Tag Archives: racing

Grand Prix Cycliste 2010 – Quebec City

As I mentioned in my previous post, we traveled to Canada earlier this month to watch the Grand Prix Cycliste in Quebec and Montreal. This is my account of the Quebec trip.

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Route marker for the race.

I had heard so many people say such wonderful things about Quebec. Mainly the comments were that Quebec is like stepping into a European town. They were exactly right!

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My only concern was the language barrier. I only say this because I took a required two years of French in High School and it was not something I did well at and have forgotten anything I might have learned. I found that most people were perfectly willing to speak English to us, even though I was under the impression that some felt if you didn’t try to speak French they would just give you the cold shoulder. I did not find this to be the case at all.

So our morning started off with a simple continental breakfast at the hotel then a walk to Starbucks for some decent coffee. Luckily I speak the international language of Starbucks!

As we stood in line at Starbucks it was apparent that many of the ProTour riders were also there for a bit of caffeine prior to the upcoming race. Then I gazed down the line only to see George Hincapie and Chad Beyer in line. Soon Jens Voigt also joined them at the end of the line. They were gracious enough to allow me to get a photo of them with my friend Suzy so early in the morning.


Jens Voigt, Chad Beyer, Susan Hall, and George Hincapie.

My only regret at that moment was not bringing my CSC jacket with me. I had brought it to Canada in search of Jens to sign it. A few years back, at the Tour de Georgia, I was lucky enough to have Bobby Julich and other team members sign it. That was the last year CSC sponsored the team before it became Saxo Bank. It was also the last year that Bobby Julich raced. Jens was part of that team then, too, so it only seemed fitting that his signature be on this jacket as well.

After grabbing coffee we headed out to walk some portions of the course to scope out vantage points for taking photos. There were very few people milling about at that time so it was lovely to walk along the quaint streets without the throngs of people that would later line the streets during the race.

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Streets barricaded for the race.

It was then time to check out of the hotel and head to the race start for the team presentations. Having never seen the team presentations, I expected it to be a bit more organized than it was. The riders seemed to flow in casually. In fact Team Radio Shack signed in with only 6 of its 8 riders. I noticed that Horner was one of the riders missing. He and another member showed up a bit later and stood for their applause. It was actually a funny moment.

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Zubeldia and Irizar

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Irizar and Popovych

I love the two photos above and wonder what the story behind them was. Was it Irizar’s plan to get into the break, which he did, and who he could convince to go with him? Or was he laughing at a prank he played on Horner and Brajkovic, causing them to be late?

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Chris Horner and Jani Brajkovic showed up later than the rest of the team.

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Dominique Rollin (left) riding for the Canadian team powered by Spider Tech received a huge round of applause.

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Jens also received a big round of applause. Always a crowd favorite!

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Tom Stamsnijder, Steven Kruijswijk, and Maarten Tjallingii.

Once the team presentations were complete we wanted to head out onto the course to set up for photos. Along our walk we saw the team cars lined up with a few of the cyclists milling about.


Team cars lined up and ready to go.

Of course I stopped at the Saxo car to see Jens again. He was in the process of casually repairing his shoes and entertaining the crowd at the same time.

I wasn’t sure if he would be signing autographs when he was done but he did. So I whipped out my CSC jacket for signing. I also wanted to have my photo taken with him. He said, “Hey, didn’t we already do this earlier?” I replied, “Yes, but I wasn’t in the photo!” (Jens remembering me from Starbucks was the highlight of my day!)

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Me and Jens.

I previously mentioned Bobby Julich, who is one of my all time favorite riders and I was so sad when he retired from cycling. So I was thrilled to know he was at this event. Even though I didn’t get a chance to have a photo with him my husband did snap some pictures of him for me!

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Team Saxo Bank Director, Bobby Julich.

Then it was off to the job of photographing the race. We set up on the first climb, Cote de la Montagne, for a few laps. There were tons of people but we managed a few good spots for photos before moving further along the course for more photos. Doing this meant better photo opportunities because there were fewer people. It also gave us different angles of the riders throughout the race.

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Quebec City lent itself to a very technical course of winding roads on somewhat narrow streets, with a few challenging climbs.

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Always a sign of a big race when a helicopter is in the sky for live feeds of the race.

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I was so thankful for Twitter while we were in Quebec. Between the Grand Prix Cycliste, Podium Insight, and BMC Racing I felt like I had a little bit more inside information to the race and what was going on compared to what we could see out on the course. Following these individuals also proved invaluable at the Montreal race as well.

