This year marked the 24th run of Paris to Ancaster, a staple event of the season for any cyclist. This is the unofficial start of the summer racing circuit. The weather on the other hand, had a different plan and reminded us that spring time was still here rearing its ugly head. The winds of Dover were blowing across the sky like tornados in the Midwest. 40km per hour wind burst made it feel like you were biking head strong into a wall. The rain was rolling in to start the day and cooling the air right down. Fortunately, we did have a little luck on our side and it subsided just before the start of the race.
This year the race featured a bunch of strong riders divided over 5 waves. There was an elite wave followed by waves 1 through 4, with the most competitive riders starting at the front right down to the family fun wave at the very end (which had the biggest number of riders). The top two waves were out there to run, gun and stir up the dust, hoping to finish the race in less than two and a half hours. The family fun wave is trying to survive and make it to the end before the 5 hour cut off time. This year was jam-packed full of talent with racers coming from all walks of life and around the world. We had world cup riders from England and the US, some Canadian Olympians and a plethora of professionals vying for the top tile. Unbeknownst to us all, we were going to have a repeat champion with a very bright future in Canadian cycling – under 18 year-old Gunner Holmgren took the title again in a blistering time of 2 hour and 8 minutes. My hat goes off to this speedy youngster.
There was also a strong contingent of wolf pack riders this year, and by strong contingent I meant Jeremiah, Pauly Paul and myself made the journey west and tossed our hats into the ring. The three of us thought we had signed up early for the race, but apparently not…we were relegated to the family fun wave. We knew this meant a lot of hard work to move to the top and make any noise. Paul and I had some strategy in place and planned to work together early to see what we could do.
As the muskets fired and the countdown made it to one, our final wave took off. Paul, like a bat out of hell, got out front early and dragged me with him. We were quickly in front of everyone in our wave and right where we needed to be pace-wise. We weren’t more than 5 km into the race when we started gaining on the next wave. With a torrent pace we were eating through a large group of the competition flowing through the rail trail and into the single track. Paul and I were racing really well; we had a great average speed and even better team work. We worked together right into the wine vineyard; I was feeling great but Paul was yelling at me to go ahead without him. I kept pushing the pace and started putting some room between us. Down the dirt roads and through the traffic I slowly parted ways with Paul and kept picking off fellow riders.
The head winds were strong and really testing my focus and power. Earlier in the season I had some conversations with another teammate, Josh, and he told me to focus on consistent power and to really set my pace. This was my focus of the day and it was really paying off. I was pushing past groups of riders like the police chasing down speeders on cops. Tossing myself over the farmer’s fields and down the mud shoots, I was feeling quite strong. The race was going as I anticipated, but I really wasn’t sure how I was doing overall. I continued through the mud shoots and up the final climb. My feet and fingers were a little cold from the wind and damp weather, but overall I was feeling great. I dismounted my bike and ran back to the finish line to wait for Paul. After roughly 5 minutes I could see Pauly powering up the final hill and into the finish line. I was thrilled with how well we did. We were feeling strong, but the inclement weather was making standing around really tough and coupled with a monster feeling of hunger, we decided it was best we go wait for Jer in the gym.
The gym itself is fantastic, set up in the community center where you can also get some eats. We scarfed down our pulled pork sandwiches and Dad’s oatmeal cookies and went through the results. Paul didn’t take long to flip through them and told me I finished 98th overall out of 1205 riders. He said “Do you know what this means?” I really had no idea, so he explained that because I was a top 100 hundred finisher, I could start in the elite/VIP wave next year! This is the pro wave; it is in front of the first wave with all the true professionally team cyclist and Olympians. I was flabbergasted! I couldn’t believe what he was telling me. I was filled with excitement, it was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had riding my bike.
My hard work was truly paying off and the results were really becoming apparent. I had numerous people coming up to me, noting what a feat this was and what an awesome achievement on my part. I wasn’t fully grasping the magnitude of things, but after a little more research I found that the past 5 years there was only one other person ever who started in wave 4 and one person who started in wave 3 to ever qualify for the elite wave. There were actually only ever a handful of people from wave 2 to ever qualify. I was blown away, the result was even better than I ever imagined.
Things are right on cue for my race in August heading into Leadville. I am looking forward to racing P2A again next year, but don’t want to get a head of myself! There is still a lot of this season left. Next up for me is O-Cup 2. Kingston, Ontario – Here I come! The Great Canadian Sagle.