Most of the Victoria Cycling League (VCL) races occur on Wednesdays. Occasionally there are exceptions, and yesterday was one of them. Oak Bay Bicycles hosted the Windsor Park criterium in the heart of Oak Bay on a sunny Sunday morning. The course around the park is about 1km in length, is pan flat and fast.
The format of VCL races is for two groups to race separately: A group and B group. Licenced Category 1, 2 and 3 riders generally comprise A races, although strong Category 4 riders may ride them. Category 4 and 5 and unlicenced riders comprise B races. The A race was 50 minutes plus 2 laps in length, a fairly standard length for a criterium. I believe the B race was 35 minutes.
Lacking top-end speed and technical pack savvy, I’m generally a poor criterium rider, although I have managed the odd top 5 result in criteriums, in VCL or even the odd B.C. sanctioned race (B.C. Cup or equivalent), but they are few in number. While top end speed and pack savvy are important in criterium riding, criteriums are also about the ability to recover rapidly between repeated over-the-threshold efforts. Good criterium riders possess that very fast recovery. Occasionally I discover that I have it as well.
The A race of 15 to 20 riders included the likes of Bob Cameron (IRC), Scott Martin (Oak Bay), Vaughan Hildebrandt (IRC), Maurice and Chris Worsfold (Glottman Simpson), Alistair Howard (Kona-Adobe), Don Gilmour (Schwalbe), Emile de Rosnay (Organic Athlete), Matt Dilay (IRC), Dave Shiskoff (Organic Athlete), Andrew McCartney (Pacific Sport), Kenyon (Fort St.), and others. It was a small field, but all accomplished racers with impressive lists of provincial, national and international results over the years.
Breakaway attempts began nearly immediately, each one threatening. Different combinations were tried: Bob was off on his own for 2 and half laps, Don Gillmore (my team-mate) and another were out; Vaughan and another, and other combinations. I also found myself at the front a few times early on, chasing or keeping the pace high.
Two thirds into the race, after Scott Martin and another were off the front on a very dangerous breakaway and some high-speed chasing with gaps opening everywhere, I counter-attacked just as those two were brought back. The efforts were taking their toll on the riders; my attack well-timed. Very quickly I put nearly 30seconds on the group. I was twisting myself to hold the pace into the difficult headwind along the backstretch, but that was where I was going to make time if anywhere, I knew.
After over 10 minutes out front, holding the 30 second gap, I could hear people from the side shouting that someone was chasing and that he and I should work together. Alistair Howard, whose brother Malcolm is off to the Olympics as a member of the mens-Eight rowing team, was crossing the gap. With about 7 minutes to go, he caught me. We worked together: he pulled up the windy stretch, I pulled down the long tailwind straightaways. Somewhere behind the pack was bearing down on us.
With two laps to go, just after my pull, Alistair attacked up the windy stretch. I was nearly spent and couldn’t grab his wheel. He opened 5- 10 seconds through the last lap and to the finish for a well-deserved win, and I was elated with my second place effort. My recent racing, as well as my recent training in Whistler is paying off with some good fitness for me.
Emile de Rosnay took third, the day after a 5″06 4km pursuit time on the track on Saturday. Raising his hands at the finish, he thought he’d won, as had not seen Alistair or me slip away earlier. Don Gillmore was unfortunately out with a mechanical in the last few laps — although I understand he made up for it by decimating the entire field in the Deep Cove masters race in the afternoon, which I missed . Chris Worsfold took fourth with Bob fifth.
[May 21 update - Peter Kerklaan in the 60-64 age group won the Deep Cove Masters race, while Don was second, but Don had made up nearly 15minutes on Peter]