Last year, I wanted to win Paris to Ancaster but didn’t know how to do it…
This year, I wanted to win Paris to Ancaster and knew how I wanted to do it.
I don’t know if it was blind confidence, dogged determination, or desperation that put me in the mix with the lead group… probably a bit of each. All I do know is that I totally put myself out there to make it happen, risked blowing it big time, and then somehow pulled it off…
Paris to Ancaster is a mixed-mass-start, so making the lead group is a big ask; especially with the most elite field of racers the event has ever seen. The gravel scene is exploding, and with P2A as the most iconic spring dirt-dropbar race in Canada, the pro’s and top-drawer joe’s were ready to contest for the title. I was admittedly a little apprehensive about trying to make the lead group with so many strong guys looking to push the pace and animate the race. But after making it safely down the rail-trail and up the notorious turn-off, I found myself exactly where I wanted to be.
A lead group of about 25 riders was established, but there was a lot of yo-yo’ing (by me at least) and attacks off the front which made it difficult to gauge. I was also so cross-eyed and determined not to be dropped that as long as I wasn’t alone off the back it didn’t matter so much to me, I just wanted to be with the lead pack and away from the chase group that had the next women in the race.
The last 10 or so kilometres of the course are the most technical and “mountain-biker” friendly with two mud slides and more punchy climbs compared to the flat fast roads and farm tracts that make up most of the route. Unfortunately, about 3km before the entrance to the first mudslide, I dropped my chain on bump along an innocuous section of the rail trail and the group was gone. As I put my hand up and shouted that my chain was off so riders behind me in the paceline could move around, I quietly hoped someone in the group would wait, but alas they must’ve been pretty cooked too and would rather see me popped now than risk racing for the end later.
Fair play, I don’t blame them, but I still hoped for a moment someone might wait. And so with 20-some of them 30 seconds up the road and 1 of me in pursuit left little hope to catch back up, but knowing the tech sections were ahead I still pinned it to limit my losses. That lead group blew up once they got to the mud, and I quickly found myself back with a race, pulling back a handful of places to finish 21st Overall – just 3:45 back, and 1st for the women’s race.
Peter Disera won the men’s race ahead of Will Elliott – both are my neighbours, as were lead group finishers Quinton Disera and Noah Simms. Add in Cathedral Pines alumni Adam Jamieson and Orillia-friend Gunnar Holmgren, and it’s crazy to see the elite cycling micro-climate we share.
This race will undoubtably go down as one of my best of all time. It was one of those races where it seems like the whole time you’re head down pedalling as hard as you can, just hoping you’re still on the wheel, somehow holding on when you really aren’t sure if you can, but you do, and you somehow make it happen. The only “what-if”, was the chain-drop. I wish it hadn’t happened, and I could’ve seen where I would’ve ended up without having lost the group before the decisive closing section. But hey, maybe it’s for the best. It’s certainly left me to aspire for more in the future.