My first Donut Ride
I took part in my first Donut ride yesterday. The donut ride is probably one of the most famous group rides in Canada; it even has a wikipidea entry:
The Donut Ride is an informal Toronto road cycling tour run every Saturday and Sunday as well as public holidays. Typical summer numbers range from 100 to 125 riders forming a large pack, and weather permitting the ride continues year-round and often sees a dozen riders even in mid-winter. The ride is known for being fairly fast paced, often reaching speeds of about 50 km/h on straightaways. It is also known for being fairly unforgiving; riders who are dropped from the pack are on their own. – wikipedia.com
I left my house at around 8:30am and it was a beautiful but chilly fall morning. There was virtually no traffic on the roads as I made my way across town to meet of with some of the Wheels of Bloor riders near the shop. Wouldn’t you know it I was running late and I had been warned that the group leaves at 9am sharp. I exited High Park at Bloor street at 9:05 and turned West to ride down to the meeting location. I saw a group of unfamiliar riders meeting outside the store from the Lapdogs cycling club and asked if they had seen the Wheels of Bloor group leave. I found out that the group had left heading east on Bloor at 9am of course. If I had only glanced right as I left the park I probably would have seen them. No one from the group knew which street they headed North on. I called my friend Ian, who had already sent me 2 emails, and found out that I needed to head North on Keele street. Ian told me that the group was now at St. Clair.
I rode off from the shop determined to do my best to catch up to the group. When I hit St. Clair ave I realized that I was 5 minutes behind. A few blocks further North I spotted Ian who was waiting for me along with Tony and Mike. I apologized to the three of them and followed as we wound our way through the streets on our way to the eventual meeting spot further North on Keele. I tried to take as many and turns as I could in the front as I felt badly for being late on this my first time out with the team. I did really appreciate that the three of them waited for me. A few km’s up the road we caught up with another small group of riders, I was surprised by the relatively small numbers; but was informed that we would join up with the main group further North.
We stopped at a Gas station at an intersection on Keele, north of the city and waited for the main group in the Donut ride. After standing around for a few minutes someone called out the peleton was coming and we all mounted our bikes and headed north. I looked back and saw a group of around 80 riders. A few riders passed by me and then I decided to follow Tony’s wheel. Tony stuck near or at the front of the group and so did I. We were travelling in two’s at a moderate pace. As the riders in front of me peeled off the front it became my turn to lead just as I settled into a pace, I heard voices calling out for me to join a newly forming group that were turning left.
As the new smaller group headed West, the pace quickened as the terrain descended. We turned North on Jane and the real push began. I was already up near the front as I continued to try and stay near Tony. The front riders began to take small turns at the front working through a cycle that maximized the groups overall speed through reduced exposure to the wind. As I worked my way through the cycle a few times I noticed that the number of riders taking part was gradually reducing. Some riders skipped a few turns and then rejoined the cycling at the front after resting up in the draft of the main peleton. I made it a point to try and never miss a turn. After a good stretch of this we turned East on Aurora Rd and the only person left cycling through the front with me was Tony. I knew that there were a few hills ahead but I also figured that we had at least reached the halfway point of the ride.
I took the lead up the biggest hill on Aurora Rd and then began to suffer as a few riders including Tony passed by. At this point I was unable to cycle through and had to recover in the peleton about ten riders back. As the terrain evened out I gained back some strength and made my way back up front again. The peleton turned south and the organization of the pack started breaking down as the pace reached its height. Riders now began attacking the group trying to create a gap. There were now about 5 riders taking turns attacking at this point including Tony, Darko (a well known strong rider) and me. This was the first time that I had ridden with Darko, but I had seen his results in the Senior 1 category for the past several years. I thought that he may have been toying with the group treating it as I sort of training exercise based on the ridiculously small gear he used; I was later informed that that is just how he rides…Amazing! The best attack of the day came from Tony after Darko had taken a turn at the front. I was unable to grab Tony’s wheel but I did have enough strength to catch Darko, who then bridged the gap to Tony.
The racing stopped as we rode through some local streets on the way to a Polish pastry shop for a social break. I had a great apple treat. I rode back into town with 4 other riders including Bobby, Ian and Mike from the Wheels of Bloor team. It was a great day of riding and I look forward to the next Sunday Donut ride.
Photo of Tiny Tom’s (another Toronto donut institution) via Flickr