Spaniard Rafael Serrano Fernandez (Heraklio-Murcia) truly animated the first stage of the 25th Tour de Beauce, winning the 165km stage with a time of 4h11m 21s ahead of Sergiy Grechyn (Amore & Vita) and Charles Dionne (Fly V Australia) who sprinted in at 8 seconds behind.
The winner was aggressive throughout the race, making his way into each and every break including the longest one which lasted 120 kilometers. Along with Jay Thomson (Fly V Australia) and Will Routley (Team Canada), Serrano Fernandez had extended a gap of 5 minutes on the field at one point in the race. He showed his strength when he was able to rejoin his two breakaway companions after flatting on a road in construction, at the bottom of a long climb.
When the field started to react, under the leadership of the BMC team, the gap decreased rapidly. That’s when the bad roads led to a near disaster for BMC and the rest of the peloton. With 40km to go, the peloton hit a section of road which race organizers described the night before as hard pack. In fact, what the bunch hit was a 900-meter long descent over very loose gravel strewn about with deep potholes, which caused several serious crashes and numerous flat tires. Two riders Alexander Kristoff (BMC Racing) et Matthew Bell (Team Canada) were transported to the hospital.
Once through the section, the chase regained momentum, driven by UnitedHealthcare p/by Maxxis, Spidertech p/b Planet Energy and Bahati Foundation
With 15 kilometers to go, Serrano Fernandez took a flyer and left the other two riders in the break behind him. While Thomson and Routley were caught by the pack, the Spaniard stayed out in front to solo to victory.
Of note, the winner and his team arrived in Saint-Georges early this morning after a long trip. With his performance, Serrano Fernandez took all the jerseys, the leader’s yellow jersey, the red best young rider for the U23 rider, the polka dot for the KOM lead and the white jersey for the sprint leader.
“I am really happy for this win,” said the winner, “but I’m even happier for the team. We traveled for 23 hours to get to Beauce. When our Director Sportif saw that the other guys on the team were lacking energy, he told me to go to the max. I never thought that I would be caught, I didn’t look back and I gave it everything that I had.” He also added that he should be watched during the race.
Best Canadian, Dionne was not feeling well at the start of the stage in Lac-Etchemin. “It wasn’t going well.” he said, “I was really tired and last week, I really was not riding a long time during my training rides. In today’s first climb, I wasn’t feeling well at all and I thought of quitting.”
“But there are times where you try and you try and not much results from it but today everything went my way. When the break went, I told myself that it would slow down in the peloton and I could recover a little bit. That was encouraging. Then there was the crash, which caused riders to slow down even more.”
As the finish line was getting closer, Dionne was seeing his strength return. “I was feeling the finish line and it was telling me to go for it. Maybe I launched my sprint too early but I am happy to finish third.”
Andrew Pinfold (Unitedheatlhcare p/b Maxxis) was fourth followed in by Chris Jones (Team Type 1), Derrick St-John (Garneau Club Chaussures), Ryan Roth (Spidertech), Volodymyr Bileka (Amore & Vita), Benjamin Day (Fly V Australia) and Caleb Fairly (Felt-Holowesko Partners-Garmin U23), all at eight seconds from the leader.
Stage 2 offers up more of the same for tomorrow, with the famous undulating terrain of the Beauce region of Thetford Mines. “How dedicated the Murcia team of Francesco Mancebo will be on defending his teammate Serrano’s lead will be the most determining factor on tomorrow’s tactics,” Unitedhealthcare p/b Maxxis DS Gord Fraser said.