The 24th Tour de Beauce, a tough race of 6 stages in 6 day including a split stage is on the UCI Americas Calendar, starts today in Beauce, Quebec, Canada.
“If the right conditions are there, it can be the hardest stage race of the year on the North American calendar.” said BMC Team Director Mike Sayers. With hardly a mile of flat roads, and generally rough tarmac, the Tour de Beauce offers some stiff racing miles for any team. “Every single stage is hard, and if the weather turns out to be very dodgy, then anything can happen,” Sayers remembered. “But the countryside is so beautiful with the rolling green hills, it will certainly be an interesting stage race.”
Six American teams and four Canadian teams will be at the starting line with two returning champions in the line-up, 2006 winner Valeriy Kobzarenko (Team Type 1) and 2007 winner Ben Day (Fly V Australia) – or maybe I should say three previous winners, as 2001 winner Henk Vogels is coming back but this time, he’s behind the wheel of the Fly V Australia team. Both those two teams look strong on paper and should be contesting for the overall. The other American teams are Kelly Benefit Strategies, BMC Racing Team, DLP Racing, Trek Livestrong and Felt-Holowesko Partenrs-Garmin.
Kelly Benefit Strategies is counting on its GC contender Neil Shirley and Quebecois David Veilleux coming off an injury after a stellar 2008 season where he won the Tour of PA amongst others; and Scott Zwizanksi who won the Tour of Uruguay earlier this year. The BMC Racing Team which has listed sprinter Danilo Wyss as the leader but I say watch for Jon Garcia to go into breaks and for the team in general to race aggressively. The U23 development team Felt-Holowesko Partners-Garmin has a strong GC contender with Peter Stetina who finished second at last year’s Tour of Utah.
The Canadians are represented by Steve Bauer’s team Planet Energy with Francois Parisien as the leader, Garneau-Club Chaussure, Equipe Quebec and Canadian Team with newly retired Dominique Perras in the DS seat. The composite Canadian Team is a last minute addition and has Cam Evans on board who is also returning from injury- Evans usually rides for the American OUCH -Maxxis team.
The Cafe de Colombia team is back and their climbers are sure to light things up in the Megantic stage. Other teams include Rapha Condor, Latvian National Team and Kuk-Kinesis.
The stages should be familiar to returning riders as most were not changed except with the new stage in Thetford Mines. It’s all new to me as it’s my first time at this race, and I am pleased to see that google maps were created by the organizers.
Stage 1 on Tuesday, the 165 km road race starting and finishing in Lac-Etchemin which heads north in the region of Bellechasse.
Stege 2 on Wednesday June 10, brings the new Thetford Mines / Thetford Mines stage. Riders should look forward to quite a challenge in the first half of this 161-kilometre stage that highlights the lakes and mountains of the towns surrounding Thetford Mines.
Next, the competitors will have to face the monster climb of Mont Megantic during the 3rd stage on Thursday, June 11, starting in St. Georges and culminating at an observatory perched on top of the highest paved road in Quebec. It’s likely that the first to reach the top of Mont Megantic will also be leading the overall standings at the close of the 2009 Tour de Beauce.
As in the past, Friday, June 12 will be an important day for the cyclists, 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 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 6:30 pm, the riders will travel 40 laps on the 1.5-km course. During the managers meeting, it was announced that the St-Georges Criterium would not count for the overall GC standings, nor garner UCI points. But there is still a time cut in effect.
The weekend fare will have Quebec City welcoming the next-to-last stage, starting at noon on Saturday, June 13, near the Parc de la Francophonie, on Grande-Allée. A 13.9-km downtown loop, covered 9 times, takes the riders on the descent of the Sillery hillside and along the river before attacking the “Côte de la Montagne” Street.
After giving quite a show to the Quebec City crowds, the competitors will wind up the 24th Edition by pedaling their last to the applause of the Beauce fans during the traditional 11-km circuit in downtown Saint-Georges. 12th laps the winner will be crowned.