Steven's Paris to Ancaster Recap

Alexandre Langlois
  • 7 minutes

Numero 2 Done And Dusted!! What a wild, fun and challenging time was had. Paris 2 Ancaster lived up to the hype I read a lot about. Coming into it I was feeling a lot more confident and for my 2nd ever race I already knew there was lots that I could transfer from my first race learnings. P2A is sort of a mixed road race with definitive gravel sectors as well as some proper cyclocross grass sections and full on mud shoots to really make things spicy. 

The morning of the race

I was lucky enough to have had a friends place to stay at which was just over 20 km’s from the start line. So warm-up was perfect just spinning the legs nice and slowly through some beautiful bike paths and smaller side roads. I met up with my girlfriend at the start parking lot and shed some of my extra layers before needing to slightly rush over to the start line 😅. For me as a first timer at P2A I wasn’t allowed to line up in the elite or pro sections which was perfectly fine by me but I also wasn’t sure about which coral to start in either so I decided to start in coral 2 which was a bit farther back then I would have liked but was ok in the end actually. 

Once the gun went off

The pros/elites got to take off and were given a 5 minute gap from the rest of us. 5 minutes later we were off and riding well most of us anyways because even before getting out of the coral there was already a tumble once out of the coral it was a bit of a bumpy gravelly/grassy track and if you wanted you could have acquired about 100 bottles pretty instantly. I will still never understand how this ends up happening to be honest, I would assume everyone rides gravel or bumpy roads before coming to an event right? So wouldn’t that let people know if there bottles would hold? Anyhow, once I started I obviously wanted to move up asap as I didn’t do that during my last race and that was the biggest downfall of the first one so right away especially on the road I just started putting in a bit of extra work to get much closer to the front group of coral 1. Turning onto our first farmer road/gravelly section there seemed to be a lot of confusion just up the road which I later learned was the group of coral 1 going the wrong way, so to my surprise within roughly 10-15 mins of the start of the race I was able to latch onto the front coral of riders which was probably something like 50 or so riders at this point. Right away I got to the front of our group and started to take my pulls as I’ve now realized that getting to the front and showing your willing to work let’s others know your there to ride and race and if a move might go they are willing to go with you or work with you.

Everything was going awesome and we were rolling turns well and keeping the pace relatively high and fast moving. Coming through a small parking lot section there was a bit of a crash right in front of me due to somebody not realizing there was a speed bump and I don’t know exactly if he had a hand off or just got bucked up funny and through his balance off. Luckily I avoided going down myself but it caused a bit of a quick hiccup before hitting a semi longish road/bike path climb. 

Once we crested that climb the group had dwindled down from that big group to maybe 20-25 of us left in the “front” (front for the waves behind the pros/elites) group. More turns rolling and then we were coming down a solid down hill and for me I always know downhills are where my BMX skills and bike handling comes into play and I can take things just a tad faster. I got to the front coming into the next gravel bike path that we would be on for a while. These small local bike paths are awesome in a normal everyday riding scenario but sometimes I question the use in gravel events solely based on the fact that with the street crossings there tends to be metal poles and such which can be very scary when following a wheel and not realizing its coming up. As we were rolling turns between what felt like just 5 of us in the front when I was second wheel I heard a loud bang from the group behind, I didn’t turn back to look obviously to make sure I was safe following the wheel ahead of me but later found out after the race that somebody had ran full speed into one of those posts and had a really gnarly crash. Most of the middle almost into the last I’d say about 15kms or so was pretty uneventful and there was small moves here and there that just never stuck or took off. There was a what I believed to be cross team of like 3 or 4 dudes in our group so they basically helped each other the whole time like a good team would.

Mud incoming!

At this point in the race I knew there was 2 mud shoots left and figured that when the real strong moves would happen so I tried to be as ready as possible. Coming into the second to last mud chute I was kind of slightly out of a position as well as running semi slicks this chute really got me good as I had essentially 0 traction. I heard from one of the team kids yelling go “insert name” and thats when I knew our group was essentially done working together. Getting out of that chute put you back on a gravel road which after 50m’s had a hard right turn into a proper good climb and at this moment is when our group was completely scattered and the effort had started to wear on me a little for taking those harder pulls early on. I could see one of the group not to far up the road so he was now who I started to chase. 

The last mud chute comes with roughly 10km’s or so left in the race which gives you a good indication of where you are and whats left. Seeing as our group had all but split into whatever across the road I was actually happy to come into that chute on my own and with very little riders even from the smaller distances in the way I could easily pick the lines that made the most sense and rolled through the whole thing relatively easily actually. The last section of the race is through some single track style trail with some trees down and steep little kicks. Through this section I had to ask a few people to move as I didn’t wanna dismount and just wanted to hop anything in my way and keep my legs moving as I feared they might give out on me. 

I could still see the guy in front who I had been chasing and at the base of the final climb which I will say is just mean to finish a race on haha 😂 during recon the day prior the climb is hard but very much doable and during race day it’s a whole other story with nearly 100kms in the legs already. 

The Finish

Once I caught the guy I looked over at him and said last one dude we got this and he just responded with my legs are completely done and I will see you at the top. Up to this point I honestly had felt pretty ok for most everything that was thrown in front of me but this climb was daunting for sure. As I hit a 16% grade section I could feel my legs starting to lock up and i had never experienced that yet while cycling. I did my best to change my pedalling technique as to not irritate the legs anymore. Thankfully the climbs steepest sections don’t last very long and I was able to keep my legs moving across the finish line. Once crossing the finish I found a BMX friend and his wife as well as my gf hanging out so we just started chatting about the whole day and how things went. Overall I had a hell of a good time and managed to get a few different placings overall (18th for my age, 48th for overall, and 5th out of the 4 wave group in the back aka behind the elites and the pros)all in all a really fun day on the bike and now I can't wait for next years event.

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Further reading

Read our Ambassador's Steven experience at it is first ever gravel race. Steven raced at Gravel Cup Ottawa. You will be able to read about is race prep, is race day and more!

Having spent every summer of my childhood in the Bas-St-Laurent, this region has become my secret paradise for road biking but also for gravel biking! I have explored almost every corner imaginable, especially in the area of Trois-Pistoles, where my second home is located!