Race Team Early Season Recap

With almost 2 months of racing under their tires the Victoria Wheelers Race Team provides us with a breakdown of how the 2016 season is unfolding.  Well done team!

Soon after some celebratory Fernwood Inn beverages from Trevor MacKenzie’s 2015 VCL A Overall cup the cogs began to turn towards 2016.  A year that the Wheelers anticipated throughout the dark Tripleshot mornings and dreary winter Mt. Dougs.  Yes, 2015 was successful but the Team hatched out new goals and ambitions that brought out new brotherhood levels of reliance, dependence, and work ethic.  The Tripleshot mornings got brighter, the Mt. Dougs quicker, and soon enough the team’s first race was underway.  Sit back and roll through the early season of March-May with us in what has been a most excellent start to 2016.

Ian Brown, recent Engineer graduate from UVic, took the honours of suiting up first for 2016.  Ian traveled over to the Continent for a double-header, something he quite enjoys doing.  A triathlon may not be a bike race, however Ian crushed the UBC Tri bike leg for the Uvic Tri Team in Eddy Merckx fashion during the first week of March.  With 40k of priming, his legs were ready to race in the second round of Escape Velocity Spring Series at Wix Brown.  The 85’ish km course tested Ian’s abilities to trim his sails in prevailing south easterlies that plagued the peleton throughout the day.  Caught out of the mid-way break, Ian drove the chase to a pack sprint finishing a respectable 12th in his first Cat 3 endeavour.

The following weekend another lone Wheeler made the jaunt across the water for a double-header Spring Series.  Andrew Russell took on the rolling Thunderbird and Aldergrove East courses.  Being outnumbered by the mainland teams did nothing to dampen his desire to wreak havoc and build early season race fitness.  Thunderbird saw an early break establish and build it’s lead to 3’.  In the final quarter of the race Langlois Brown decided they were not satisfied with their representative in the break and took up the chase with Andrew lending a hand.  The break would be caught with 5k to go and the counter attacks ensued.  Finding good position into the final climbs saw Andrew make the selection leading into the final sprint (over railroad tracks) to the line, finishing a respectable 9th.  The next day saw a turn in weather greet the riders about mid-way through the 120k Aldergrove East affair.  With Nigel Ellsay (Silber Racing) present the dynamic was far more aggressive than Thunderbird.  Cross-winds took their toll on the riders in the closing laps along with torrential foot-n-mouth rain from farm fields.  With Ellsay putting on a solo show FTW, and Dylan Davies (Trek Red Truck) and Chris Pendergast (H&R Block) duking it out for 2nd/3rd, the bunch would sprint uphill for fourth.  Placing 15th and borderline hypothermic the race was one to remember with a 50% attrition rate.

Racing continued to roll with the third weekend in March staging the first VCL of the year at Caleb Pike.  The team fielded 6 riders to joust a full Russ Hays contingent.  Both teams animated the race early which eventually led to a break of 3 forming that included Isaac LeBlanc, Curtis Dearden, and Andrew.  Outnumbered, Andrew sat on the two Russ Hays riders.  It seemed a glorious plan until cagey teamwork unfolded and Andrew was shelled.  Curtis and Isaac would go on to 1-2 the finish.  A valiant sprint from Eugene Hahn, piping guys half his age, saw a Wheeler take third on a day.  The winter team gains were evident at this one along with invaluable strategic takeaways.

