I didn’t start racing my bike until I moved to California from Vancouver in 2012. Since then, I had only raced in the US. This year I decided to go to Saint Georges, Quebec for Canadian Nationals, which was my first time racing in Canada – and it was a blast.
Thursday was the first race, the time trial. I was the seventh racer off out of about 35 ladies. The course was two times over a 15km (9 mile) out and back course that started downhill, was flat for a bit and then climbed about 3km (1.5 miles) to a turn around. The course was made very challenging by the gusty winds; the weather reported steady winds at about 20km/hour (12miles/hour) and gusting up to 35km/hour (20miles/hour). Even though riding in Davis had me used to winds, I was very sketched out with the wind gusts on the very fast descents. I managed to keep hold of my bike and finish in 9th place. Carol-Ann Kanuel (Velocio-Sram) finished in first place, 1 minute ahead of 2nd.
Friday afternoon about 55 ladies rolled out for the road race. The course set out for 30km of net uphill which led to a 14km circuit that we did 3 times, then turned off the circuit to head back to the start/finish. The circuit started with a 1km (half mile) climb, that pitched very steep before the crest, then continued along a mostly downhill/flat course before turning back into the climb.
Every time heading into the climb I made sure I was well positioned at the front where I could be on attacks made by Optum p/b Kelly Benefits who had 4 riders in the race. I managed to stay with the front group every time over the climb, however within a few kilometers additional riders would gradually catch on. Early in the second lap of the circuit, a Trek Red Truck rider (who a very large, strong team) went off the front. Optum riders put the chase onto the rider during the third lap and she was brought back as we exited the circuit to head back to the start/finish.
Coming out of the circuit was a long gradual climb. Heading up this Carol-Ann Kanuel (Velocio-Sram) attacked and set a very tough pace. Again, I stayed with this move that left 6 riders. I really thought this move would stick since it had all of the favourites, except Leah Kirchman Optum’s sprinter. The move was brought back by Optum after some time and gradually a reduced group came back together. Denise Ramsden went off the front and managed to get a gap of about 2 minutes. However, Optum again put the chase on and brought it back in the final kilometers.
The race came down to a sprint of a reduced group (maybe 20 ladies were left). The finish turns right into a 200m uphill sprint to the finish. I managed to pull off 8th in the finish. Joelle Numainville (Bigla Pro Cycling) became the new Canadian Road Champion.
On Saturday I had the day off before the crit on Sunday. The crit was over a 1.3 km, four corner course that had the same start finish (including the 200m uphill) as the road race. The course crested after the start/finish, turned left to descend a bit, then there was a significant descent between turns 2 and 3.
I was slightly out of my element going into this race since it was raining before and during the crit – and given California’s drought conditions I was slightly worried about handling my bike in the rain. During some warm up laps over the course I took the corners with some speed and figured I could handle the rain just fine.
I started at the back of pack, so I worked hard to get to the front quickly, especially during the corners and the downhill. This paid off as the race became aggressive quickly and every time I looked behind me I could see gaps forming and the pack becoming smaller and smaller. Even though I told myself I was going to sit back and not get too excited during the race, I attacked at about the 5th lap and I stayed away long enough to collect a preme (my first preme in Canadian dollars!). After I was brought back I sat in and followed moves.
At about 10 laps to go, Allison Jackson (Twenty Sixteen) and Denise Ramsden (Trek Red Truck) attacked and got some separation. They stayed about 15 seconds away, but Leah Kirchmann (Optum’s sprinter and 2014’s Canadian crit cham) was with the remaining pack and no one wanted to bring her up. Heading into the 6 laps to go, my rear derailleur cable snapped – which made for a lot of standing low cadence work for the rest of the race. The two escapees stayed away and Allison Jackson won the crit. Despite not having rear gears, I managed to stay with the remaining pack until the finish, and came in seventh. Leah Kirchman sprinted from our group for third. The course and weather proved to be even more decisive than I realized; only 11 riders finished the race.
Being in Quebec made for a great week of racing, and exploring a part of Canada I had never been to before. I look forward to going back for more racing soon. One of the best parts – after the crit I got to enjoy something I rarely get in the States, Poutine!