Scott Zwizanski of the Kelly Benefit Strategies, finally believed he would win the overall classification of the Tour de Beauce on the last 10-km lap on the final stage in St-Georges.
“With ten laps to go, I didn’t know.” said Zwizanski who used up his teammates to chase down the incessant attacking by Team Type 1, Fly V Australia and especially the Colombian National Team who had two riders at less than 70 seconds from the American.
So when did he know he had won? “When we finally caught them back in the last lap, I knew I wouldn’t lose fifty seconds to them in one climb.”
With the win in Beauce, Zwizanski has now won two UCI stage races this year, starting with the Vuelta al Uruguay earlier in April.
“I’m having a good year, the non-mountainous stage races are good for you, as long as there are not too many mountain top finishes.” smiled Zwizanski.
Comparing the two races, Zwizanski had to say that Beauce was harder given the caliber of the teams. “This is way harder, that was tough too, but this is very tough, they are both hard, and both I needed my teammates.”
What surprised me is that Zwizanski had been thinking of hanging up his pedals at the end of the year for economic reasons also known as “tired of being poor”.
“I was planning on this year being my last year of racing, it would have been easier to move on if the job market is the same as last year,” shrugged Zwizanski, “but obviously if everything goes well, I’ll probably keep on racing, but we’ll see I’ve got months and months to worry about that.”
Making it into the right break. Every team was trying to get into the break on the first stage, hoping that it would make it to the line, and Zwizanski was the man that slipped in for the KBS squad.
“When I was in that break, we were hoping to get Neil or Jacob across to us, they actually tried to come with the Colombians but the Colombians dropped them and it didn’t work out. We’d have liked to have two in that break but it ended just being me so we adjusted.” said Zwizanski who was solo for his team in the 13-rider break which also included the two climbers from the Colombian National Team.
After the first day, Zwizanski was in fifth place on GC was only 13 seconds from the leader.
“I went for the win and didn’t get it. But then, held on and try to stay close for the TT, because I had a great TT in me.” said Zwizanski.
But before the time trial, Zwizanski still had to survive the Mont Megantic in stage 3. The Queen stage is 155-km long with non-stop rollers that finished on top of the highest road in Canada after a steep final climb.
The stage went almost perfect for the squad as three of their riders, Zwizanski, Neil Shirley and Jake Erker, got into the break that had almost no other GC contenders except for the Colombian duo of Sergio Luis Henao and Darwin Atapuma.
“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.” said Shirley who finished third on the stage.
At the bottom of the final climb, the two Colombians hit the gas and just flew up the mountain shattering the break behind it. Zwizanski limited his losses to finish fifth on the stage and moved up to third on GC.
“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 after the stage.
The TT was the clincher. Going into stage 4 the 20km time trial, Zwizanski was sitting at 39 seconds from the leader Henao. Friday morning brought rain and wet roads to the out and back course with its many corners. Zwizanski did smash it, setting the fastest time of 26:26 at an average speed of 45.3 km/hr, pushing him to first spot on GC.
“My time trialing really came back around last year after several years of me feeling it wasn’t my strength anymore – unfortunately – when it was my strength as an amateur but last year I really felt it coming around, I really worked on it last winter and looking forwards to time trialing with the big boys later on in the year.”
Part of his training has now finally included training on a TT bike.
“I have a TT bike at home now, and I’d never trained on one, ever, just would get on them for the TTs. Working on just riding in the position more often, it really helped me a lot.”
With two stages to go, Zwizanski held a lead of of 63 seconds over Henao and 75 seconds on Apatuma.
“I’m confident, I have great team mates, we have a really strong team here. Of course, I’m nervous, I’m sure that everyone is going to fight us for it, everyone here is very strong and I’ve heard that the last two stages are very, very tough.” said Zwizanski following the TT.
Survival. And boy was he right, the two final stages were tough on his team, heck on everybody. Saturday was the 125km circuit race in la Ville de Quebec, 9 laps in the Old Citadel with a tough climb every time back up to the start/finish area. During the race, another rider became the virtual leader on the road when the break got a gap of over 5 minutes to the peloton but the KBS squad got some help from the Colombians, who were protecting their podium placings, to reel in the riders in the front to a more manageable gap.
And then the Colombians hit it hard, once again, on the climb to the finish.
“The last time up the hill was the hardest by far but I minimized out losses. Three Colombians in there, they had one kid driving it really fast and the other two guys got a bit of time on me unfortunately. The plan is to do the same tomorrow.” said Zwizanski.
With one stage to go, Henao had gained a few seconds and was sitting at 51 seconds down on GC from Zwizanski.
The last stage was the very tough 130km circuit race in St-Georges, again on rolling terrain like most of the week, including a final climb to the start/finish line and with lots of turns making it even more difficult to control.
Every time around one of the 12 laps, the Colombians would attack on the climbs, the Kelly Benefit squad would chase them down on the backstretch and on and on, each using up their riders. The other teams were also sending riders up the road, trying to get breaks away to either move their men up in the final GC or go for stage win.
“The plan was to let a break go, but everything that went, we had to be in so basically it was full gas all the way. ” explained Zwizanski.
The incessant attacking took a toll, with riders dropping left and right, including most of the KBS squad. In the end, only Shirley remained to assist in the work.
“It was the hardest I think that I have ever done because there was so much at stake, it wasn’t just I want to hang and hopefully go for a stage win and hold on to my top 10 GC, we were going for the win.” said Shirley.
In the end, with the help of his teammates Alex Candelario, Reid Mumford, Jake Erker, Neil Shirley, David Veilleux and Clay Murfet, Scott Zwizanski was crowned champion of the 2009 Tour de Beauce.
“Everybody fought us, that’s racing. This is a cool race, it’s almost like a one day race everyday this stage race.” said a very happy and very tired Zwizanski after the final stage.
Now I can’t wait to see what Zwizanski can do at the other stage races this year.
On a side note, Zwizanski, Candelario and Mumford were sporting mohawks during the race and I had to found out the reason. Pretty simple, actually, time.
“A fun thing to do on a Wednesday afternoon before Philly. Last year was so brutally hot and most people know me as kind of having long hair, I’ve been able to sneak by lots of people without having to talk to them.” chuckled Zwizanski.