This was my first year racing Paris-Ancaster and it was completely different from what I thought it was going to be like. For some reason I always imagined it as a big Ore to Shore. I even put 1.9 Karma's on my Mamasita a few days before. However, after checking out pictures of the course and talking to a few people we did a last minute switch back to cyclocross tires. It was a very good decision to do so.
There were over 1,900 racers competing, and the promoter sent us off in 3 waves with 10 minutes in between. The good news is that I was in the 1st wave. The bad news is that I was WAY in the back of the first wave. The first hundred plus spots were saved for top finishers from last year, and then they also called up a bunch of pro racers. There were over 100 women racing, and the field was SUPER TOUGH! And you know I mean business when I use a bold font, italics, and all capital letters!
I couldn't actually see any of the women in the front, but the UK National Cyclocross champion was there, along with some women from the Canadian Olympic road team. After the promoter would announce the women, he would mention their World ranking. I was trying to think positively, but a little voice in the back of my head started saying things like, "you are going to get your butt kicked!"
We were staged on grass in a corral of sorts, made out of metal fencing. The start was completely insane because I actually saw the front of the wave racing down the street before I even started to move. That's never a good sign!
After a brief road section we hit a dirt rail-trail and it was slightly unnerving. It was wheel to wheel as far as I could see. Passing was pretty impossible as there was no where to go. All of the racers around me held perfect lines though, and there were no crashes.
Eventually we hit the road, and that's when the big group that I was with started breaking up a bit. You basically had to stay in a paceline because it was so windy. There were a few dirt doubletrack sections, but those were few and far between. We raced through a few little towns, and there were a lot of people cheering in their driveways and on the corners. It was pretty cool.
I ended up riding with the same group of guys for most of the race. They shelled me a few times, but I would catch back up once we hit the grassy sections. I did have a very lonely 10 minutes on the road alone where I felt like I was barely moving, but I was able to jump on to a paceline of 3 guys and we were able to catch the group that dropped me.
The only part of the race that didn't seem like a road race was this long downhill that was super muddy. It seemed like everyone was running it, and my feet each weighed about 10 more pounds a piece afterwards. I had so much mud on them! I can tell that my endurance is pretty good, because everyone around me started to die towards the end and I felt like I was just getting started. I definitely could have kept going...but even so I was happy to see the finish line.
Despite the pain and the bleeding from the eyeballs, I'm really glad that I did this race. I can check it off of my list, and I feel stronger having raced it. My finishing time was 2:18, and I finished 14th out of 100 women. Helen Wyman (UK national champ) won the race, and I am not even going to say how far ahead of me she was.
Ok, I will.
In 40 miles she put 17 minutes on me. Ouch! I was only 7 minutes behind my husband though, so he better start looking over his shoulder :-)
Will I go back to this race? No, but only because it was kind of a long drive (6 hours) to race on the road. If it was closer, I would do it every year because I was definitely pushed out of my comfort zone. Canada has a lot of great mountain bike races though, so I would much rather drive over for those!
Now I have exactly 5 days to recover until Cohutta 65. Bring on the singletrack and long climbs!!! I can't wait.