Ask Oli: Bit by the race bug at B.C. provincials

With a solid result in sight for the first time in a while, Oliver Evans rues a missed opportunity because of forces beyond his control

May 29th, 2019 by | Posted in Blogs | Tags:

This year has been quite informal for me in terms of riding and race prep. I’ve been very inconsistent with training due in part to illness and injury, but also to other commitments. Cycling has not taken precedence over school, health, social life and work. This is new.

It’s funny to think though, that when I finally decided to focus on a race and my legs felt good, a mechanical issue got in my way of a potential result.

The first time I got dropped and chased back on at provincials. Photo: Tammy Brimner /TBL Velo Photography

With this altered approach to a season, I decided I would not be racing for myself this year. At any opportunity, I would put my all into a result for the team. Meaning, I would spend my energy working to aid someone else in earning a result. Someone who has been putting the work in this season and over the past winter, and who wants to move on to the next level of racing. They need results more than I do and deserve them as well, in my opinion.

So, since team camp in the first week of April, I’ve been travelling, schooling and recovering from various minor ailments between races. I’ve been unphased by my relative inactivity on the bike, knowing that when the race weekend comes, I’ll do my job for the team.

However, after crashing at Tour de Bloom three weeks ago, I took just under two weeks totally off the bike to heal up. During that time, I finished my last course, and summer seemed to properly establish at least a several month commitment in Victoria. The consistent sunshine and a lack of other duties renewed a certain stoke in me and by the time I was recovered, I couldn’t wait to get back on the bike.

I started riding nine days before provincials. I felt fresh and motivated. I managed to put 25 solid hours in over seven days of riding, along with another 25 hours of landscaping work. I was so stoked to ride, in fact, that two days before the race I got up at 5 am to hammer (WIN) a group ride before riding to the ferry to head to the mainland, when I could have (should have, to some) begun to rest in preparation for the race. But I knew that having a bit of fatigue in the legs sometimes does me well in races and that if I had a good group ride, the confidence that I would take into the race might actually benefit me more than a bit of extra rest.

I got so serious with my prep that I even went for a spin the day before the race, despite how cold and rainy it was. I would have much preferred to stay inside, but I committed to meeting my mate Brendan in downtown Vancouver, doing a lap or two of Stanley Park, and then getting a coffee before going home. However, when we met, soaked to the bone, I asked Brendan how long it took him to ride to our meeting point. “About 15 minutes,” he said. That sounded long enough to me, so we went inside and had a treat or three before riding straight home, decidedly having spun enough.

I went to bed early that night, hoping to be prepared for provincials.

As the race played out, it was clearly one of attrition. A break of four including Jordan Cheyne of Elevate-KHS got away early and we had a rider representing us in the break, so we were comfortable letting others chase. Once our rider was unexpectedly dropped though, we had to suddenly take over the workload. Slowly, our riders dropped off due to mechanicals or simply the intensity of the race taking its toll.

Soon it was just Kyle and me left in the chase to represent Trek Red Truck.

It was determined that the break could not be caught. I decided that I could likely ride away from my chase group/what was left of the peloton, and work my way to a top-four finish in the elite field, maybe a podium, and win the U23 jersey.

As I made my move with 35 km to go, no one in my group responded. It appeared as though no one would chase, as all were too fatigued. My gap was about 15 seconds as I started a small climb when my chain dropped. It wedged itself between my frame and chainring, and I came to a standstill. I struggled with it for about a minute after the group overtook and rode away from me, and our mechanic managed to free it.

The location of my mishap and the lack of a caravan meant that I was on my own to try and close a 1 to 1.5 minute gap. My race was over. I finished second in U23 and somewhere down the field in Elite.

It’s ironic, to me, that in the one race I decided to give getting a result a shot and actually prepared accordingly for, and the first race where I may have actually pulled a somewhat decent result off, a mishap kept me from discovering whether or not I was truly capable. I was surprised when that night, I lay in bed replaying the race in my head, frustrated about losing. I haven’t done that for over a year.

Perhaps, somewhere in there, is still a bit of a bike racer. Maybe I still have a bit of personal race drive. Maybe, I want to win something other than a group ride? It’s scary to admit. If I do try again, it’ll be a race on a weekend, as I’m certainly not breaking the rules of a weekend warrior.

Oliver Evans is a 20-year-old cyclist from Winnipeg, currently living in Victoria. In 2019, he is racing on the road with Trek Red Truck Racing.