Carlos Rodriguez, of La Bicicletta, was in Albi France for the
2017 UCI Gran Fondo World Championships.
How long was the race, and how many climbs?
I raced in the 40-44 age group and my race was 155km with 2 major climbs.
How did you train for the event ?- Coming from southern Ontario with no mountains to climb.
I followed a specific training plan- courtesy of my good friend, Kevin Davis
From Tuesday to Sunday, I would climb the Scarborough Bluffs, High Park, the Bayview extension, and Pottery road on a regular basis. During spring and summer, on some weekends, I would join the Donut Ride -a large group of very fast cyclists. Or, with another group, B1 Evo, we'd sometimes ride in the Blue Mountains/ Collingwood area, or ride to Lake Simcoe. In the winter I used Zwift as my indoor training tool, and followed a similar schedule.
How long were the climbs in France and what kind of grade?
The first was for about 12 km and the second one about 3 km, both with and average of 8% , and with some ramps at 15% . I didn’t find the mountains a huge challenge- for me the descents were the problem.
The descents were really fast and dangerous with many turns and quick drops. You needed to brake often to avoid a crash or be thrown off the road. We certainly don’t have those kinds of descents in Ontario and for a first time participant it can be very stressful.
What happened during the race? - Take us though from the start to the finish
My category start time was 8:44am but getting into the corralled area was chaotic for many as we tried to position ourselves near the front. It seemed like many riders had already been waiting for over 2 hours inorder to nab the good spots. I spent an hour or so trying to enter the start area however I was unfortunately positioned behind the middle of the pack.
Once the race began we had a 2km neutral ride, but, from the start, the guys in front were racing fast and aggressive. Even in the neutral zone the speed was over 45km/h.
At only 15km from the start four guys broke away and the pack just let them go. I thought that some riders would go after them, and I was willing to go, but it seemed no one was interested in the chase. About 10km later there was another breakaway with around 26 riders and I managed to jump from the pack and get in contact with them.
We worked for a long time and stayed together to the bottom of first climb. I was expecting an attack on the uphill but it never happened- instead everybody decided to climb at a steady pace until we reached the top. Then most of the riders decided to attack the descent. It was quite dangerous but I kept up with them until we got to the second climb. The same thing happened, the pack attacked the descent and I tried to keep up but, unfortunately, at 95km I missed a turn and went off the road into a field.
Thank God I was okay and managed to come back on to the road quickly, but the pack was long gone. I had no choice but to continue riding on my own until the next big pack caught me. I stayed with them, maintained an average of 40-45km/h, and finished the race safely.
Overall, it was a good race, and an awesome experience.
Was there a point in the race where you were feeling great and thought that you had a good chance at a win or podium?
Before the race I was confident with my physical and emotional condition. I always race with the hope of winning or getting placing well. This was definitely another level of cycling- very strong, very fast, and lots international experienced riders.
I felt great throughout because I was able to keep up with the packs. However, once I saw the first four guys get away I knew I wouldn’t be able to catch up by myself and a podium place was not on my mind for the rest of the race. I just wanted to be able to finish the race, with as good a time and placing as possible.
Where did you finish, and how happy are you with the result? What, if anything, would you do differently ?
I finished 53rd out of 232 riders with a time of 4:01, which is almost the same finishing time as the 3rd pack.
I’m happy with the time, but not with the placing. I still made it within the first 25%, however I would definitely try to position better at the start- because once you start past the middle of the large pack there is no way you can pass to the front, and your chances of finishing in the top ten are much less likely.
You arrived a week earlier, how did you train while in France?
I was very lucky to arrive a week ahead of the race and adjust myself to the time change. I was also lucky to stay at the B&B of Rob Sule in Malaucene - www.maisonsule.com
Rob showed me around and gave me many helpful tips about riding in France. As much as I didn’t want to do hills prior to the race it was inevitable due to the terrain in that area. Overall, the roads and weather were excellent for training.
What did you do about nutrition, what did you eat?
My diet was definitely affected while in France. The food is quite different but, thankfully, my wife, Sonia, ensured that I was getting the same kind of food that I’m used to which is rice, chicken, salad, my trail mix, bananas, yogurt, boiled eggs, and thank God for the fresh figs at Rob’s place !
My waters is always mixed with a 100% vegan electrolyte powder and honey
And of course my typical gels for every ride, power bars, etc..
How did it feel to be a Cuban representing Canada in this world class event?
I was very proud to represent Canada at an International event. Cuba always will be in my heart but, unfortunately, this kind of opportunity is not available to the majority of Cuban's and that’s very sad.
Canada is truly a country of opportunity for the people that decide to work hard in life and I am a true example of that. I could never be more thankful to Canada and the people whom have always made me feel like I belong.
I hope some day to win a podium for Canada, with my Cuban heart !
Are you considering racing the 2018 event in Varese, Italy?