One of the toughest races in North America, the Tour de Beauce is back, the UCI 2.2 stage race starts tomorrow TuesdayJune 15 and ends six days later after 762 kms (474 miles) of racing. With hardly a mile of flat roads, and generally rough tarmac, the Tour de Beauce offers some stiff racing miles for any team. For its 25th edition, the organizers have revamped some of the stages, notably the new downtown circuit in Quebec City which follows the same course as the upcoming ProTour race in September. Also, the traditional Friday evening crit in St Georges has been removed.
Last year’s winner Scott Zwizanski is not returning as his Kelly Benefit Strategies team has chosen to race at Nature Valley Grand Prix, which conflicts on the North American schedule once again. But have no fear, quite a few returning champions are coming back in a competitive and high-caliber field. 2005 winner Nathan O’Neill (Bahati Foundation), 2006 winner Valeriy Kobzarenko (Team Type 1) and 2007 winner Ben Day (Fly V Australia) are all returning and are all contenders for the overall once again.
After crashing hard at the Amgen Tour of California, Day seems to be back on form as proven by his win at the Chrono de Gatineau, the UCI time trial this past weekend. Having just married a native of the area (who he met at the race years ago), Day does have an affinity for this event. The Australian team can also count on Darren Lill as a contender and of course native Charles Dionne who always aims for the Quebec City stage.
On the hunt for a sponsor, the Bahati Foundation is extra motivated for the race. Watch Cesar Grajales on the Mont Megantic stage where skinny climbers always shine, and a good candidate for the KOM. Team Type 1 is counting on not only Kobza but Chris Jones and Mike Creed for the overall while the other squad members watch for opportunities.
The BMC team is bringing an interesting mix of GC contenders and stage hunters. Third overall in 2005, Jeff Louder should be in the mix especially as Louder typically gets stronger as thelatter part of the season. Chad Beyer is one to watch when the road goes up and should be in the running for the KOM once again.
UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis split its roster between Beauce and Nature Valley this year. Marc de Maar who just won the overall at Mt Hood after finishing top 15 at the Amgen Tour of California should be in the mix. Another one to watch is Max Jenkins anytime the road goes up, especially on the Mont Megantic stage.
One cannot talk about a Canadian race without mentioning the Spidertech powered by Planet Energy team. François Parisien and Ryan Roth are the two riders aiming for GC while Lucas Euser, who had a strong showing in California at his first stage race since his accident, could surprise.
The Felt-Holowesko Partners-Garmin U23 team can always be counted to be aggressive as his the Canadian National Team led by Will Routley with Marsh Cooper. Other teams include Garneau Club Chaussures, DCM, Restore Cycling Team Holland, Amore & Vita -Conad, Sc Wledenbruck 2000, Global Cycling Team, Heraklio-Murcia, Ckt Champion System, Équipe Québec and Team Spirit-Cibc Wood Gundy. (See full roster)
Five jerseys at play in the race. The yellow jersey sponsored by Desjardins for the GC leader, the white jersey sponsored by Hydro-Quebec for sprint leader, the polkadot jersey sponsored Rocky Mountain for the King of the Mountain (KOM) leader, the red jersey sponsored by Georgesville for the Best Young Rider (U23) leader and the blue jersey sponsored by Quebec City for the winner of the Quebec City stage,
The stages. The traditional opener of the race continues to be the 165 km (102.5 mi) Lac-Etchemin / Lac-Etchemin stage which takes place north in the region of Bellechasse on Tuesday June 15. (See cheat sheet)
Redrawn this year by the organizers, stage 2, the Thetford Mines/Thetford Mines stage should again give the riders quite a challenge in the first half of this 160 km (99.4 mi) 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 to finish stage 3 on Thursday June 11. Starting in St-Georges and culminating at an observatory perched on top of the highest paved road in Quebec, the 154 km (95.7 mi) route has been slightly tamed this year with a few modifications. The final 5-km climb to the finish line has an average gradient of 7.9%, a leg killer.
A brand new route for the ITT this year in St-Rene. An out-and-back 20 km (12.4 mi) course which goes downhill to the turnaround and a 100-meter climb back to the finish line. Riders will start at one minute interval with the last 10 riders off every two minutes.
Saturday brings the Quebec City Circuit Race. A new 11.6 km circuit in downtown Quebec City, the same circuit as the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec Pro Tour race in September. The downtown loop, covered 11 times, will lead the cyclists down the Gilmore hill and along the river before attacking the Côte de la Montagne Street. A total of 127.6 km (79.3 mi) that day.
The race ends on Sunday with the traditional circuit race in downtown Saint-Georges, 12-km course for a total of 135.3 km (84.1 mi) that day. It’s a tough one with a climb every loop to the start/finish line.