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A Weekend in Toronto: Red Bull Race The Place
By Josh Tyrrell
Photos by: Gophrette Power
We packed up the car and made way to the Red Bull Race the Place event in Toronto from Montreal; a quick 6 hour drive on the Friday before the race. We were staying in a youth hostel with all the crew from Montreal’s Team iBike. We took it easy on that Friday as Saturday was going to be a big day. A quick dinner and bed. The drive always takes it toll.
Race Day: This was probably the most interesting race of the season for many reasons. Location, format, and the course itself. The race venue was set in an abandoned amusement park on the shore of Lake Ontario, formerly known as Ontario Place. Not too sure why the place was shut down but it definitely made for an exciting race venue.
The course was set out on the seemingly endless walking paths connecting all the different attractions. There was no shortage of tight hairpin turns, positive and negative elevation. 1 lap was 3.3km or 2mi, making this less of a crit and more of a circuit race. To top it all off, it was also one of the windiest days we had seen all season at a steady 18 mph winds with gusts of 45mph (yay!).
All smiles on the rollers
The format of the race is what really made this event unique, to say the least. We had the typical qualifying rounds followed by the race. Qualifiers were set up as a 2 lap race. Top 3 advance directly to the main event while positions 4 and 5 go onto a ‘Last Chance Race’. The top 5 of that go on to the main event. What made this interesting was the fact that there was no dedicated fixed gear category. All types of bikes qualify and race together; men and women included. After the qualifiers, I was fastest fixed gear time and 3rd overall. The top 2 times were dudes on road bikes. Of the 25 fixed gear riders there, only 4 made the race. We were clearly out numbered.
Hairpin, through a gate, up a painted ramp. Thanks RedBull.
The Race: 40 minutes + 5 Laps
We were all slotted into our starting position and we were counted off. The race blew up almost immediately. The two riders in positions 1 and 2 were quick to clip in and went off full gas. I missed my pedal and was unfortunately stuck in the chase. We were 7 guys in the chase group but that was quickly going to change. Nobody was working together and the lead was getting further and further away. After half a lap, I spotted 2 riders that I knew from the Road circuit and got them on board to attack the bridge up to the break.
Try as we did, it was no hope as the break was gaining and it was now a race for 3rd place. The three of us managed to gain 1 minute on the field and it was quickly becoming every man for himself. With 5 laps left the attacks were endless, I knew I didn't want to get stuck leading out the last lap. I was able to gain distance in the corners and so I attacked through laps 4 and 3 and then was pleased to let the 2 roadies duke it out and pull me along till the final sprint.
Downhill ramp into TIGHT hairpin. Yup.
Gapping out the roadies through the corners
The last 350m were directly into the wind and as I hoped, the Louis Garneau-Quebecor rider attacked the Devinci rider and I was able to hold his wheel and turn this 3 man sprint into a head to head. Coming into the last corner with 100m to go, LG slammed the brakes and threw me off my line; also forcing us both to regain all the speed we had gained. We picked up the sprint and I was right on his wheel, watching him drop one gear at a time. For each gear he dropped, he would look back and quickly whip his head around and go for a harder gear. Don't think he was stoked that my 1 gear was staying on his wheel. He crossed the line half a bike length up on me, landing me 4th place overall and 1st in the fixed gear category. It was a fantastic race! Super stoked on how it played out. Coming 4th to all road cyclists, Continental Pros at that.
Extra huge stoke being on the top step. My first Big Cheque in hand.
Big thanks out to State Bicycle Co for all the support. Stoked on this year's adventures and looking forward to next year!
Check out the Qualifiers and the race on my Strava:
To follow me on my many adventures, check out my Instagram @fixicblak