Many of you may not know that we are sponsoring a number of teams this season. In fact, congrats go out to our M1/M2 Vinylbuilt Squad and M3/M4 Blacksmith Cycle team for great results so far this season, including a KOM award and podium this past weekend in Niagara. For more info on the teams, or our weekly Saturday Club group rides, please click on the Team/Club
page to your left.
Our Blacksmith/Coventry Elite racing team has also had a nice start to the season, though they have yet to reach a podium. This in spite of some very solid efforts, and multiple occasions where they found themselves in winning break-aways or bunch sprints. For those of you who relish the chance to get a first hand account of real road racing, here are first-hand reports for the last two Blacksmith/Coventry Elite squad appearances...
GP Ste Martine - Glass in Hand,
Report from Andrew Bradbury, Provincial Elite Road Race Champion
I am sure we have read enough race reports of “How I almost won the race… but didn’t”.
Here is another.
GP Ste Martine was in a small community about 30 minutes outside Montreal. We spent the weekend in the city frequenting cafés and boutiques and other than thoughts of Sunday’s competition, I felt relaxed going into the race. I even had a glass of wine at dinner on Saturday…mostly for the satisfaction but also for a default excuse, “I would have won but I was totally blocked by that 5oz glass of Cote du Rhone”.
The course was 10 laps of a 9.5 kilometre, flat, square-ish circuit with winds and aggression that made it a Belgian kermesse. Teams were looking for opportunities to gain a quick advantage with lots of attacking in the first couple laps but I was content riding in the top ten, staying out of the wind as much as possible. This can be difficult given the guttering but preferable to being at the back of a large group on narrow, unpredictable, Quebec roads. I felt that in such hard winds, it would take a group of at least four to five to build any advantage and any solo attacks would be fruitless. During the second lap, two riders slipped a couple hundred metres up the road followed by Francois Parisien of Spidertech jumping away with two riders. Although they were not building much of a lead, I felt that the next move would be crucial as the impetus of the main group was waning. Three riders took off in pursuit and I knew that this was my opportunity. I bridged across and we immediately began to distance the field and gain on the groups ahead. Our foursome spent the following two laps slowly pulling back seconds on the riders in front and they eventually relented, allowing the larger group to merge and the winning rider would come out of this group. Most worked well, although some shirked their duties at times. If riders dropped off the back for a long "snack", I would do the same. I tried to managed my efforts carefully and felt I had a strong chance of winning if I could get sneak away with a small group in the last lap; any earlier and we would be left flailing in the wind and leave it too late and I would have to sprint against a bunch of Quebecois. It seems all the kids in Quebec know how to sprint.
With one lap remaining, the attacks began and no one was hesitating to close down gaps. I sat patiently knowing my time would come. I finally followed a move I thought looked promising; four of us with Parisien absent. Those behind would look to the Spidertech rider to determine what happens, and he would certainly not pull the group across by himself. Casey Roth was in our group, riding well all day. He pulled through strong and someone dropped his wheel letting a large gap go out. I hesitated and quickly found myself in no man's land. This winning move was over before it could even get going. I was frustrated knowing that sitting up and waiting for the group of 6 behind was the appropriate choice. Casey maintained a good distance and although we slowly made some inroads, no one was fully committed to the chase. The win was now gone and I would be sprinting for what was left, finishing 5th. I was happy to have put myself in a potentially winning situation but also frustrated for letting it slip away. Lack of racing certainly hurts my instincts. Hopefully as my fitness progresses throughout the season, so too will my decision-making.
Niagara Classic - Chasing Form
, Report from Bryan Rusche
As a relatively small team, the strategy for the day was to try and quickly narrow the race down to a dozen or so racers so that we weren't spread too thin trying to cover different moves. The faster the selection was made in the race, the more energy we could save for later in the race. On this course - and especially considering it was the first hot race of the year for many - this matters a lot. Since I was still feeling the effects of a week long flu, I didn't think I was going to make it the full distance and decided to be the sacrificial lamb trying to instigate an aggressive start to the race. Originally, the plan was for me to line the field out coming into the steep finishing climb - making sure people were already breathing a bit by the time the climb started and also trying to leave no room for the accordion effect that usually saves a few of the weaker riders. However, in the first few kms I changed my mind seeing the field wasn't much in the mood to race off the gun and went on the attack. The first attack went no where, but I got some leash on the second attack. I soon had 20-30seconds. Ed Veal came across and I took a few pulls, but quickly realized I really wasn't feeling very good and by the time we hit the first climb my legs were really dead. So I involuntarily let Ed go ahead on his own with what was now a very decent gap. I doubt that's what Ed had in mind when he first went - to be solo with only 1 lap of 10 done - so, sorry Ed, it wasn't my plan either! Fast forward another lap and the field was feeling the pressure to start racing with a strong TTer and Ironman bike leg winner up the road. There were several attempts to establish a chase group and the race was getting harder. So in the end (although how it came about wasn't according to plan) we had the situation we wanted, which was a race that got selective quickly. By the time the race was 25k in, the race was already down to 10 people. Even better, both Andrew and James were in that 10.
Sometimes you have great legs and the race doesn't unfold the way you want, hope or thought it would. Other times the race goes exactly how you think it will, but you don't have the legs. Sunday was definitely a case of the latter. About half way through the race, Andrew was also on the sidelines as he was hampered by the early effects of also being sick. Seeing Andrew off the pace was a bummer because on a good day its the sort of climb Andrew can light up and Niagara is usually a great race for him (and me). James was our last man in the race, but he was looking pretty comfortable. The middle part was, honestly, boring as a spectator. The fate of the race was sealed with no chance the chasing group was ever coming back and no one in the lead group willing to start aggressions from too far out. It wasn't until 25k to go that the race at the front heated up with Anthony Walsh and Jeff Schiller carving out a lead. James was leading the chase with Chris Freeland with 2 to go and the rest of the lead group was trailing by a few seconds. Almost all the racing happened in the next 10k - because by the time everyone climbed through the finish for the last lap, other than Anthony and Jeff still being away - nothing was the same. Everyone was in 1's and 2's and the order was completely reshuffled. James was soldiering on his own in 8th, which was the place he carried through to the finish. Anthony impressed with a strong final climb that Schiller had no answer to and the always aggressive Ed rebounded in the last lap to catch Anton and then get the better of him for the last podium spot.
Maybe the best thing about days like today is that there's always another race to look forward to and get ready for. Disappointments just add fuel to train smarter and harder.
On another note - we all got kitted with our new bikes from Blacksmith. There was much drooling, oohing and ahhing at the sweet rides (Storck with Madfiber wheels, Pantani and Carrera...). Thanks Blacksmith Cycle for the support! Stay tuned for new ride reviews for all the hot bikes and wheels!
- Andrew's Storck Fenomalist with Ultegra Black, 3T Team Components + 3T Mercurio Wheels
- Bryan's Fenomalist with Ultegra, FSA Components + Madfiber Ceramic Tubulars