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The crowds at the finish line.

As the race was nearing its end we walked our way along the course back to the start/finish line. While waiting for the race to end we started talking with a lovely man from the area. He wanted to know where we were from and once we told him he mentioned he had visited Old Orchard Beach when he was younger. (Old Orchard Beach is approximately 20 miles south of Portland and a summer haven for Canadian tourists.)

We told him how much we loved visiting his city and he was also more than happy to give us the rundown on Quebec City and all the various events they have going on throughout the year that was should come back for. It was such a pleasure speaking with him. It’s always nice to meet friendly locals who are proud of their city and get so excited to tell you all the wonderful things about where they live.

All in all, the Quebec race was well attended for a Friday. There was not a lot of action within the race except for the last few laps. Thomas Voeckler of BBox ended up winning the race. Later he said that he went off the front and didn’t believe he’d be able to manage the lead as he approached the finish. But the chasers didn’t seem to get organized enough to chase him down. We did watch the race the following weekend on Versus and the look on Voeckler’s face said it all.

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Rollin after the race rollin’ back to the hotel.

The barricades along the streets would be up for a while after the race, which meant we were blocked into the Hotel parking lot, we decided to grab some dinner before heading to Montreal for the remainder of the weekend. Just as we made our way back to the parking lot they were taking down the barricades and we departed on our 3-hour drive to Montreal.

We all felt like we were short changed with our visit to Quebec City. Not only does my husband want to go back for Winter Carnival, but next year we’ll go to Quebec City on a Wednesday and travel to Montreal on Saturday to allow for more time and sight seeing.

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A fan along the route.

Obviously it was impossible to post all our 800+ photos here on the blog. Click HERE to see all our photos from Quebec.

I’ll be posting my account of the Montreal race in my next post. Stay tuned!

More to Racing Than Just Winning

The Scarborough Industrial Park Spring Crit Series began today.

This year they added a women’s race and combined them with beginners to get them to try criterium racing.

The women’s race started at 7:30, which was a new addition this year. That meant that my warm-up ride to the event needed to start pretty early, between 6 and 6:15 am. I was thankful that the temperature was in the low 50’s when I started off and was predicted to reach 70 degrees today. Odd for so early in April but happily so. Last year it was very cold and I remember going to watch the previous year and it was just as cold.

Unfortunately there were only a few of us on the line for the first race. However, it’s Easter Sunday so many people had family obligations I’m sure.

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The start of the Women’s/Beginner race.

I was happy that another PVC member joined me for the race.

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Me and a teammate, Elizabeth Ehrenfeld.

I stayed out of the wind and on a wheel the entire race but couldn’t match the acceleration in the end and finished, unbelievably, DFL. Sheesh!

Then I hit the start line for the B-race.

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I managed to hang on for 6 of the 12 laps. I almost got dropped on the 4th or 5th lap and managed to get back onto the back of the group. Then the bell rang for a preme lap and I got dropped. I wasn’t surprised and I just sat up and pulled out.

All things considered I feel pretty good about how I performed. Sure I finished last in af the women’s race. Sure I pulled out of the B-race 1/2 way through after being dropped. Still, I was there and rode some of my best riding. I cornered better than I have ever cornered. When I was getting gapped in the women’s race on the corners I assessed why that was and made adjustments. I was focused and relaxed.

There is more to racing than just winning.

My New Toy

This post has been a while in the making. Unfortunately I’ve just been too busy to get to it.

Several weeks ago, for Valentine’s Day, my Valentine gave me a power tap for my bike, which I have been wanting for a long time.

So I’ve had the device installed on my bike for a couple weeks now. I’ve used it outside and inside. It’s actually kinda cool. And as we all know, it’s the best way to measure performance and thus progress in training and fitness.

Since it’s only been a couple weeks I can’t actually say much about it. It’s going to take some time to learn more about it and how to get the most out of it. It will probably require me to purchase a book on how to train with a power meter. At the cost of <$20.00 that’s a pretty inexpensive must have.

For the time I have spent using the power meter and getting used to the software it’s been great. The software is super easy to use, read and gather data.

Luckily the weather here on the coast of Maine continues to be really nice with now snow in weeks and what precipitation we did have fell in the form of rain. And with temperatures predicted to be in the upper 40’s and low 50’s it’s going to be a great weekend to get out and use the power meter on the road.

Saco Bay Criterium

Early this spring my husband and I took the class/exam to receive our USA Cycling Class C Officials license. Normally you’d work on shadowing some officials to see how the duties are done and then start working some races as assistant officials. However, my husband and I never got around to doing that.