After an eggcellent long-weekend hiatus, Geoff Homer, Eugene and Andrew were back at it with the final double-header Spring Series weekend.  Geoff and Andrew took on a lumpy Bradner course with the likes of Rally Pro Will Routely and a copious Langlois Brown contingent.  Routely’s presence had many riders holding their cards early in the race.  Andrew had missed the memo and was off the front time after time, pointless at times but quite enjoyable.  Once Routley made his inevitable move that no one could follow, the group was suddenly cut in half.  Beginning the race as the smallest team, Geoff and Andrew now had the largest team in the remaining 8 riders!  With some interesting tactics late in the race, a solo British rider was reeled in with 400m to the line.  Geoff contested the sprint well to place 4th and Andrew 5th.  Two Wheelers on a Spring Series podium!  Sunday would see Eugene join the troops as a preview of the BC Road Race Course was on tap.  An early break was pulled back by strong efforts from Geoff and Eugene.  A counter through the start/finish incline saw Andrew get into a 7-man break with all the major teams equally represented.  This left little desire in the chase and the 7 established a sizeable gap.  A false lap board count saw the sprint finish occur one lap too early.  When the dust had settled the riders did another lap with déjà vu happening along the start/finish stretch and Andrew coming away with 5th; a great weekend and 260km of sunny racing.

The next weekend in April bagged the early season highlight for the team at the second Caleb VCL outing.  It was great to have Mick Bryson rejoin the fold after an early season crash in 2015 broke his clavicle and sideline him for quite some time.  From the gun Wheelers Matt Sharpe and Stephane Tran took the reins and strung things out.  Trevor MacKenzie followed suit with an ominous solo break that would end up being a rehearsal of sorts.  Once Trevor was brought back Eugene launched a serious solo spree of laps TT’ing as he does 20’’ off the front.  This forced large efforts from Ty Andrews (Trek Red Truck) and Jordan Landolt (Russ Hays) to bring things back together.  Trevor launched yet another Wheeler attack with 1 ½ laps to go.  Egged on by Wheelers faithful, Trevor chewed stem for 5’ on his Norco Tactic to come away with the Wheelers first 2016 win and first Caleb victory in some 4 years.

Two weeks later the boys were back at Caleb for another rendition of 16 rolling laps.  A 6-man squad went toe-to-toe for an hour with Russ Hays in what was a wattful (yes, look it up) discourse of jabs and hooks.  No uppercut was delivered however, with Russ Hays even chasing down their own rider in a state of confusion and panic.  The final lap saw the Wheelers commit a bit too early to the lead-out and Russ Hays coming by late with their sprinter in tow.  Both giants however would be toppled on this day for the spoilers as young Riley Pickrell (Tripleshot) uncorked a devastating sprint to take top honours and Strava bragging rights as the new KOM of the Caleb Lap.

This past weekend the boys in blue, black, and gold suited up for their home field event down at beautiful Windsor Park.  Again from the gun the team took control of the race with Trevor and Eugene tearing legs off in the opening laps.  A well timed counter by reigning BC Criterium Champ Cody Canning was followed by Ian, Geoff, Andrew and Jordan Landolt.  The chase was not organized and Wheeler teammates did well to disrupt flow.  After 30’ of racing the 5-man break had lapped the field.  The bunch would now sprint for 6th, leaving the 5 others to contest 3 further laps for the win.  This brought on a strange dynamic as attacks from lapped riders versus non-lapped riders carried different merit.  Cody kept the race very animated along with Jordan’s leg searing pulls. As the bunch sprinted for 6th, Andrew manoeuvred his way through the dispersed crowd, catching Cody and Jordan off guard as the race closed in on the tape.  Cody pulled himself and Geoff back up to Andrew, Jordan soon followed with Ian on his wheel.  Ian was the teams shot at the win with a boxy sprint that we felt could meet a fatigued Cody if played right.  However, Cody would have not of that and proceeded to burst away with one lap to go in fine display of his current Criterium crown.  Ian would come around Jordan late on the line to take second on what was another hard-fought race.

The upcoming months of May and June see a slew of big races for the team.  Amongst the regular VCL schedule, BC Masters racing begins along with BC Road Race Champs, and the annual Cameron Law Series.  The BC Criterium Championships will be held over Cameron Law weekend on the BC Legislative course, do not miss that race!  First off for May is Tour de Bloom, an omnium race in Wenatchee, WA. Ian, Geoff, Eugene, Trevor and Andrew will make the journey down together to tackle two road races, a mass-start hill climb, and a wicked fast downtown criterium.  Watch for a report to a follow!