Monday, April 26, 2010

Almonte Paris Roubaix rundown

Yesterday marked one of my favourite events of the year...the OBC Paris-Roubaix cyclo-sportif (not race, but cyclo-sportif!). The mix of gravel, dirt, sand, rocks, pavement and hills are a good way to test out the early season legs and the puncture resistance of tires (this comes down to luck of the draw, mind you). It also tests the stamina of ones hands, arms, neck, back...might as well be mountain biking! The only drawback to the whole thing is the start time...8am!

After the formalities of registering, I was off to a bit of a late start, and got in about a 10 minute warm up. On top of that, my computer konked out on me. It had been acting up in the last week, but rather than change the battery and have to reset the settings, I decide to wait until after yesterday's ride. However, I think it proved to be a blessing in disguise, because it meant that I wasn't constantly looking down during the ride to see how many km's were left to go.

We got off to the traditional neutralized start, and then onto the gravel right away. I was taken aback by how loose the gravel was, making for some sketchy riding. Once I settled in, I was at the back of the pack. Damnit! Not where I wanted to be. My problem with riding in a pack, though, is that I'm not aggressive enough to try and move up closer to the front. I knew that I would need to stay close to the front in anticipation of the first wooded section, but that didn't happen, and I was still near the back.

After the first wooded section, the pack was broken up, and the group that I was in eventually swelled to about 25 riders. As we chugged along, we passed other riders at the side of the road, with flats. I saw a familiar Tall Tree kit at one point. Was that Matt off to the side? Shit, I hope not after all the work he has put in this winter with this race in mind. A little later on, hey there's Rodd.  We kept plugging along until we got to a point where some of the direction arrows were pointing right, onto a road into the woods. It was a narrow dirt road, wide enough for one car, windy, up and down. We followed the road, and after a couple of minutes, out of nowhere, Aaron Fillion comes barrelling from the opposite direction, yelling "Wrong way!! Turn around!!" Suddenly, more riders appear in pursuit, including one Ride with Rendall rider who flipped over into the woods! We all turned around, and regrouped with what was the lead pack. This put me amongst a group of extremely strong riders, ready to encounter the new addition to the course. However, I think we were all suffering as we dealt with the ups and downs and the twisty gravel turns of this new section. This proved to be my most favourite part of the course, because of the constant changes in the road.

On we went, and I kept thinking to myself "holy crap, I'm with the lead group!" As we approached the "switchback climb", I managed to inch up a few places, and had no trouble with the climb itself, but I couldn't recover afterward, and the road was so sandy that it just sapped me of my energy. Once I made my way to onto the next pavement section, I was caught by 3 other riders, including Todd from Tall Tree, and we basically rode together until we were caught by another group before the last forest section. From there to the finish the last few km's were pretty uneventful, except for Todd and I chatting as we pedaled along. 

So, another year, another Paris-Roubaix. Looking at the results, I finished 38th out of 150 finishers. That puts me in the top 25.3333333333333% (we'll just round it to 25%!), which I'm extremely happy best finish at the Roubaix (due in part to the errant arrows though, I'm sure).

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