From horseback riding to bike racing. Fellow Wheeler, Catherine Bouchard, recounts her first racing experience at Calabogie.

20140413_8172On Sunday April 13th, 2014, I entered the Calabogie Road Classic in the Women’s Master A division, and here’s my race report.

But before I begin, I want to thank my fellow Wheelers for their support, and in particular Rico, who has generously given of his time and knowledge in order to help me become a racer. Hopefully I haven’t given him too much grey hair in the process. Big thank you  everyone!

Back to Calabogie. I must have been slow to get organized that morning because I was just starting to warm up when staging began. It worked out well since that didn’t leave me enough time to worry. I lined up at the start line with about 30 girls, none of which I knew so I won’t be dropping many names today. As we waited for the countdown, I was shivering like mad and wishing for the speech to end already so I could get warm. Did I mention it was ass-freezing cold? Ok, I think I’ve made that point!

We’re off. I’m positioned toward the front of the peloton and my goal is to stay there, nothing fancy. The first few laps are uneventful and I manage to stay in a sweet spot without too much work. Life is good. Almost too good, in fact, and I wonder how much longer this will last.

The pack seems to be moving backward when we hit a hill. I have some good momentum but not so much patience, so I jump to the front instead of slowing down. However, I soon realise that I’m not strong enough to pull for very long without risking blowing up early in the race. I tuck in behind a wheel with newfound admiration for the girls in the front. They are some tough women!

After lap 3 or 4 I start to loose count. Apparently there was a lap counter, but of course I didn’t find that out until after the race.  I decide to focus on one lap at a time, and manage to stay within the front third of the pack despite the pace picking up a bit. Someone has gotten away fairly early on, but nobody is interested in chasing her so I almost forget about the breakaway until the next gap update. A quick scan of the peloton reveals that some of the girls are missing. Meanwhile, I’m floating around the pack and things are running pretty smoothly.

We’re nearing the end of lap 10 and I’m getting tired. On the hill, the girls take off like they mean it this time, but I have nothing left in the tank. The head wind hits me as soon as I lose my wheel and there is no hope of making up the gap now. There is a full lap left to go, and it’s going to be a long one…

As I glance over my shoulder, there is no one in sight and I begin to wonder whether I’m not dead last somehow. I eventually spot a solo rider in the distance and try as hard as I can to catch up to her. She crosses the finish line just before I can catch her, but I’m grateful she was there because she kept me going when I felt mentally an physically worn out in the final km’s.

I was glad to have stayed with the faster girls for 10 out of 11 laps, but it almost seemed irrelevant as I rolled across the finish line to the sound of criquets. I didn’t know yet that there were still about a dozen riders behind me, much less that I had made the podium!

As I think about my race, it strikes me how lucky I am to be part of the Wheelers community as I experience these things for the first time. There is still a lot for me to learn, but the whole day was a blast and I can’t wait to do it again!

Catherine Bouchard

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4 Responses to From horseback riding to bike racing. Fellow Wheeler, Catherine Bouchard, recounts her first racing experience at Calabogie.

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  3. Nadia Marshy says:

    Catherine,
    I am not sure how I missed this post earlier, although I had heard the great news. Thanks for sharing your awesome race report and hearty congratulations on your success! As you mention, bike racing comes with a long and steep learning curve, but you are in good hands with the likes of Rico and the other Wheelers. Congrats again! I look forward to seeing you at your next race.

    Cheers!
    Nadia

  4. Luc says:

    I enjoyed reading your first experience in racing. Your step by step description puts you right in there and pushing the pedals with you….. Way to go!!!

    Just another avid cyclist in Chelsea Quebec

    Enjoy the summer ahead

    Luc

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