The HotSauce Chronicles: I did It All For The Cookie

Front row call up at a stateside UCI, the first of the season.

Time to make it count.

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Your narrator, Mark McConnell (Hot Sauce Cycling Club). © 2015 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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Michael Van Den Ham (Red Truck – Garneu p/b Easton Cycling) looking calm and collected. © 2015 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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Start-line until finish, Anthony Clark (Squid Bikes) is never not in the zone. © 2015 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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The Canadians, amassed on the front row, would control. © 2015 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com

The whistle blows, I’m clipped in and riding with a clear shot toward the first corner. Settling in behind Michael van den Ham, it could have been a local jam if not for the sixty elite men behind us.

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© 2015 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com

Raphaël Gagne takes to the front to pull and pull and pull. Pain. Everywhere.

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© 2015 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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On lap 2 at the second, stair set/run-up, the pace at the front would reduce the lead group to Van Den Ham, Gagné, McConnell, Clark, and Favata, with Dodge and Dylan McNicholas (Polartec) just out of frame. © 2015 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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At the elite-only downhill switchback, the Canadians had a small gap on Clark, who bobbled earlier on the planks and was forced to chase. © 2015 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com

A sizable gap soon established itself between the three Canadians, lone American Anthony Clark and the remainder of the chasing field three laps in.

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© 2015 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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© 2015 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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© 2015 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com

I move to the front to take my pull but gentle chaos ensues as Clark’s front wheel clips my heel as I pass by the group. Spokes are broken. Words are exchanged. The drag race continues into the forest.

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© 2015 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com

Clark can still ride to the pit, we don’t attack but a gap opens up in the exchange anyway and it’s looking like a promising all-Canadian podium. Goosebumps. We push on but I’m on the rivet now. Tunnel vision around every corner while my knees flirt with the perimeter of the parcours’ extremities.

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© 2015 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com

A stake catches my left knee and puts me over the bars. Rhythm is jarred. I remount but the wheels in front of me have disappeared. I chase after my friends but they don’t want to play with me anymore. I can’t blame them. They’re teammates and I was hitching a ride, but in earnest I couldn’t contribute much more besides match their strength for a time. Clark bridges to me now while fifth through tenth are chomping at the bit some seconds behind him.

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© 2015 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com

It goes on like this for a few turns of the course. I sit on Clark’s wheel and watch a man ride his redline and beyond it; washing out on a slick pavement corner within the forest, I ride on but he bridges back to me again. Unrelenting. I decide to wait.

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© 2015 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com

Wait for the chance to sprint him to the line. He’s too strong to ride away from, but believe I have an edge at the finish. The bell rings with one to go, Clark doesn’t look back, but he doesn’t hand me the race either. If you blurred your eyes in the last lap, you’d have thought we were riding a tandem—I never give much more than a bike length. Around the final corner I enter the drops and accelerate wide to make the pass, but so does Clark.

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© 2015 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com

If we continue on this trajectory he’ll ride me into the fence. Known to be a cagey and aggressive rider, I never expected this part to be easy but landscape is running out. Time to improvise. Brake check front wheel. Swing left while grazing Clark’s rear tire. Accelerate. Again. Mashing on the pedals now, nearly even with Clark. A few more meters filled with maybes. But there it is, the white line separating the race and the end beyond it. And now I was past it. 4th without a jury. In typical Euro styling I raised my hand, upset with the crooked finish. But soon realized that it didn’t matter and I just had the best UCI result of my season thus far.

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© 2015 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com

I went over to Clark immediately and apologized about the wheel. He later messaged me about the sprint and it was settled. Best for last, MVDH won the race. It was Michael’s first UCI win and I’m ecstatic to see and be a part of it.

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© 2015 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com

He was even kind enough to share his oversized podium cookie with me. Tasted like victory.

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[Editor’s note: Mark is off to Belgium for a while to once again fly the HotSauce Cycling flag on the Euro-cross circuit. Follow along with his experiences on Twitter at @HotSauceCycling and on Instagram at @HotSauceCycling. Also, please check out photographer John Kavouris’ new site: www.johnkavouris.com. He’s got some pretty cool stuff planned for the upcoming road season that you won’t want to miss.]

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3 thoughts on “The HotSauce Chronicles: I did It All For The Cookie

  1. Glad to see Anthony beat Mark and not surprised words were exchanged. I raced with Mark at night weasels, a fun mid week race with no uci points to consider and he was a total jerk, screaming at people to give him way and continuing to yell at them even after he was passed. Meanwhile, the always humble Justin Lindine rode away from everyone and easily passed lapped traffic without saying a word. Glad to know Mark won’t be around New England anymore this season.

  2. Rosey, your account of Mark seems totally out of character. As someone who has met Mark and seen him at dozens of races I can’t imagine him being anything like you describe. When I’ve raced with him I’ve found him to be nothing but a true sportsman, and a modest and soft-spoken one at that. Give the guy a second chance. He’s a great guy, and the fact that there was some incidental contact in this race is inconsequential. Sounds like in the heat of competition Anthony got a bit fired up over an innocent accident and everyone got on edge. If these two great competitors can put it behind them why don’t you do the same?

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