The inaugural Lake of Bays Road Race was an exceptional event from many perspectives. For one, it was the first time an OCA-sanctioned race had been run on the Lake of Bays loop and is a testament to Bruce’s dogged desire to have challenging, long loop course on the Ontario racing circuit. For another, our team was on the spot to organize the race, with help from the extended cycling community of friends, relatives, sponsors and welcoming locals that made it all happen. Many members of the team had been busy prior to the event, organizing volunteers, putting up signage, collecting trophies, and all of the things you only become aware of when you are on the other side of the fence.
My role was to organize the caravan. Organizing a caravan is an exercise that takes place over several weeks, most of which is spent amassing the volunteers required to drive all the vehicles, but on the last few days prior to race day it becomes a full-time job. On race-day itself, it is always a scramble to get radios in cars, cars lines up, and assign medics and commissaries to the best vehicle. Saturday morning was no different, except for the additional challenges presented by the weather. The 3 degree temperatures and the 40km/h winds would have made for some unique memories, but the rain and sleet made this one for the ages. As I watched the cars and racers head off in the morning wave, I hoped for better conditions for our race.
Just after 12:30 it was time for the afternoon waves . The M1 field was first to go off. I was able to jump on my bike a few minutes to go, thanks to the OCA’s Andrew Paradowski and his help in organizing the remaining vehicles. The neutral rollout was completely unnecessary, given the riders’ collective desire to ease into what was undoubtedly going to be a long and cold day. In fact, several riders gave up within the first few kilometers. The rest of us soldiered on, probably due to the OCD nature of most participants in this sport. Under normal circumstances, the course itself would have lent itself to long breakaways, especially on the rolling terrain on South Portage; a fairly large fraction of the remaining 40 or so riders indeed spent the better part of the day trying to get away. Early break attempts were actively covered primarily, I suspect, by riders in abject fear of riding alone under these trying circumstances. The flattest (middle) part of the course had blistering headwinds and sleet, which made getting away an exercise in wasted energy. Unfortunately for me, I got a flat on highway 60. My teammate Rob d’Amico was driving a wheel car, and was out if the car handing me my own spare wheel within 30 seconds. Rob is a veteran of the Ontario racing scene and there are few others who could have got me on my way any faster. The lucky thing for me was that there was a long line of cars stuck behind the race, which made getting back a bit easier.
By the time I got back, Marc Mazer was off the front, which was the first attempt that stayed away longer than a few minutes. The break attempts were so frequent that I would be surprised if half the riders did not have a go at some point. John Gee was especially motivated, and probably tried a dozen times. Matt Di Silvestro also had a few serious goes, as did my teammates Wieslaw and Chris. Jeff Douglas was also in-character, going with any break he could. WoB stalwart Bobby Mrvelj was a s**t disturber all day, covering breaks and jumping almost incessantly. Bobby seems to excel in horrible weather – as shown by his wins in previous editions of the Hell of the North. I made several half-hearted attempts myself, but for the large part followed riders I knew would work in case the elastic snapped and I would pull through.
By the time we rolled through the feed zone in Baysville, we were still together. The South Portage rollers were next on the agenda, and Steve Mckee showed he had good legs by taking off like a bullet on a downhill and holding it for several kilometers. Unsurprisingly, other teams left it up to us to chase, and Chris Firek did most of it with some help from me. Steve was eventually caught, and again John Gee and several others took several digs but nothing stuck. As we turned onto the final few kilometers on Canal road, we were still all together. With four teammates in the pack, including fast men like Matthias and Chris, it seemed like a good place to improve our odds and I pushed hard up each of the remaining rollers. I suspect that my efforts were not all that strong, but I guess there were a lot of tired legs and I noticed as we crested the rollers that we had lost about half the pack. Steve was still there, as were all my teammates and Brian Kelly. Now I am a tall guy, but Brian makes me look small. In every race I have ever done with Brian, when he makes it over a hill I make a point of joking about it. I believe my comment this time was something to the effect of “you’re still here?”. Fortunately for me, Brian is easy-going and does not take offense at this tedious ribbing. I tried to rally the remaining riders but no one was willing to work, preferring to wait for the sprint. In retrospect, I should have attacked again, as perhaps I would have been given some rope with only 2K remaining but I decided against it. Brian got to the front and left it all on the line for his teammate Steve. Brian’s lead-out faded at around 500m to go, at which point Patrick Kings of Sound Solutions went hard with Steve on his wheel. At about 200m to go Steve blew past Patrick and raised his arms in victory. I could not generate enough power to pass Patrick and rolled in third place, welcomed by my family and a warm blanket.
|Vivvy, Ian, Estelle and Aileen|
|Steve McKee Raising Arms|
|Ian, Estelle and Steve McKee|