Riding with a couple of Martins

Finally got some pictures from the Défi Vélo-Mag from a few weeks ago. I gave a good effort in the road race, took it a bit easier the next day for the mountain bike race. It was wet and grey but still a very nice weekend. The 105km road event is one of the biggest cyclosportive in Québec with over 1200 starters even under the rain. So here it goes, an never ending report...

I started the road race something like 10-13 minutes after the start of the fast category, after the last start. With over 1200 starters gone ahead of me, it would be an interesting experience. I thought I would ride along with my friend Nic but after a few kilometres, I noticed he wasn't on my wheel anymore so I started to push it. I pretty much raced solo, passing people, bridging from group to group. Just before the halfway point, I started to ride with a nice guy called Martin, a big strong bull who had raced the BC Bike Race before. We worked well together and kept moving forward as people tagging along never stayed with us for long. When we reached the day's longest climb, the Belvedère, he did the same thing Nic did at the start, he couldn't stay on my wheel. Oups, sorry Martin. I'll try to get a hold of you.

The first Martin.

But you know what they say, one Martin lost is another Martin found. I climbed the Belvedère almost side by side with another fast guy who like me, had started from behind. He was called Martin too. Without talking, we started to help each other, taking pulls, we were climbing pretty evenly and had a very good pace everywhere. At one point, I could feel a cramp coming when getting out of the saddle so I told him that he shouldn't wait if I dropped a bit but he seemed happy with my pace and figured out he would be faster by keeping trading pulls with me than going on his own so we kept going.

The second Martin taking a pull. He was an experienced roadie.

We ended up in a group of 10-15 around 15km before the finish. The pace was high and at one point, Martin told me at 10km to go, it was the place to attack, the last climb, then going down all the way to the end... or something. So when the road kicked up, I thought about Jens Voigt's philosophy and attacked with pretty much the last bit of energy I had left. After a quick glance mid-way up the climb, it looked like it worked. I had a nice gap, Martin was second wheel... But, I eventually understood that I had misunderstood Martin. There were a few other climbs left and I was eventually caught back by the group. At that point, I was expecting to finish last of them.

Then the signs giving the distance to started to read '3km' '2km' '1km'... and we were all still going fast but playing the sprinters, nobody wanting to be at the front. I was trying to stay attentive in the middle, in the draft as much as possible. By the way, I had never been contesting a sprint with more than one other before... and I wasn't sure if my legs would allow me to even accelerate. Then one guy either didn't think much, said the hell with it or tried to get away early but he hit the front and went hard. Unfortunatly for him, it wasn't hard enough to drop anyone but gave us all a good leadout. A few wheels back, I somehow sensed it was the time to go and the group blew apart as everybody started to sprint. I went on the far left and was gaining ground. Wheeee my legs agreed to do a last effort, getting closer to pass everyone. But a few meters from the line, I saw that none other than Martin was still ahead of me and that was it, I finished second in that group, about half a wheel behind him. That was fun though.

I ended up finishing a still distant 236th... out of 1206. That means I passed almost a thousand. I was still happy about how I rode. I actually was faster than the year before but last year, I started from the front and rode in big groups all the time. Doing the first half solo, with one other rider for the rest, I still had a better time so if I had started from the front, I could have done a lot better placing-wise. But I had fun, met some nice Martins and learned that, while I find sprinting stages boring to watch, it's pretty fun to be in a group sprint. I was empty by then and it wasn't over, there was a 40km mountain bike race the next morning.

Nic and me, taking it easy at the beginning of the race.

Still grey, but not raining on sunday, I had very heavy legs. I decided to just do the ride, for fun. I didn't even warm up and got on the start grid, around the middle of the pack of about 300. From the start, I was slow, people passing me right and left. I was just riding for fun after all. But after 15 minutes, my legs started to come around and feel better. So my pace was getting faster and started to pick riders. I was using the climbs to my advantage, big-ringing most of them to pass people until I was riding alone, in no man's land. I saw two guys with the same jerseys in the distances it gave me a target. I eventually caught them as they spun their 22T rings up a short steep climb. I then caught two others but that took a longer time, they were pretty much going at my pace but with a road section coming up, I wanted to tag along roadie style.

Just as we got on the road, I finally got to them on a climb. Once the climb was finished, we had lost one behind but I worked with the other one, I never got his name, I'll call him Martin. We caught people here and there, a few caught us and we were kind of riding like the little group from the end of the day before on the road... except we were all running out of big gears and we had a nice symphony of buzzing mountain bike tire sounds. We entered the last trail section together but I tried to slip by a few on the sharp left entering into the trail. Then I immediately noticed some were not very good technically and the trail was a freshly cut, wet, rooty and rocky muddy singltrack so I tried not to be stuck behind them. I again used the climbs to move ahead. Only the guy was pulling ahead, Martin (well, the guy I named Martin anyway). I saw someone else in front and when I saw the 500m to go sign, I accelerated to catch and drop him to finish 71st out of 297. Okay for a ride that started so slow and 'just for fun'...

Combining the two days of racing, I finished 24th overall but only 71 people were registered for competing for the combination of both races. Could be better, could be worst but I did what I wanted, rided pretty well and had a lot of fun. See you next year Parc de la Mauricie! See you next year Martins!

No comments: