Sunday, July 24, 2016

2nd L'Alpe de Grand Blanc 2016

link to RACE VIDEO

Beautiful start to the day at 22C 8 a.m… unlike the rainy conditions at last year's inaugural race.
photo Big White
New extended start from the East Kelowna Community Hall. Already hot in the sun, I found shade near the side at the front as we lined up. Double the participants from last year with 137 racers.

Map of course before Hwy 33 turn-off. Starting position was important as the switchback descent thru Mission Creek was less than 3 km away 
The group rolled out neutral for 800m. Just after turning the first corner, the orange cones marking the official start came as a surprise. The riders in the front pack were quickly out of the saddle picking up the pace.
The race began at the orange cones! - photo Big White
With a slight headwind, a one-line pace line formed until the twisty descent. Riders swooshed down faster than the usual Sunday ride pace. 

Approaching the start of last year's race, riders sprinted up the first climb ferociously. I held my own pace back of the lead group and caught up to Darrin Caruso, owner of Chainline cycles. With a few straggler riders ahead, we both worked to catch up, as Darrin bridged the gap. 

We now had a group of 5 riders. I looked at them and thought they were big guys, with my definition being they were strong flat-landers not skinny climbers.

Marg, tucked in behind 4 strong riders with
rider #150, Gary Wade leading
 - photo Big White
As we turned onto Hwy 33, the pace was constant and high. At that pace, my immediate thoughts were “ouch, this pace hurts!" and "I certainly need more of this in training” as I was breathing heavily. The lead peloton was barely seen up the road. 

After this first major hill climb, it was important to have a group for the next slight incline false flat sections. It was still another 4 km to the crest of the hill near the truck brake-check stop. I gutted the pace out.

After I took a turn leading the climb and looked over my shoulder, I was sad to see Darrin and another rider dropped off. There were three of us left. 
My typical out of saddle style seen in the distance (yellow shoes)
as we caught one straggler from the lead peloton 
- photo Big White
Now a group of four, the guys took longer pulls on the flats, with my pulls on any inclines. Flyweight did not match the power of these guys.

Finally on the 5 km climb to the Big White turnoff, I started with a nice chill pace. The straggler we caught took off. Super strong rider #150 with a Kelowna Cycle jersey set a faster pace than me. I attempted to pull ahead though he came around again. I was ultra impressed with his climbing power with our size differences.

At the turnoff to Big White, the other rider grabbed water at the feed zone. He kept with us for a short time up the next steep climb, then dropped back. Earlier he joked and questioned if we would ever get to coast!

I followed the pace of #150 as I could do no better. The headwind was nasty, so it fueled my fire to ensure I stayed with him. The wind factor added to my already ultra impressed-ness with his strength!

I quite enjoyed the speed following him on the short descent.

We caught the straggler climber again. I chatted with #150 and said “bummer to be stuck with two skinny climbers!”. His reply was super nice and said he enjoyed the company. The young climber eventually dropped back with what appeared a mechanical. 

Our pace was consistent. Every time #150 got out of the saddle for a break, his change of pace started to tire me. When we reached the final switchback hill, he told me he was fading and for me to go on ahead.

In my mind, I was thinking how I was already being challenged to stay on his wheel, and told him “no worries, I like the company!”

Lead peloton on Big White Road - photo Big White
I knew all the stats for this ride as I rode it earlier in the week. After the 2.5k switchback climb to the transfer station (high elevation point of the course), there was a fast 2.5k descent (120m drop) and then final 2k climb to the finish through the ski village. I quoted these stats to #150 who seemed to appreciate the description.

post-race stories - photo Big White
Once we finally reached the peak, the switchover to descending muscles was a teeny bit scary with a slight twinge of a cramp. Fortunately, he did not accelerate quickly. The final climb was welcome with a few locals cheering. I let #150 go finishing seconds back.

I was very pleased with my efforts to hang in. The thought to battle the wind on my own terrified me to work harder. Found out rider #150 was Gary Wade, a very strong former racer on Team Total Restoration, and I had heard "legend" in general! I was super fortunate to get to ride with him.

Annie Bergen, Marg Fedyna, Amanda Kosmerly
Annie Bergen, my very close competitor, caught up to Darrin and placed 2nd. Emily Millard, a local rider, placed 3rd with Amanda Kosmerly, my training buddy, in 4th.

15-yr old Conor Martin, Marg Fedyna, Big White Ski Moose!
Race organization was superb, full water bottles handed out at feedzones, post-race fruit, post-race meal with home-made ice cream bars were fantastic. Guy at the free beer table looked bored!

Ascent 1705m
Descent 418m
Distance 58 km
Time 2:14.49
Avs 26 kph
Mxs 75 kph