Recently I was asked by the Southern Maine Cycling Club to work as an official on a volunteer basis at the Saco Bay Criterium to keep the expenses down. Of course they wouldn’t  just ask this unless we had offered to do that, which we did earlier in the year. I was happy to oblige!

Unfortunately my husband came down with a bug late in the week and was not able to go but I still attended.

It was fun and definitely a learning experience. I was very nervous at first with the scoring but finally got the hang of it. Luckily the first few races had pretty small fields so scoring was easy.

It was a pretty cool day with some gusty wind. Unfortunately the officials’ table was in the shade all day. A couple cups of coffee helped to warm me up a bit but there were time it was pretty chilly and my hands didn’t want to write much but I managed. Luckily the wind died down toward the end of the day.

Of course being at the race I wasn’t able to take photos but I did snap this at the start of the Pro/1/2 start:

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One of the best moments of the race was during the Men’s 4/5 when Chris Esposito was in a break with another guy (sorry, I don’t have the name) after the first two laps.  On the final lap we saw Chris come around the last corner completely alone. I thought, “wow, he seriously dropped that other rider.” But it seems that the guy clipped a pedal on the last conner, somehow causing his chain to come off. He was about 200+ meters away when Chris crossed the line. The guy stopped to try to get the chain back on when the announcer yelled to him to make a run for it. (They were so far in front of the rest of the field that he’d still finish 2nd.) So he did as the crowd cheered him on while clip-clopping up the hill in his cycling shoes. He indeed finished second, well ahead of the rest of the field.

I should also tell you that Chris Esposito is a junior racer so by USA Cycling regulations he must race with junior gears. They are much lower than normal gearing. I can only imagine what Chris will do when he is able to race with standard gear ratios. (Chris also won the junior 15-18 race.)

The other rather memorable moment was when the winner of the Cat 3 race lapped the main field with 2 laps to go after riding at least 1/2 the race on the front in a solo break. That’s just something you don’t see very often. As you can imagine he won the race.

Local pro cyclist Dan Vaillancourt also cleaned up on the premes though he lost the race, also to a solo breakaway. There were a lot of those today! Incidentally, the man who won the Pro1/2 race is a young man from the Portsmouth area with aspirations to win that criterium too.

One disappointing part of the race was the women’s field. There were 11 women on the line – 6 for the Cat 1/2/3 field and 5 for the Cat 4. It often looked like a time trial out there instead of a criterium. The men’s 55+ was equally as disappointing with only a handful of guys on the line. I suppose the timing of the race was a little tough, conflicting with a few other races/events happening in the area, including a cyclocross race. Tomorrow’s Portsmouth Criterium should include much larger fields.

It was a great learning experience and I enjoyed working with Paula, Mark and Jim very much. I’m sure I’ll be helping out with this one again next year!

Lake Auburn Road Race Recap

I was pretty excited about a race so close to home. Instead of driving 2+ hours to a race, there was a nice one in my “back yard” of Auburn, Maine, only 45 minutes away.

The pre-race jitters started 24 hours before the race. My stomach was doing flops all day Friday and into the morning of the race. The only time they really settled down was when I got on the bike to warm up.

As soon as I had arrived I realized I had forgotten to pack my race license. I’ll tell ya, it seems like it’s always something before every race. Luckily they let me check in anyway – probably helped that I had registered on line.

I seemed to stand in line forever for the porta-potty. Two were just not enough!

Then with shaking hands I fumbled with pinning on my race number. Better to have it on early then to try getting it on right before. 

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Ready to start warming up.
 

Finally I got on the bike to warm up. I went the opposite way of the route to avoid some of the climbs at first, to give me a better chance to warm up. Then it was time to turn around and do a little climbing, especially the big climb that the race starts with.

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Chatting with a friend before the start.

The length of the route was 11.5 miles and the women raced 3 laps. After a downhill, followed by an uphill, the first half of the course is pretty flat and the second have has mostly rollers with a few short, steeper second. The finish is a falls flat that lends itself to a sprint finish.

I’m always pensive descending in a large group so it’s no wonder I was pretty much dropped on the downhill but they slowed approaching the steepest climb. Of course I was completely dropped on that first climb. I could see  a group way ahead when I got onto the flat section and had to work my tail off to catch back up. (Those time trial events are paying off!) I was happy to find that three of the 4 racers I caught were teammates. 

