Everyone was expecting it but it still happened. The riders from the Colombian National Team hit it hard at the bottom of the final climb up to the observatory at Mont Megantic, shredding the break a rider at a time to make it to the finish line and go 1-2 at the third stage at the Tour de Beauce. After some discussion during the climb, Darwin Apatuma crossed the line first followed by Sergio Luis Haneo. Neil Shirley (Kelly Benefit Strategies) had a great ride and finished third on the stage.
“That was the plan, we would lead people to the mountain and then we would work for the person that has the best GC spot, and then in the mountain we would go as strong as good.” said Atapuma through an interpretor.
“This is the epic stage of Beauce, the queen stage. I know I’ve been riding really well and I missed out on day one so the big plan for today was to take care of Zwizanski, make sure he was with the heavy hitters, the GC guys and try and get myself up the road as well.” said Shirley.
The field was quite active at the beginning of the stage with multiple break attacks, some in big numbers and a solo move. In the end, the break that stuck went off at the 100 kilometer mark and made its way to the final cat 1 climb. Making their move in the 21-rider break were a few of the riders from the top 13 on GC, such as Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Chris Jones (Team Type 1), Bernie Sulzberger (Fly V Australia) and the two Colombians. Missing from the move were yellow jersey Danilo Wyss (BMC) and his teammate Chad Beyer, Ben Day (Fly V Australia) and Darren Lill (Team Type 1). In the past, the break is typically caught in the final climb but not this time as the Colombians made sure that it would stick to the finish.
The Queen stage shook up the general classification as Haneo is the new leader followed by Apatuma (note that by mistake the yellow jersey was awarded to Apatuma in the ceremony). Zwizanski who finished 6th on the stage moved up to 3rd spot on GC at 39 seconds down. Lill is now sitting in 5th spot at 2;15 from the leader, Day is in 7th spot at 3:03 and Wyss dropped down to 8th at 3:16.
Just the facts. The attacks started immediately as the neutral section of the 155-km stage was called in St-Georges, with the 90-rider peloton itching to get something away, especially from the teams that have missed out so far. Trying their luck were Jarlinson Pantano (Colombian Natl), François Parisien (Planet Energy), Moises Aldape (Team Type 1), Alex Howes (Felt-Holowesko Parterns-Garmin), Alessandro Bazzana (Fly V Australia) but nothing worked as the peloton sped through the roads.
Finally, after the first sprint, at the 32-kilometer mark, Sam Bewley (Trek-Livestrong) attacked and was off on a solo move. A trio of chasers, Charles Dionne (Fly V Australia), Aldape and Parisien were off to reel him in.
Meanwhile, a larger group launched itself from the field and at 58 kilometers into the race, the three groups had all joined together at the front of the race. Joining the four already mentioned were David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit), two Trek-Livestrong riders Cody Campbell and Benjamin King, two BMC riders Tony Cruz and Steve Bovay, Walker Savidge (Felt-Holowesko-Garmin), Dan Craven (Rapha-Condor), Bazzana, Jones, Eric Boily (Planet Energy), Janis Rezins (Latvian National team) and Atapuma.
Atapuma’s presence in the break was a problem for many of the GC riders and doomed it from the get go. Dionne and Bazzana dropped back to the field to help drive the chase to reel back the 12 riders, which they did 10 kilometers later. But nether Bewley not Parisien were willing to give up and they sprung from the break as the field was about to gobble them up. But again, this break would be caught back at kilometer 97. A series of moves and counter-moves in the next few kilometers and the break with the right combination of riders was made at the 100 kilometer mark as 27 riders made it off the front, rolling away.
Quite an interesting group it was, as it included a few of the GC contenders while the others stayed in the pack calculating on the field catching the break on the final climb, as it had in previous years. Some teams loaded the break with multiple riders – three Kelly Benefit with Shirley, Zwizanski and Jake Erker, the four Team Type 1 riders of Matt Wilson, Jones, Valeryi Kobzarenko and Ian MacGregor, three Trek-Livestrong’s Campbell, Selander and of course Bewley, and the Colombian National Team put four of its men in, Atapuma, Henao, William Rodriguez and Camillo Suarez. Also joining the fun were Cam Evans (Canadian National Team), a trio of BMC riders Tony Cruz, Steve Bovay and Martin Kohler, Felt-Holowesko-Garmin duo of Howes and Peter Salon, Kristian House (Rapha-Condor), Bazzana and his Fly V teammate Phil Zajicek, Bruno Langlois (Planet Energy) and Gatis Smukulis (Latvian National Team).
