Facing blistering 33-degree Celsius heat, Will Routley had put together 180 kilometres of strong racing at the 2016 Global Relay Canadian Road Championships in Ottawa on June 26.
Then the last corner happened.
Leader Matteo Dal-Cin was overeager in his turn, wiping out and taking Routley and second-place finisher Ben Perry with him. Quebec's Bruno Langlois avoided the carnage to take the win while Perry was able to quickly get back on his bike and take the silver. Routley's bike wasn't working properly in the aftermath, but he dashed it across the finish line to hold off David Boily and at least retain a podium position.
"Of course, it's a 180-km long race and it all comes down to the last 220 metres out of the corner between the four of us," he said. "I was confident. I think I played the race perfectly but sometimes, that's what happens in racing. I was second wheel behind Matteo and he just came in hot and slid out and crashed. I could see him sliding — when it happens, it's in slow motion — so I had to lock it up and I was skidding and cornering harder than I needed to because I'd seen him go down and, in trying to evade crashing into him, I rolled the tire off the rim."
The change in fortune resulted in a quick change of thinking for the 33-year-old, who can at least check one item off the racing-oddities bucket list.
"I fully had it in my head I was going to win the Canadian Championship, but instead I realized, 'Well, I'm just going to finish on the podium,' so I ran for it. It was kind of fun because there were people that I know there and it's something different," he said. "I can't say I've done that (finished on foot) before."
Strange new experiences aside, the result was disappointing for the 2010 national champion, who was rested and raring to go for another title.
"I came prepared. I was fit and ready. It was a tactical kind of race, which is good for me. You have to make a lot of small decisions over the course of 180K and I'm at the point where I think I make a lot of right decisions," he said.
Speaking two days after the race on June 28, the Whistler native said his focus was already on working on his Abbotsford property and preparing for B.C. Superweek, which begins July 8. After that will be the Tour of Guadeloupe in August. The hot conditions in Ottawa, as well as previous races in Thailand, Argentina and Central America prepared him well. At nationals, only 18 starters finished while 114 failed to cross the finish line.
"I can't believe I ever thought I'd go to the Caribbean in the first week of August, but I'll take it," he chuckled. "I like the heat so I won't have a problem that way. I think it'll be fun."