Where was I before being so rudely interrupted by life (yes life outside of cycling) – oh yes, the Canadian Road Championships were held last weekend. You might have read the reports already – well not on velonews nor cyclingnews (unless it’s lost in the new & ‘improved’ site) – as the Men’s Road Race on Sunday caused quite a bit of stir, but first things first.
Friday, June 26 was the individual time trial races for both the men and women elite and U23 riders. With rain coming down during part of the women’s elite 20-kilometer race in the morning, Tara Whitten (Velocity Cycling Club) set the fastest time of 29.29.49 to become the new Canadian Champion. Whitten, who is racing her first full season on the road, won two silver medals at the World Track Championships earlier this year and also won the overall at the Tour of PEI a few weeks ago.
“I came into this race with a hope to reach the podium,” said Whitten, who plans to combine track and road for the foreseeable future. “I’m more of a power rider so my strategy was to hold my own on the climbs then really try to make up time coming back down.”
Defending champion Anne Samplonius (Lip Smacker), who was a late registrant, finished second at 45 seconds back and Laura Brown (Cycling BC) was third at 1:01 from the winner.
Defending U23 champion Julie Beveridge (TIBCO) successfully defended her crown clocking 29:58.01 – which would put her in second behind Whitten if anyone’s counting. Denise Ramsden (Team Ontario) was second at 51 seconds back and Joëlle Numainville (Équipe du Québec) took third at 1:03 back. Beveridge is on the comeback trail after injuring her back and neck in a crash at the Tour de l’Aude last month in France. She raced later on at the World Cup in Montreal and was unable to finish that race because she was in too much pain.
“I’ve had some very bad luck this season so it’s nice to come here and get the win,” said Beveridge. “It hasn’t been too much fun. I was feeling still a little sore today and that affected my concentration and I made some mistakes. I was probably a bit too cautious.”
All eyes were on defending Champion and silver medalist at the World TT Championship Svein Tuft (Garmin-Chipotle) for the men’s 40-kilometer race. Tuft is on the comeback trail after a tough start of the year when he suffered a serious concussion at the Tour of California in February. And the man delivered, setting the fastest time of 52:08.56 seconds and taking the gold medal for his fourth title in the last five years.
“I’m on my way back,” said Tuft. “A 40 kilometre time trial is never easy. It’s been a rough start to the season, I’ve never gone through anything like that. But with the success I had last year, that’s my reference for what to shoot for.”
His teammate Chris Meier showed that his form is back, finishing 59 seconds back to take second place. Zach Bell (Kelly Benefit Strategies) took third at 1:33.
Another rider returning from injury was U23 Defending Champion David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit Strategies) who broke his collarbone during training earlier this spring. Veilleux’ form was a bit of an unknown as he only had two races under his belt since his return but one was the difficult Tour de Beauce.
“I knew that I had good legs and since the Tour de Beauce, I was preparing for the time trial.” said Veilleux.
Veilleux successfully defended his 2008 title to win for the fourth year in a row, while teammate Ryan Anderson took second at 1:14 back. Cody Campbell (Trek-Livestrong) was third at 1:39.
“It went really well,” said Veilleux. “My effort was consistent. I can’t complain. The course here is difficult because you constantly have to change rhythms.”
Saturday was the 135-km – or 3-lap – U23 and Elite Women’s road race where both categories race together. The pack came back all together for a bunch sprint finish where Alison Testroete (Total Restoration) nipped Gina Grain (Webcor) to take the win and be crowned Canadian Road Champion. Merrill Collins (La Bicicletta/J Lindeberg) finished third.
Erinne Willock (Webcor) put in dig after dig to try and get away from the field. The first one netted her a 30 kilometer solo flyer early in the race, and after several further failed attacks, she went off again to be joined by Samplonius. The duo worked together for 20 kilometers before being caught by the pack. And then it was time for the bunch sprint as the tempo increased over the final Ks and the sprint to the finish started with only 300 meters to go.
“I didn’t expect to win but I knew my chances were good,” said Testroete. “The course suited me and I was hoping for a top-five finish so I could be selected for national team assignments.”
With her fourth placed finish, Numainville was crowned the Canadian U23 Road Champion. Numainville was well positioned for the final sprint but some bad luck cost her a medal.
