The 23rd edition of the Tour de Beauce, a 2.2-rated event in the UCI America’s Tour, is being held from June 10 until 15 in the Beauce region of Québec. Over 140 cyclists from 21 teams will face 6 stages (including a split day) which still include the grueling climb of Mont Mégantic during the week. The other stages have undergone considerable changes from the previous years and the riders will wind up the race right in the heart of La Ville de Québec’s 400th Anniversary celebrations.
A short history. The first edition of the race was held over two days in 1986. The race kept growing and a short three years later, was designated as the selection event for the 1989 World Championships, the Commonwealth Games and the women’s Tour de France. An even greater challenge was added in 1991: the stage finishing at the top of Mont Mégantic. This stage has added to the Grand Prix cycliste de Beauce’s reputation as one of the most difficult stage races in North America.
In the fall of 1996, the Grand Prix cycliste de Beauce was awarded a 2.4 status during the UCI assembly, the highest ranking awarded to a stage race in the Americas, the Grand Prix became equal to such events as the Vuelta in Chile and the Classica RCN in Colombia. In 2002, the Grand Prix cycliste de Beauce obtained the prestigious 2.3 status, which made it the most important stage race in America. In 2005, for the 20th anniversary, the name Grand Prix Cycliste de Beauce was changed for Tour de Beauce. And in 2008, the race received a new 2.2 category UCI designation, keeping this event an important part of the America Tour.
The list of past winners include Ben Day, Mike Rodgers, Henk Vogels, Levi Leipheimer (twice), Jonathan Vaughters and Eric Wohlberg.
The teams and riders. While the three-time winning team of Navigators folded last year when the sponsor decided not to renew their contract, DS Ed Beamon is bringing his new squad, Team Type 1, and hopes to continue where he left off. Beamon’s squad includes 2006 overall winner Valeriy Kobzarenbko and multiple stage winner Glen Chadwick.
Canada is once again well-represented with 9 teams including 2 UCI Continental teams. The Symmetrics team will be back with Svein Tuft, 2nd in 2007’s overall ranking and Canadian Road Champion Cam Evans. Team Race under the leadership of Steve Bauer will have the veteran Mark Walters and the Québécois François Parisien to lead the charge. The Québec Team will also be one to watch with the presence of Charles Dionne and Maxime Vives. Volkswagen Trek with Bruno Langlois and Eric Boily who is coming a strong showing at la Coupe des Nations. Completing the Canadian delegation will be Garneau-Crocs, 2Peer.com, Trek Red Truck Racing and Vallée de l’aluminium, with Dominique Perras who has announced his retirement at the end of the year.
At stake for the Canadian riders is more than ‘just’ stage and overall wins, as the Canadian Cycling Association (CCA) has stated the selection for the Olympic Games will be announced on June 15, and both Parisien and Dionne have said that they are fighting for the spot. Another contender, Dominique Rollin will not be participating in the Tour de Beauce as his team Toyota-United won’t allow him to race outside of the U.S (as per CanadianCyclist.com) and will instead by racing at Nature Valley Grand Prix.
The United States will be represented by 3 teams: Team Type 1, Jittery Joe’s and Rocky Mountain. Slipstream presented by Chipotle was originally on the list but according to cyclingnews has as they were unable to field a 5-man squad due to injuries. Sponsored by Louis Garneau, Jittery Joe’s is coming back after a year of absence and is bringing a strong team led by Trent Wilson and Neil Shirley.
The always agressive teams Sparkasse from Germany and Tecos from Mexico are back and can be counted on to animate the stages. The other teams rounding off the roster are Amore & Vita-McDonald’s, Pezula Racing, Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk, Konica Minolta, Colombian National, the U-23 South African National as well as a French selection from Aix-en Provence.
The stages. The race starts off on June 10 with the revamped Lac-Etchemin / Lac-Etchemin stage, a 167-km warm up covering a major part of the beautiful Etchemin countryside.
On Wednesday June 11, the 166-km Vallée-Jonction stage will emerge from the Chaudière valley to waltz the river basin of the Beaurivage River before returning to finish the stage at Vallée-Jonction.
Next, the racers will face the monster climb of Mont Mégantic during the third stage on Thursday, June 12, starting in St. Georges and culminating 153-km later at an observatory perched on top of the highest paved road in Québec.
As in the past, Friday, June 13 is a split-stage day, starting in the morning with a 20-km individual time trial over the same course to be used later on in the summer for the Tim Horton’s Canadian Championships. In the evening, the whole population is again invited to the Criterium which will be held in the downtown area of St-Georges. Starting at 6:00 pm, the riders will travel 40 laps on the 1.5-km course.
Exceptionally in 2008, riders will compete on the downtown Saint-Georges circuit on Saturday. This 144-km circuit is largely redesigned; riders will climb a significant rise 15 times before crossing the finishing line, where three Grand Prix de Montagne (KOM) will be held during the stage.
The competitors will wind up the 23rd Edition right in the heart of Quebec City’s 400th Anniversary celebrations. The last stage will take place Sunday, June 15. The riders will race 9 laps of a 13.9-km downtown loop, for a total of 125km.
The weather has caused problems in the past with shortened stages due to high winds and riders facing unseasonably cold temperatures. Well this year, Météo Canada is calling for rain on Tuesday and Wednesday , and then sunny skies on Thursday and Friday.