I had finished my season strong with an overall 2nd place in the multi-sport Canada Recharge with Milk Sprint Duathlon series. I was ready to wrap up the year and begin my off season training, until a friend contacted me with the opportunity to compete in the Redbull Race The Place, road race in Toronto. I immediately jumped on the chance to race one more time. We drove up the night before and crashed at my friends place so that I could be well rested. We both spent the night watching videos of the prior years race, studying the course as much as we could. My legs were tired, but my knee pain had went away and I was feeling good.
The morning of the race I had checked the weather network and it was going to be 7 degrees with 45km/h-70km/h winds. Those were not ideal conditions for a road race that was directly next to the lake with no buildings to filter the wind. We were in for quite the experience. We pulled into the race site at 8:45am and claimed our section in the parking lot/ pit area. Everywhere around us there were pro racers setup on turbo trainers and rollers with matching team cycle clothing getting prepared for their heats. I looked at my friend and we both realized we had bit off more then we could chew, not knowing what to expect or who we would be racing against. I was just going to lay it all out there and have a great time in the process. We walked into the registration tent and picked up our race kit and swag bag. The race was only $50 to register, but we had easily received over a $100 in free swag, food and Redbull.
Justin and I were both scheduled for heat 2 and had roughly 2 hours till the race start so we took to the course and drove in as many warm up laps as we could, knowing our actual race would be no longer then 16 minutes long. The course was unbelievably technical and fast, despite the overbearing wind on the straightaways. After the first lap I had dialled in my braking and acceleration zones and was ready for the race. I stayed out on the course as long as they would let me and tried to stay warm. Once we pulled off the course they announced that the first heat was about to begin. We racked our bikes and took to the spectator zone to watch the race.
Bang! The gun went off and 30 racers charged harder then I had ever seen in person before, to the first chicane. They had to have been easily accelerating up to over 50km/h, as they battled shoulder to shoulder trying to get the holeshot. After the first lap three racers had dropped the entire pack by nearly half a lap and flew through the finish line for the second lap, side by side. As we saw the lead group turn the final corner they had increased their lead by nearly another quarter lap and were in full sprint mode, gunning for the fastest lap time of the day. I knew there was no way I would be able to keep up with the pros, but I would give the others a run for their money.
It was time for our heat and I took my place at the front of the pack hoping that I would be able to accelerate away and hold a top spot for as long as I could. We had 3 minutes till the gun would go off and we all stood their shaking from the cold, conversing back and forth about how much fun this was going to be. The gun went off and I made quick time getting my loose foot clipped into my pedal and stood up to sprint. I maintained my place into the first chicane and kept right, tight in the lead group heading to the first climb. As we hit the climb, I could hear the stampede of racers behind me looking for a gap to squeeze through. I had lost about 8 places after the climb and tried to step it up. Their were racers crashing all over the place and I managed to dodge all the carnage coming out of the technical section. I hit the first straightaway and the wind brought me to a slow crawl. I tried everything I could to get through that section as fast as possible and get myself back in the trees again. I was sitting about half way through the pack at this point and came around to start my second lap. As I hit the line I looked at my computer and I had posted a time of 7:35 for the 3.9 km lap. It was by no means the fastest of the day but it was faster then I had expected and would put me in the top third of the lap times posted all day which I was thrilled about. I hit the second lap with about 8 riders behind me and closing fast. I kept my corners tight and held them off as long as I could coming into the last straightaway knowing they were on my tail. I crossed the line in 26th amongst some of the fastest cyclists I have ever had the pleasure of racing against which was far from a qualifying spot for the final, but I left the day with greater appreciation for how much effort it takes to be amongst the elite of our sport. I would like to thank Redbull Canada and Giant Bicycles for putting on such a great event despite the weather and I can’t wait to give it a go next year! Stay tuned for my season end awards celebration report Dec. 6th, thanks for listening!