooke Potholes. I definitely spent a little too much time in the sun.

The Oak Bay ride on Saturday was a little more of a challenge. I was tired and woke up feeling a bit cold-like. Perhaps so many hours in the sun the previous day had taken a bit of a toll. It was another gorgeous day though, and it was the first ride of the year that I set out with only a short-sleeved jersey and shorts, no arm-warmers or vest. We had a massive turnout. I was able to stay with the lead group and finished third or fourth in the sprint, but I definitely wasn’t as strong as I would have liked.

I was happy to discover the freshly baked brownies at Oak Bay Bicycles on my way home. That was definitely the highlight of the ride.

I had no one to ride with on Sunday, so I tried out a group ride that I had just learned about. We met for the Tripleshot ‘gentlemen’s’ ride at 7:30; a friendly group made-up mostly of masters. It rolls at a steady 30-35 kph for two hours, with a couple of little sprints and rest breaks along the way. At first I was concerned with how slow we were going, thinking that I needed to be riding harder and pushing myself. After a while, I managed to relax, telling myself to remember not to sink into old habits; not to remove the fun.

I enjoyed the friendly chats and encouragement, and before I knew it, I only had two hours left of my four hour ride. I rode with a friend for an hour, then went to William Head Correctional Institution and got yelled at by an invisible man for hanging out in the parking lot for too long. So I rode home.

 I’ve never done a ride like the gentlemen’s’ before, and I quite enjoyed it. I’ll be doing it again for sure.

Another week done and another 17 hours and 500+ km on Training Peaks.  I’ve got a long, long way to go, but I’m happy with how far I’ve come thus far. No wins in the foreseeable future, but hopefully I’ll be helping out the H&R boys soon enough!

Climbing next to Maryvine Falls after the ride on Friday. 

Climbing next to Maryvine Falls after the ride on Friday. 

A Revelation

I believe that I was one of the fastest junior road cyclists in Canada last year. For a couple of years before that, I believed that I one day could be Canada’s fastest junior. But, I didn’t believe in myself beyond that. I didn’t even really think of any ‘beyond that’.

Many of my ambitions and goals have always had a ‘best by’ date. I haven’t been fully aware of this until now-I had essentially set every goal of mine to be achieved before I turned 18. With nationals taking place this weekend, many thoughts are racing through my head. I am realizing that every goal of mine has, up until now, had a best-by date.

My first experience with road nationals was as a second year cadet racing a year up with the junior men. The course was hilly which suited me quite well, and I finished 16th. That wasn’t too bad for my age, I’d like to think.

In 2015, I sat nationals out due to a concussion. This was tough as I was coming into great form at the beginning of June right before my crash. The national’s course was hilly again, and the World’s course was also hilly that year, which I potentially could have qualified for. None of this, of course, is a given, as anything could have happened, but I’m well aware that my best chance at a result in the nationals road race was in 2015.

That year, as we approached nationals, I became very depressed. I had spent a week alone in a dark room, followed by two weeks in a mostly dark basement, permitted only to walk for a couple of minutes a day. I had to follow along with the race on twitter, in a basement, alone, and unfit. That was the first time I somewhat addressed my depression internally, and decided to try and do something about it. I moved home to be with my girlfriend and have a bit of a ‘normal’ summer. We went to the beach a lot and had late nights. Something I’d never really done as I was always busy racing or training.

All the while though, in the back of my head was the unshakeable notion that I had missed an opportunity to perhaps be Canada’s fastest junior.

I entered the 2016 season with the idea that this would be my last chance. Again, I found the best form I’ve ever had. I was riding really strong and went into nationals confident that I would be a contender. Unfortunately, the course was pan flat, and that didn’t suit me at all. I raced my heart out and had a ton of fun. But my result was not impressive. My final chance at getting that maple leaf jersey had come and gone, and I was left empty handed.

Break away at 2016 Junior Road Nationals in Ottawa.

Break away at 2016 Junior Road Nationals in Ottawa.

As I rode on my own this past Friday morning, I thought a lot about past nationals, and this year’s races which would begin the following day. I was reminded of my failed attempts, and ultimately my unachieved goal. I started to feel a little down about it as well. I was disappointed. But I told myself to move on. I’m no longer a junior, so I mustn’t dwell on the past. I can’t let it bring me down. I missed my chance, so now I had to move on. Then, I had a thought. I asked myself why I had never even considered trying to podium in the U23 race.

I was so focussed for so long on what seemed to be long-term goals. But I was oblivious to the bigger picture, and, somehow, of the fact that I could be competitive after being a junior. I think that I’ve always seen U23 and elite races as light-years above my capabilities. To set a goal for a race of that caliber would be silly. Impossible to achieve.

As a cadet, I may have believed that I could be the fastest junior one day. But as a junior, I never believed that I could one day be among the fastest U23’s. I’m not saying that I think I will be. However, I have to build a new mindset, with new goals and consider new possibilities to U23 and beyond.

The way I’m looking at things now, I have three more years to try and get that jersey as a U23. I’m taking things one step at a time, and have other goals that I’m working towards right now, most importantly getting strong enough to race properly again, but I’ve come to the realization that I do have other opportunities, if I choose to take them.

I don’t have to believe that I peaked as a junior. If I continue with that notion, I may as well stop riding now. Without ambitions, there’s no hope for me in cycling. I need to set goals, and believe that the seemingly impossible is in fact possible. As I focus on the next two months, I’m making an effort to reinvent my cycling future, in order to create new opportunities.

Maybe I’ll have another shot at that jersey after all. Maybe.