Yesterday was the Olympic Games Test Event for the road race in London next year, called the London-Surrey Classic. I was there along with fellow U23 Jamie Riggs, and 3 of Canada’s top pros – Christian Meier, Dom Rollin, and David Veilleux. Since the race is to prepare for the real thing next year, most of the countries who were there meant business and wanted to make the most out of the limited opportunity. Because of that, there were names like Mark Cavendish, Henrich Haussler, Stuey O’Grady, Tom Boonen, and the list goes on and on. For us, the CCA was also testing out the hotel they are thinking about using, so accommodations were no less than stellar!
The race started just in front of Buckingham Palace, worked it’s way through the city to get to Surrey, completed two laps of the Box Hill circuit which features a decent 3km climb, and then comes back to Buckingham Palace for the finish. As they called riders to the line, it was really cool to see what riders look like in real life and most of them seem to be pretty cool guys who strike up a conversation with you.
The race got going with a pretty hectic start. There were huge amounts of road furniture the whole way, as well as hundreds of thousands of screaming fans lining the roads the whole way. There was really never a moment of calm, always something the keep you on your toes. A small break got away quite early though and the big teams seemed very content to let it go. I think everyone wanted to see how easy it was to chase down a big gap on suck a twisty course, and the gap quickly got up to nearly 10 minutes as we soft pedaled along.
As the kilometers ticked by, teams started to form near the front to bring the break back by the finish. The group went from being a big blob of riders all bunched together, to a long line strung out over hundreds of meters – a sign that can only mean that the speed is going faster and faster. The first lap of the circuit, and also the climb was not too bad at all – just a steady tempo up to the top. The rest of the circuit was quite narrow and windy, but thankfully I managed to avoid a crash that tied a few guys up. We were quickly back to the base of the climb, and this time it would likely go a little quicker to bring the gap down some more. This is where things started to very much go wrong for me.
Preparing for the climb I dropped down into the little ring just before turning left to start going up. When I stood to re-accelerate out of the corner, my legs spun with no resistance at all. Sometimes when you feel really good they say you have no chain on your bike – it’s so easy that the cranks just turn with no resistance. Well the literal meaning of that is not a good thing. I couldn’t get the chain back on with the derailleur, and had to jump off and put it back on. It took way longer than it should have – I guess I panicked a little and got it stuck, then couldn’t find my pedal, etc. All things that you could do in your sleep any other time, but when the race is getting away everything seems to go wrong!
With the added adrenaline, I was flying up the climb and found my way into the caravan of cars. Usually this means you will soon be back with the group, and to just relax and take your time. Unfortunately for me, there was a small group of riders who got dropped over the climb, and the caravan was not allowed to go past them. This meant I could easily work my way back in with them, but then the gap was getting bigger and bigger to the rest of the riders. With the chase for the breakaway now in full pursuit, my chances of getting back were now gone.
It’s tough to have such an awesome experience taken away so quickly, but in all reality it was probably not such a bad race to have some bad luck. First of all – there was no way I was going to win when you have guys like Mark Cavendish and a sprint finish. Secondly, there was a huge crash with 3kms to go, so avoiding is something that I don’t mind either. Despite the bad luck, it was still a really cool day and I learned a lot about how pro racing goes, and also learned to just relax when something like that happens. Maybe if I drop my chain in a race that is really important, I’ll be more relaxed getting things working again.
So now I’m back in Belgium preparing for the final selection races before the team is announced for Avenir. A few days of training await me and then a little drive to Northern France for the weekend. Thanks for checking in!