Didn’t post past two Tuesday’s – did you notice? It passed me by without much thought either.
(skip to first photo for start of P2A recap)
Despite having so much extra time to fill between the races at Bear Mountain, Fontana, and Bonelli, there was no energy or inspiration to pull ideas from. Racing is fun, but I admittedly struggled to find meaningful routines and things to fill my day with while in California. Now, being back home and back into a full work and training schedule, I’ve been feeling markedly better and more comfortable with the ebb and flow of my daily life.
It’s been good to reaffirm that I need to have things to do other than be an athlete. The trade-off of the negative effects of work/school/life stress that I usually harbour for the benefits of being occupied and not listlessly trying to decide how best to spend the 16 waking hours of my day when I know I should only train for 2 of them yields a net positive (that was a long sentence, sorry).
The combination of getting settled back into regular routines and a week of more normal training brought us to Paris to Ancaster this past weekend…
Early in the New Year, I reached out to the race organizers, Tim and John (who I would later meet in person), to see if I could get a start in the Elite Wave. You have to either qualify based on previous P2A results or be invited to be part of this wave, and since I’m still sort of on the fringe of the cycling scene, I wasn’t going to get an out-of-the-blue call to come race. Fortunately, my stint of mountain bike racing last summer and keenness to do P2A was recognized and I no sooner found myself on the start-line next to multi-British National Champion, Word Cup cyclocross racer Helen Wyman, and American CX pro and last year’s P2A winner Rebecca Fahringer. It was super cool to have such legit, world class riders in attendance; to see how they ride, learn how to race… I picked up a lot just by watching and chatting with them.
Also tried to not draw too much attention to myself, but the plaid kit makes it pretty much impossible…
Racing amongst the men makes it nigh impossible to make a break on the open gravel roads, which left two scenarios for how the women’s race was going to be won: either by someone getting up the road in a faster group, staying away, and winning, or breaking away in the last 8km through the mud slides and punchier terrain.
The race got off the a clean start and after hustling along for a few km’s the field split apart at the pitch up and off the rail trail. This was the most stressful part of my race, because I knew there was at least one, if not more, women up the road amongst the men from me. I’d hoped to be the one in that position, rather than behind, but thanks to some timely pulls from friends Peter Glassford (on his mountain bike 😂) and winner of the first two editions of Paris to Ancaster Mark Hlady (who I’d just met at pre-ride on Friday 👋), Helen, Becca, and I were brought together and the race for the podium seemed set from there.
We ended up in a large group of at least a dozen riders, and no moves to get up the road were sticking. I was grateful to have friendly wheels amongst our group in Dylan Kerr, Kevin Simms, and teammate Brody Sanderson to sit and stay safe on. Being able to ride with people I knew helped me stay calm and gave me a bit of extra confidence that I’d be ready to buckle down and race on my own steam when it was time to go.
A kilometre or two out from the first mudslide, through some more rolling hills, Helen caught or crossed wheels with someone in the group, which with less than 10km left in the race unfortunately meant the race was cut down to just me and Becca. Anticipating the narrowing course, Dylan and Simmer jumped up the road, and the group shattered as we hurtled towards the deciding features.
Becca sniped me into the first mud slide, which was a little startling; she seemed super confident diving in, so I figured if she was going to outride me through the mud, she was just going to outride me through the mud… and my years of commuting to school along (through) the snowy bike paths of Thunder Bay in preparation for this moment would all be for naught.
This is when I surprised myself. Earlier in the race, I was relieved to survive the post-railtrail hammerfest to make the lead women’s group, and content riding moderately hard within the group with a podium secured for most of the 73km journey. But to ride the mud and the final climbs as well as I did, and how quickly relative to the other racers around me, was unexpected.
Then again, I didn’t expect anything, other than to be in the race, and not settle once I was there.
Out of the first mud slide, I’d opened a sizeable gap and knew it was time to really race. I almost hate to admit it, but it’s easier to dig in when it’s for the win. I wish I could say I fought as hard for 6/7th at Bear Mountain as I did coming to the line in Ancaster, but that’s not the truth. It’s something I’m working on, to be a better competitor and racer, and I think it’s important to recognize it. At my best, I can just race, and that’s really what I want to do more of this year, just race, just ride my bike.
In any case, I am extremely proud of both my race and result at Paris to Ancaster. It was a privilege to take part in this historic Canadian event, amongst so many incredible riders. Hoping to carry some momentum off of it into the next block of mountain bike racing! I’d also like to give a big kudos to fellow Simcoe County local, Gunnar Holmgren, for his third consecutive Paris to Ancaster win! It’s pretty inspiring to have Gunnar and so many other top drawer riders spinning around the same roads and trails of Oro.
Thank you to all the people for being and bringing me here 🙌