The start of the race and the end of the race were on the same 6-7 km section of rail trail. Lets just say, they had to plow and snow blow it to make it 'ridable'. Off the start, it was actually pretty firm (icy or frozen dirt, garmin says I averaged about 24 km/hr on it). Coming home, what a $hit show. It had thawed, the snow was super loose, the icy parts were actually the best as they were firm, the exposed parts were like riding through pudding. Garmin says I averaged about 16 km/hr (leaving there was a tail wind, head wind at the end, plus fresh legs, but it was way, way tougher).
After the rail trails, it was essentially 55 km of dirt roads. A couple small climbs, but mostly flat. I say this was certainly a course for someone who could lay down some wattage. I got off the rail trail about 30 m back from what looked like solid group. No way I could make that gap. A few strong riders flew past me, I tried to hold their wheel, but these were certainly people who didn't perform on the rail trail like they could on the road.
Finally a group of 5-6 guys pulled up behind me and I could catch their wheel. We slowly picked up a few stragglers here and there and got up to close to 10 at one point. A couple were really ambitious and though I was strong and asked me to try to go with them when small gaps would open. I just waited for the group, and sure enough, these guys got caught each time they tried to go off the front.
I rode with this group for about 1/2 the race. Strong riders. At one point I realized I needed to eat, so I went to the back to pull out my gel flask. Struggled to get it out, then it was too cold to flow. This coast me dearly. I was dropped by my group. I put a sprint down, caught back up, only to get dropped after about 20 seconds of rest. The pace then picked, a small gap opened and I did another sprint, got back for about 5 second and it was fruitless. I was redlined. Alone I went.
I pushed, but not too hard, knowing it was just smarter to wait for the next group. When they arrived, I jumped on. It was going really well. Then someone attacked, people went to catch the wheel and there was a crash. I dodge the downed rider, but upon looking back, he wasn't getting up quickly. I pulled up, turned around with another racer to see how he was doing. He hit his head hard and was bleeding from his leg and hand. We waited to see how he was doing. A race van came shortly after, so we took off. Soft pedaled again, seeing as their was a group 100 m behind. They caught us and we jumped in.
Just rode out the rest of the dirt roads, with 3-4 of doing most of the work for a group of about 10. I felt good and I hoped to try and drop the group on the rail trail. I got in first, gaped everyone, then realized I didn't have the power, nor the energy to really push through. This second time down the rail trail, was pure power, less technical the the first time down. I didn't have it. It was made for a 200 lb ape who is all legs. A good chunk of that group ended up passing me.
Overall, except for the last 1/2 of the last section of rail trail, I had a good time. I was dressed right. Wish I had gotten food in however. Good training race, P2A is a focus for this year and this was a good to help me work on the flat road power riding, not my strength.
The head wind was pretty tough for us guys ridng alone, and that rail trail was really unnecessary. I looked up sadist in my dictionary, and it refers to someone who makes you ride the same impossible sloppy rail trail TWICE.
I kinda wish it wasn't a race, we passed, if I recall correctly (which is questionable) at least 5-6 horse led wagons and a bunch of Mennonite children out watching us on. It would be nice to go back and immerse yourself on the ride with a bit more awareness of the cultural diversity present.
I was in the first wave men 20-29. After the horse paced start (how awesome is that?) I got to about 20th-25th going into the rail trail. Rail trail on the way out wasn't too bad, sloppy in some areas and muddy but generally firm and manageable - passed a few people here and gained maybe 5-10 spots.
Going onto the road stretch I was in the 2nd pack wave, the first pack was about 35m ahead of us. Hung with the second pack for about 10km just keeping up, then my front derail froze and I was locked in the big party ring and got dropped on those 'big' climbs on Hackbart Rd.
I ended up riding solo in that viscous Mennonite headwind from the start of Hutchison Rd all the way to about 1/4 down Chalmers Forest Rd.
Picked up into a big pack there with some nice dudes and we had a solid draft train all the way down that big stretch - passed about 5-6+ horse buggies in a row, one freaked out, then our group separated on Buheler Line. I was cooked from pushing solo from so long earlier that I stayed back with the slower of our pack.
We also got passed by 2-3 guys absolutly on FIRE sprinting on Posey Line, I mean we were going maybe 35km/h and these guys passed us at at least 40+ going uphill - whoever those guys were, mega props!
I was initially so stoked to get to the rail trail because I thought it would be a break from the fast pace our group was pushing, couldn't be more wrong.
Trying to push on the big ring across that mud/slush quicksand soup mess for 5km was hell. It was like riding with the brakes on for me. One guy fell directly in front of me and I missed him by about 1". I stuck to the slightly harder outside / on the ice as much as possible. Got passed by some older guy hauling ass - only to have him eat **** big time about 10 seconds later, felt bad for him. Legs were burning, I contemplated life several times and considered just giving up on life in general right there. After the seemingly endless rail trail I sprinted the finish and got in at 53rd / 7th in my category.
Not bad considering it's my first time ever road biking I guess ha