“I’m disappointed,’’ said Numainville who unclipped just as the sprint got underway. “I was here to win and I felt good. I had a good race and I did a lot of chasing to reel in the leaders. I really thought I could win it at the sprint but my shoe clip unlocked.”
Ramsden and Karol-Ann Canuel (Équipe du Québec) were seventh and eighth overall and second and third for the U23 class classification.
Sunday brought the Men’s 180-km or 4-lap road race where once again the U23 and Elite riders raced together. From all I’ve read and been told, unusual tactics were used at the race.
In rarely seen results, the three first riders across the finish line were U23 riders with 20-year old Guillaume Boivin (Volkswagen-Specialized) taking the win, followed by André Tremblay (Équipe du Québec) who is also 20 years of age. Andrew Hunt (Planet Energy) was third. Technically however, it is Aaron Fillion (Ride With Rendall) who is new Canadian Champion as he finished in fourth place while Tremblay is the new U23 Champ.
“The goal was to get on the U23 podium, but I didn’t think I could win the overall in all the categories. It’s really special. Like all the other cyclists present, the Canadian Championships was the race that I dreamed of winning, so I am very proud.” said Boivin.
“My expectations were not that high. I came here to see how I measured up against this field because I hadn’t raced lately. I knew the potential was there. I just needed to capitalize on my opportunities. I was having trouble maintaining the pace and I thought we would get caught. I stayed positive and the race went our way.” said Fillion.
Those four riders were part of a group of nine that broke away from the 139-rider pack at the 20 kilometer mark in the usual early break but what followed was not usual tactics – what has been called ‘playing chicken on bikes’ or as Andrew Pinfold put it on twitter: “Poker is best played on a table, with cards. Not on a bike.”
With 12-rider squad at the start line, everyone expected Planet Energy to control the race but Steve Bauer‘s team was content to let the break go and let them get a big gap while waiting for the other teams to step up to chase. The break, of which seven were U23 riders, worked well together to grow a gap of over 9 minutes to the field while behind them it was a game of ‘you chase, no you chase’.
Some groups did set chase on the leaders including a 6-rider group that included defending champion Christian Meier (Garmin-Slipstream), and a second counter attack with 12 riders was also formed. But with not everyone committed to the chase, the break who was working very hard up the road stayed away. With 50 kilometers to go, the two chase groups were neutralized by the peloton who had stepped up the pace but never caught the break.
CCA Performance Director Jacques Landry told Le Soleil that the Planet Energy waited to late to chase, waiting until the third of the four laps. He went on to add, that they increased their speed by 10 km/hr for 20 kilometers and that way lost some of their own riders.
Under pressure in the final kilometers, the break crumbled and a smaller group of five sprinted to the finish line. “There wasn’t much room to manœuvre so I knew if it came down to the sprint I had a chance to win it.” said Boivin.
Two chasers, Ryan Roth (Planet Energy) and Meier, did manage to catch and pass the dropped break riders but ran out of road and finished 23 seconds back in seventh and eighth place.
In the end fingers were pointed, blame was assigned but kudos to the break for working hard, never giving up and risking it all to make it to the finish line.
Of note, rules were changed this year and the Canadian Champion does not get an automatic pass-through to the World Championships. The final decision will be made by Landry based on results throughout the year.
Top 3 Elite Women TT
1. Tara Whitten
2. Anne Samplonius
3. Laura Brown
Top 3 U23 Women TT
1. Julie Beveridge
2. Denise Ramsden
3. Joëlle Numainville
Top 3 Elite Men TT
1. Svein Tuft
2. Christian Meier
3. Zach Bell
Top 3 U23 Men TT
1. David Veilleux
2. Ryan Anderson
3. Cody Campbell
Top 3 Elite Women RR
1. Alison Testroete
2. Gina Grain
3. Merrill Collins
Top 3 U23 Women RR
1. Joëlle Numainville
2. Denise Ramsden
3. Karol-Ann Canuel
Top 3 Elite Men RR
1. Aaron Fillion
2. Osmond Bakker
3. Ryan Roth
Top 3 U23 Men RR
1. Guillaume Boivin
2. André Tremblay
3. Andrew Hunt