Gastown Grand Prix 2014 Race report..
From what I can tell the Grand Prix is growing with every year. In 2012 there were 60 finishers and this time where was close to a hundred. In my opinion this is the most exciting, intense race one ferry ride from Victoria. Imagine going to a Hockey game but being inside the arena with a mass of excited fans. This is Gastown for me, basically the corners are filled 5-6 deep for hundreds of meters and only thinning out in parts of the straightaways.
So what level of talent could draw this type of crowd? Well firstly, United Health Care and Optum, then of course team Heisomat. I heard in an interview with one of UHC riders that the German riders were to be kept in safe distance because their capability to ride away. A quick look at their stats on procyclingstats.com shows that they are no stranger to 200km races. Or 550km of racing in 4 days with 232kms being the longest. There were a number of other pro teams from Canada and the US as well as a U23 development team from Columbia.
Broadly speaking my preparation for this race was a large number of weekends beginning in May riding high volume and good intensity. Sometimes I did a few longer 20 minute intervals and the week before I cut all volume and did 1-2 hour session with 2 minute intervals. Most of the time I was simulating the 1-2 minute intervals that would happen out of corners. The goal was to arrive rested for the race with little to no fatigue and hopefully finish with the pack. My race calendar this year has been sparse so there was some uncertainty as to whether I was sufficiently prepared.
The commissaries established at the start that riders caught behind a crash would not get a free lap. So predictably there was a crash sometime around the third lap causing a bottleneck and leaving me and a few others to close a 15 second gap. Usually in a high level criterium, this is a death sentence. According to Strava, Steve Fisher from Jelly belly had the fastest lap time at 58km/h with some laps settling to 46km/h. Fortunately I was caught out with some stronger riders and the gap was closed. The rest of the race involved slotting into small spaces and accelerating out while avoiding errant wheels. In the previous two years I could only hang onto wheels for dear life, now, I was able to move up at different stretches. Any move forward was an anaerobic effort so I had to be judicious with the efforts as there is a small window of vulnerability after. Ie sprinting for position on back the straight (Cordova)meant fresh riders could overtake on the incline on Water Street.
In terms of equipment I rode a Focus Cayo with aluminum deep dish tubulars. The bike weighed 17.5 lbs and would in most people’s eyes have heavy wheels (1700g). I feel that getting into a draft and spending as much time humanly possible in the drops trumps the advantage of aero wheels. Many of the other riders were racing Ultegra equipped bikes and sometimes box section aluminum rims. I have to thank Hal, Renny and Parker for tuning my bike to race readiness and of course Broad Street Bikes for the exceptional support and encouragement. Gastown is a race anyone capable of finishing should slot on their calander, the crowd excitement is infectious. I normally don’t high-five strangers along the barricades but this scenario warranted it. For me the race was a success.
Know the difference between a catastrophe and an inconvenience. — To realize that it’s just an inconvenience, that it is not a catastrophe, but just an unpleasantness, is part of coming into your own, part of waking up. - Bruce Lee