Across farm lanes, gravel roads and pavement, through the mill trail and up the 69 steps leading to the Woolwich Township Arena in St. Jacobs, riders at last weekend’s Steaming Nostril cycling race were put to the test.Race day on March 29 was relatively mild at 3 degrees, although a strong breeze definitely played a factor.
In the end, Waterloo native Gaelen Merritt captured first prize, completing the 70 km course in just over two hours.
“Early on in the race, during that first section heading west, there was a terrible crosswind,”
Merritt explained after the race. “And so we (teammates with the Wheels of Bloor Cycling Club) were able to jump in every move. And we’ve got Bruce (Bird) over there who is the world’s amateur champion, and he is a huge engine and Osmond (Bakker) is an excellent cycle cross rider on our team, and I’m sort of a mix in between the two. And so we were able to jump into a few moves and then the way bike racing works is, your teammates are up the road in the breakaway, and everybody else has to chase and you just sit on their wheels and draft. And so it worked out that I was able to play off the other teams chasing (Bird and Bakker). And then as soon as they came within 40 metres of chasing them down I just jumped across and it ended up being just us three and (Matt Surch of Teckne Cycling Club).”
Working as a team is a huge advantage in cycling. Having built a significant lead over the peloton – the main pack of riders – the Wheels of Bloor cyclists went to work to ensure one of their guys was able to outpace Surch.
“We started working together and with about 30 km to go we started attacking (Surch),” Merritt explained. “He actually attacked us and opened up a gap first; he was so strong today. But we kind of just let him dangle out front to wear himself out, and when we turned right to head back (towards the finish at the arena) he started to suffer in the crosswind. As soon as that happened I hit him (sprinted out front) and I was solo from there.”
It wasn’t easy sailing down the homestretch, though, as Merritt hit an icy patch with too much speed and wiped out. His chain fell off in the crash and he lost upwards of 30-40 seconds, but in a testament to his competitive nature, Merritt climbed back in the saddle and won the race.
Surch finished second, 18 seconds behind, while Bakker placed third and Bird was fourth.
In total, 316 riders took part in the third annual Steaming Nostril and the 35 km Runny Nose race.
Put on by volunteers with the Waterloo Cycling Club and Cycle Waterloo, the event was a success, organizer Malcolm Steven said.
They’ll be heading up three more local cycling races this summer, including the KW Classic in Hawkesville, the Kitchener Twilight Grand Prix and the Tour de Waterloo in St. Jacobs, all coming up in June.