An almost perfect setup for the Kelly Benefit squad.
“You could tell today that something big was going to go because it was it was going, it was going full tilt and the move finally went, it was a little surprising that there weren’t bigger GC guys in there. It was actually absolutely ideal for us because we had Erker, myself and Zwiz, so Erker just slayed himself on the front the whole time. Once we turned off by the lake, I had to start riding on the rollers and the Colombians, they rode as well, they’re special. ” said Shirley.
Even with the presence of the two Colombians, the Kelly Benefit squad never thought of not working with the break.
“We’re never going to get up the road without any other GC rider, I think we had to be happy that Lill and Day weren’t there.” explained Shirley.
The Colombian team put two of its riders at the front to set a fast tempo with many of the other teams rotating through especially Erker who was working for Zwizanski. The gap went up to 3’15″ under the impetus and riders were shelled from the break under the high speeds put in on the rollers. The field was chasing hard, and started to bring down the gap but it wasn’t fast enough as with 25 kilometers to go, the gap was still 2’40″. With no rider in the break, as Boily dropped out, Planet Energy was setting the pace at the front of the field trying to keep their man, Ryan Roth in GC contention.
With 15 kilometers to go, the gap had gone back up to over three minutes and the break was down to 16 riders as Bewley, Campbell. Howes, Cruz, Salon, Bazzana, Kreder, Rodriguez, Langlois, Wilson and Erker were dropped. With 10 kilometers to go, the break still hovered at over three minutes and the steep final 6-kilometer climb was looming.
As expected, the Colombian riders hit it hard at the bottom of the Megantic climb, when they started dancing on the pedals and flew away from everyone in the break. Henao and Atapuma rode up together with Henao seemingly to be sometimes waiting for his teammate and the crossed the line together with Atapuma taking the stage victory. According to Colombian Team staff, it was a personal decision between the two teammates to decide who would get the stage win.
Shirley crossed the line for third at one minute and nineteen seconds back.
“We kept Zwiz sitting, Erker’s race was getting him to the base of the climb and then the Colombians hit out immediately on the climb and I tried to help out Zwiz and kind of followed Chris Jones and then I couldn’t really work with him but settled into a nice pace and was comfortable on the climb and was able to jump around him for third. ” said Shirley.
The rest of the break started trickling in, Selander, Jones, Zwizanski, Bovay, MacGregor, Zajicek, Sulzberger, Kobzarenko and Kohler. Team Type 1′s Lill led the peloton in finishing in 13th spot at three minutes and thirty-nine seconds down. Former winner and a favorite going into the 2009 Tour de Beauce, Day finished at four minutes and twenty-nine seconds back.
What’s next? Tomorrow is a split-stage day with a 20 kilometer time trial, on an out and back course in St Georges in the morning followed by evening criterium in St Georges. Will the Colombians be able to hold on to their lead?
“Atapuma is a good time trialist but not the best in the team. Henao is better timetrialist. ” said a Colombian National Team staff member. “I need to get read mentally tomorrow for the timetrial.” said Atapuma.
The Kelly Benefit squad is confident that Zwizanski can overcome the 39 second gap especially in the timetrial, as Zwizanski showed his expertise earlier this year when he finished second in the Tour of Uruguay TT. And of course, Zwizanski did win the overall in Uruguay.
“Zwiz knock on wood will out time trial the Colombians. We can’t be too greedy, it was definitely a good situation for us. Scott has been smashing it all year, so we have a lot of confidence in him for the rest of the week. ” said Shirley.
As for the other GC contenders, it might be time to move to plan B. We’ll know for sure tomorrow. The first rider goes off at 9:31am, and the last rider at 11:10am.
Complete results here
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