Clarence-Rockland Classic Race Report

This past Sunday the Stevens Racing P/B The Cyclery men’s team raced in the Clarence-Rockland Classic. Billed as a cyclosportive, this race takes riders over paved roads, gravel roads, and some rather lumpy hills. Mike Woods of the Stevens Racing P/B The Cyclery men’s elite team won the race and has written an account of the race and the week leading up to the big day. As well congratulations to Julie Lafreniere of the Stevens Racing P/B The Cyclery women’s team for winning the women’s division at the Clarence-Rockland Classic.

After my ride last week, things could only go up for me leading into Sunday’s race. In anxious anticipation of the arrival of our new Stevens bikes, I have been cruising around on my Trek Alpha Aluminum 2.0 — a bike that when I first started cycling, struck me as a solid mode of transportation. I mean, really, I come from a running background, and I’m super impressed with a pair of shoes that retail for $99. But, as all you cycling aficionados can imagine, since getting into the sport, my trusty Trek has become the subject of merciless chirping. With Shimano Tiagra components and a triple crankset (I assumed all geared bikes had three rings), the blue bullet didn’t get much love on the Ottawa roads. My original kits, and my lack of knowledge for the sport of cycling also didn’t help. “What’s Cyclocross?” “You mean you can take bottles from people on the sidelines when you race?” “Hey guys I think my [insert blatantly obvious bike part here] is missing.” The list goes on.

However, with some slick new looking kits from Stevens Bikes Canada and The Cyclery, a few years worth of racing, and some solid winter sessions on the trainer, I thought those rookie days were behind me. Queue an Easter Monday ride with our new teammate extraordinaire, Jean-Sébastien Perron. After a solid reconnaissance loop of the Clarence Rockland route with Shawn Clarke and Sandy Fulton on Sunday, I planed to meet up with Jean-Sébastien for a nice little spin around the Gatineau Park. Well, my first impression on Jean-Sébastien, was one to remember. I rolled into the Gamelin parking lot 10 minutes late, a slow leak in my rear wheel, and my rear derailleur cable snapped. With a non-functioning derailleur, my chain was stretched across from my 30 to my 11; clearly the most efficient of gearing ratios. Fortunately Jean-Sébastien was able to adjust my derailleur to my 14, and I was able to gracefully shift between my three big rings: advantage triple crankset.

Because of this first appearance, Jean-Sébastien gave me the title “Jr. Mike” since despite being 25 years old, I showed up like a complete junior. This title was only encouraged when I arrived at the Cyclery in desperate need of repair. Despite having to suffer a barrage of jokes from mechanics Mike Miller and Steve Proulx of the Cylcery, the two made my old Trek purr. They also threw some 28 GatorSkin tires on the bike, which were super handy come race day.

This was my first time riding a cyclosportive style race, and I really enjoyed it. As usual my race was not without a few rookie mistakes: I managed to get knocked off the bike right after the mass start on the first hill of the race. I’m not entirely sure that this was my fault, as someone swung out super hard in front of me and knocked me off, but I’m going to go back to my YoungDrivers instructor on this one, “when you hit somebody from behind, you are always at fault,” and take the blame. I was able to clip out before I fell, but I had to wait for the entire race to go by, as it was on a hill, and I was unable to clip back into the pedals without going sideways. Also, after breaking away from the peleton, at about 70K I took a hard right turn when I was supposed to go straight, only after riding for about 40 meters did I realize the volunteers weren’t shouting words of encouragement but that I was going the wrong way. (To those volunteers – I am sorry for the words that I said to you when I was getting back on course – I’m not at my best when I am suffering.)

Stupidness aside, lady luck was definitely on my side for this race. At approximately 20k into the race, roughly half of the field simultaneously flatted as we rolled through a super-thick patch of gravel. Casualties to this rocky road included two of my teammates Derrick St. John and Connor O’brien, as well as the big bird Braydon Bourne (tough luck for this guy as this was his second flat in as many races and he is super fit) and the mountain bike/cyclocross sensation Evan McNeely. With Stephen Keeping riding Battenkill, Jean-Sébastien nursing a broken finger, Connor and Derrick out with flats, and team mate Marc Boudreau out with illness, it was up to Shawn Clarke and I to represent the team.

From about 40-60K, Clarkie and I stayed in the top 20 guys, and every so often tried to get a break-away formed. After several attempts by the two of us (Shawn was riding super strong and I am pumped to see what he has in store for the rest of the season) I managed to get a little breakaway formed with Hans Loeffelholz of Team 9to5. I was really hoping we could work together for a 1-2 finish, but after a big pull from Hans, I pushed it a bit too hard over a hill at approximately 65K, and ended up being on my own for the rest of the race.

As I mentioned, although I did make a lot of mistakes, I was very fortunate on Sunday. Not only did Shawn do an awesome job at keeping the reins on the peloton, and ultimately sprinting it in for a 5th place finish, but Jon Gee of Ride with Rendall flatted. After I had broken away from the peleton at about 60K, I was not sure why the lead car was so far ahead. Before I had attacked, I had been told by a guy from Tall Trees Cycles that there wasn’t a rider up the road, but in reality Jon Gee had snuck away at about the 50K mark, and had been riding solo for the bulk of the race. I finally caught up to the car and Jon Gee with around 5K to go, he was rolling slowly, and I just assumed he was a guy who had turned off the course early and was cruising to the finish. Only after the race, did I realize that he was actually leading, and had flatted a km before I passed him—again stupid, but lucky. Not sure if I would have caught him had he not flatted, but regardless I was very happy to get the win for the team.

(Thanks to Camille Ansar for the photo)