Tour de Terra Cotta Race Report
First Career Podium at the Beautiful Tour de Terra Cotta
For road cyclists in Ontario, the August long weekend means one thing: Le Tour de Terra Cotta.
This past Monday marked the 11th edition of the Tour de Terra Cotta which takes place in Terra Cotta, Ontario. This year was my first time participating in the event, racing the 26km Beginner’s Race, and I was nothing short of impressed with the event. First, Terra Cotta is a beautiful place and the course was fantastic. Second, organizers and staff did a great job at putting the event together and ensuring everything ran smoothly. And third, it was a great day of racing.
In recent weeks I have been feeling really good on my bike. Its a great sign that the form is there as a prepare for my big goal event of the season: Provincial Time Trial Championships. I wanted to take advantage of this good form at the Tour de Terra Cotta, so, unlike at my previous races, and made a plan for the race.
My goal was a strong performance. I wanted to finish in the lead group with dreams of taking the win. In order to achieve this goal, I formulated a plan. Relying on good positioning, I would make sure I was in the lead group at the top of the Heritage Climb on the third and final ascent. Once in the group, I would attack on the back straight, establish a gap, and use the descent back down to King Street to hold my lead to the line.
Making a plan in your head is one thing, but executing it on race day is another.
If you have read my other race reports, you will know that most of the difficulties I had earlier this year racing could be blamed on my poor starts (see Good Friday and Springbank race reports). I was overjoyed to find out that the Tour de Terra Cotta would have a neutral start which meant I wouldn’t be off the back right away. So when the whistle blew and the peloton rolled out, I was able to clip in and hold my place. The race was off to a good start.
The lead vehicle pulled off as we made the turn from King to Heritage and hit the foot of the Heritage Climb. A short but steep climb, Heritage is one of those climbs where you aren’t going to win the race but you may just loose it. Luckily I made it over the first time only a little behind the lead group and was able to bridge back up with the help of other stragglers. Once back in the shelter of the peloton, it was time to recover and prepare for the next ascent.
The second lap followed a pattern very similar to the first. Dropped on the climb, chase back to the lead group, recover.
As we hit the third and final lap of the 26km Beginner’s Race at the Tour de Terra Cotta, it was time to try and put my plan into action. I thought I was well positioned heading into the climb but unfortunately I was wrong. I was too far to the right of the road and was impeded by slower and erratic riders. So once I crested the climb the lead group had a bigger gap than before thanks to an increased pace and no one else was chasing.
I was going to have to do this myself.
I slid forward onto my seat, put my head down, and dug deep. I had missed the lead group but I wasn’t going to let them get away. Moving in and out of the drafts of other riders on the road, I put everything I had into the pedals to close the gap to the lead group. I didn’t care how many people I was towing on my wheel (I think it was 6), I just had to get up to that group (which was about 15 riders strong).
I felt really good though as I slowly closed the gap (another great sign ahead of Provincial TT Championships). But as I made the turn onto the back straight, I started getting bogged down by the headwind and the effort started to hurt. Luckily the riders I had been towing along decided to help out and gave me just enough recovery to leave them behind and make the final push back up the lead group.
By the time I reached the lead group, there was already a rider up the road. Someone had taken my idea of how to win the race! Unfortunately the chase had taken a lot out of me and I decided to just sit on the back of the group and recover for the sprint.
Now sprinting is not one of my strengths and it showed at the end of the race. I didn’t lack energy in as much as I lacked the desire to sprint hard for the line. But I participated in the bunch sprint, standing for a second before sitting back down. I probably should have shifted into a harder gear as well but I managed to overtake a couple riders just before the line.
The group never caught the lone rider mentioned earlier. He managed to escape and take the win. Turns out I had a good plan, just poorly executed.
In the sprint I did just enough to finish 15th overall, but more importantly, I finished 3rd in the 20-29 age group after out sprinting two other members of my age group. Good thing I had put some effort into the bunch sprint, otherwise I would have missed out on my first ever podium and a medal!
That feeling of getting up on the podium feels great and now its a feeling I want to experience again. This time it was only the third step but maybe next time it will be the second or hopefully the first. Next up is the Provincial Time Trial Championships were I will be competing in the 25km Sportif event. Will I be taking a medal home again?
Despite a successful day at the Tour de Terra Cotta, it was still only my 4th race and was another good learning experience. I learned a couple important lessons that will help in my race career.
First, positioning is super important. If I had been positioned better leading into the climb on the final lap I wouldn’t of used up so much energy chasing and may have finished higher. If I had positioned myself better for the final sprint, once again, I may have finished higher.
Second, you need to commit to the sprint. If you want to do well in the sprint, you have to go for it. For some reason I just couldn’t get up for the sprint and unfortunately that meant a lower finishing position than what might have been possible.
After my race, I spent the rest of the day watching the other races and taking some photos. Here are a select few. For more photos of the Elite race, check out this post.