After an evening of much-needed rain, race day dawned clear and sunny. However, the recent shift in weather also brought with it a very strong, gusty wind that seemed sure to test the legs and minds of all those who lined up. Representing Victoria Wheelers were myself, Dave Trill and the irrepressible Andy Pitre. With our designated leader vacationing and a much smaller than usual field, we had a brief, relaxed chat on the start line to determine a strategy of aggressive racing throughout.
After the initial few laps of surges that characterize mid-level criterium racing, Andy and I started trading off on this strategy. I managed to get away about 10 minutes in, with Dave joining me a couple laps later. While happy to be away with a strong teammate, my initial comment on the move was that 'we need 1 or 2 more people'. This proved to be absolutely true. After another 10 laps or so we had only managed to build a 10-15 second gap (despite some tractor-like pulls from Dave) and I was admittedly struggling to cope with the winds on the backstretch. Thankfully, Dave made the wise call to 'ease up', having seen the composition of the chase behind. Bryson Bowers soon joined us with Andy in tow, followed a lap or so later by Jon Watkin. Recognizing that most of the race's horsepower was with us, Andy and I almost immediately set about strategizing how best to capitalize on our superior numbers. Noting that he was 'never going to beat these guys in a sprint' (that's some foreshadowing, folks), Andy opted to attack so the others would be forced to chase. This resulted in him away with Bryson a couple laps later in a move that I initially thought to be the race winner. However, some strong riding from Jon and a little hesitation from both riders up front (probably coupled with the accumulated fatigue of 45 minutes of punishing winds) saw us back together with around 5 to go. In the midst of regrouping we lapped the rest of the field, and the resulting confusion saw the always dangerous Bryson about 50m ahead of us, solo, in the lead. I had a moment of panic seeing the W disappear up the road with the others unwilling or unable to chase, so I went to the front to close the gap. After jamming like The Grateful Dead on the brown acid for a lap or so, we were all back together. Realizing that I was never going to get far in a sprint after this effort I chose to stay on the front and burn my last match to give the boys a fighting chance. To his own surprise as much as anyone else's, Andy came around for the win. Result!
After collecting some welcome goodies from Liquor Plus and The Fernwood Inn for my efforts and enjoying the impressive sight of professional VO2 monster Adam deVos opening up the throttle with a couple dozen of the fastest guys in town chewing their front tires trying to hold wheels behind him for a few minutes, I crawled home, thoroughly cracked. On behalf of myself and the rest of the Wheelers racers, I'd like to extend a special thanks to all those who have volunteered their time and energy to make the Windsor Park race, along with all the other VCL events, a success this year.
Local bike racing. You can't beat it!
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