Once I had a chance to recover we all worked together, with two other racers, pacelining through the first two laps. Along the second lap we thought it would be interesting to try some team tactics to try to drop the other girls. They seemed to be growing tired and it would be better to drop them now and not have them stealing a better place finish from one of us.

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The team working together.

Our first casualty was a teammate. We saw she hadn’t hung on with us over the climb to the start of the third lap. We decided not to wait for her, knowing that she wouldn’t want us to. (After the race we found out we made the right call.)

Then we tried to drill the pace a bit to drop the other riders. On our first try it worked well but then our pace eased up a bit and they were able to catch back on. It also didn’t help when I started getting cramps in my calves due to the effort.

So then we tried to sit back without pulling through to see if we could tire them. Upon another surge by a teammate, I got dropped. I was able to get back on but unfortunately I brought the other riders with me.

Then 1 1/2 miles from the finish my left calf seized! At the top of the first of the two-step climb I had to dismount the bike to stretch it out or I wouldn’t be able to finish the final climbs. I saw my teammates and the two other girls ride off without me and I couldn’t do anything about it. 

After a brief stretch I got back on the bike and prayed it was enough of a stretch to get me to the finish. It was.

I crested the last climb and had sight of the final 1+ kilometer. I buried my head, anchored my hands in the drops and dug deep. I looked up and saw a rider in front of me and dug again. When I looked up again, I was closing the gap. So I kept on digging to close the gap and actually passed that rider right before the line.

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After the race she said she had no idea I was even there.

I finished the race 11th out of 16. My teammates finished 8th and 9th and I know I would have also finished in the top 10 if it hadn’t been for my cramp. 

It was a fun race and I had a blast. It was especially liked trying to work some team tactics, even if they didn’t stick. I hope to be back again next year!

A Lake Auburn Road Race Surprise

I’ll be working on my Lake Auburn Road Race posting but for now I’ll leave you with the big surprise of the event.

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Yup, that’s Cervelo’s very own Ted King racing a local race on the heels of his appearance in that little 3-week race in Italy known as the Giro d’Italia. I guess this was probably a recovery ride for him and definitely added a little excitement for the rest of us that hung around for the afternoon races!

Peak Performance Time Trial

Today was another time trial. It’s part of the Peak Performance Time Trial Series, and even though I won’t be doing all of them, I like to participate in the more local ones. Since this one was basically in my back yard, like the LL Bean Time Trial, I signed up to participate.

With the course only 10 miles away it made sense for me to just bike there in an attempt to warm and open before the event. I was on track until I came upon the Casco Bay Bridge in it’s open position and I hoped it wouldn’t be long before it opened up again. It was a delay I had not planned on and hoped it wouldn’t make me miss the check in time.

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The Casco Bay Bridge in it’s upright position.

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This was the reason for the open bridge – an oil tanker coming in to dump it’s load.

Luckily I arrived in plenty of time to check in. I found a friend who I didn’t know was participating and we rode the loop together. Even though it’s a pretty flat loop, as compared to the LL Bean TT a month ago, but it has a lot of false flats that I felt challenging. The course was approximately 6 1/2 miles long and we rode it twice for a total of 13 miles.

It was also in the opposite direction of the Prout’s Neck Loop, which is a popular route of cyclists in the area. It’s always interesting to ride a loop in the opposite direction to give you a different perspective on the terrain.

My start time was 8:23 and I was bound and determined not to miss it. I probably even stood around a little too long and cooled a bit but I wasn’t going to leave in the event I’d miss the start. (Ted Darling, who started after me at the last event saw me and asked if I was going to miss my start time today – I assured him I would not!)

As soon as I got on the course I approached the first turn. Unfortunately there was some dimwit directing traffic, and poorly I might add, to the point that I had to slow in order to make the turn. (On the next lap I had to do the same and take the corner even more cautiously because the guy directing traffic wasn’t even looking at me and I was afraid he would wave someone into my path.)

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My husband captured the disgust on my face.

The winner for the women was a friend of mine, Marianne Stover.

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Marianne Stover with a finish time of 32:09.63 (an impressive avg speed of 24.82).

The men’s and overall winner was Fred Thomas.

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Fred Thomas with an impressive finish time of 27:06.25 (a mind spinning average speed of 29.4mph).
  

My finish time was 38:58.38. That put me in 6th position in a field of 9 in my age group. (Unfortunately they have me listed in the Men 35-44 and I’ve sent an email to have them correct this. It’s also not the first time this has happened at a local time trial.)

The weather for the upcoming week looks to be very conducive for riding. I need to get some saddle time this week in preparation for Lake Auburn Saturday.