Toonie Crit Series 2016
text : Max Rubarth - photo : Gophrette Power
My friend Jackson Van De Wouw introduced me to the Toonie Crit Series when he participated in the 2015 series. In 2016 I decided to give it a shot after hearing all about it from him. I came into the Toonie Crit not knowing what to expect. I mean, I knew exactly what I was getting into and had lots of advice from others who had participated in previous years but it is really one of those things that you don't know what it is until you experience it firsthand.
I went into the first race nervously. It was raining, the corners were tight and my track bike handling skills were an unknown factor. As the race started I had a good position off the gun, sitting about 4 wheels back we take the first corner; a sweeping left hander. Almost everybody overcooks it and has to run wide outside of the cones. I'm just attempting to hold my position but gaps keep forming out of the sharp hairpin turn, and through the chicane. I get distanced from the leaders and am towing a ThePack rider behind me. New Strategy! Take the corners at my own comfortable pace and the guy behind me is forced to follow. Not always the best case for him as I kept on clipping the wall of paper towels packs and nearly took him out with one on a couple occasions ;P. I could hear him yelling behind me.
About 14 mins in I'm getting tired, the leaders are about ¾ away from lapping us, and I’m getting slower by the lap. ThePack rider comes around me and attacks. I attempt to keep up with him but he takes the corners much more aggressively than I do and I choose to ease off and let him do his thing rather than risk a crash. I accept the fact that I’m not going to be able to finish and am waiting for the inevitable catch by the leading group of 4 riders. At 17 mins the lead group is just about to lap me so I swing wide on the hairpin turn to let them pass. For some reason, the guy that was sitting behind me the whole time decides to jump on the back of their train after they pass. Consequently he passes the start/ finish line ahead of me. I thought nothing of it at the time but I realized later on that he got 2 more points than I did, which could have been a deciding factor in the overall rankings later on.
After that disappointing performance at the first toonie crit I figured that it couldn’t get much worse so it’s time for round 2, but this time with a Tekne Cycle club teammate Jackson Van De Wouw and Eurosports rider Andrew Olive. We were fairly anxious about the weather as the forecast was calling for rain yet again. When we arrived, the amateur race was just about to begin and it was spitting rain so not too bad. Upon inspection of the circuit I was relieved to see that it was significantly longer than the previous one but still pretty short overall. I’m hoping that it will be enough to make a difference in my performance. The amateur race has now finished and I go to check up on some other riders from Ottawa that were riding and ask them how they felt out there in those conditions. Sounds like the pavement was gripping well but there were a couple spots with some gravel to be careful and aware of. I take note and head out to warm up a little bit on course.
This time I line up on the first row in an attempt to start closer to the front because as I had learned from my previous attempt, I’m not that good at passing people on the fixed gear bike. Well... the first row didn’t help me much as I missed my pedal off the start and end up sitting eighth wheel into the first corner. I’m sitting on my buddy Jackson’s wheel and there is a gap forming from the rider ahead of me. I jump around him and bridge back up to the group of six riders. Josh Tyrell has already attacked and the gap is widening quickly, but his iBike teammate is sitting on the front and letting him get away. I attempt to move up a couple positions to begin the chase but as I had learned from the previous toonie crit, it is pretty scary to move up on such a short course. Our small group spends the next 15mins rotating turns on the front every few laps and Josh is still sitting about half a lap ahead. The gap definitely isn’t closing quickly so somebody has to act fast if he is going to get caught. At the 30 minute mark I’m taking my turn on the front and feeling pretty good. The ground is drying up nicely and the legs are well warmed up, I decide to just go for it and chase down Josh. One short acceleration on the back straight and I’ve got a small gap. Nothing too threatening looking but just enough that the group would have to ramp up the pace to catch. Nobody follows and that is what I am hoping for. After all, I’m only the road racing underdog hahaha. Just gonna focus on taking the corners smooth without hitting the deck. It is immediately apparent that Josh is beginning to get tired because I am gaining time on him nearly every lap thanks to the spectators at the side of the track providing time gaps. 20 seconds! 12 seconds! 10 seconds!!! He is stronger at maintaining his speed on the hairpin turn but I am holding more speed through the faster section of the course. I take note of this for later on.
It takes just over 6 minutes to close the gap, there is still 10 minutes of racing left to go, and we have a sizable lead over the trailing group. Josh leads for a couple of laps and then I decide to set the pace. Keeping it slow at first but purposefully doing short punchy accelerations to see what he has got left. He seems to be holding out okay so it’s time to ramp up the pace. Tire him out as much as possible before the last few laps. After a few minutes of some fast laps I give the flick of the elbow and Josh is on the front. There are 5 laps to go. He is maintaining the pace but I get a chance to recover behind his large frame. 3 laps to go and Josh makes a mistake on the hairpin turn swinging wide. I take the opportunity and jump to first wheel. Knowing that I will have a hard time to pass again in the closing laps I slow up a bit but not enough to tempt Josh to attack. Last lap. I’m looking back often, watching Josh closely. I can tell that he wants to pass but I cannot let that happen. Short burst of acceleration on the back straight then hard on the backpedaling for the chicane. Keep it smooth through the hairpin, I hear the familiar sound of a bike sliding on pavement Josh is down! I’ve won!
Thankfully Josh was back on his bike right away and still crossed the line in second. Anywayyyys that was my experience of taking part in the 2016 Toonie Crit Series!!! Thanks to all my friends and other people that I don’t know who cheered us on during these super fun races, and to ThePack for putting on these super fun races. I definitely hope to be back at it for 2017 and will encourage other road racers to come out and try something new and exciting. Maybe there will be a new underdog for 2017...