Australian Lachlan Morton (Holowesko Partners) took over the brown leader’s jersey at the Tour de l’Abitibi/Coupe des Nations by blitzing the time trial on stage 3. He then went on to not only successfully defend his lead to claim the overall victory but take another win in a tremendous show of strength on stage 6.
A total of 26 teams, with 14 from the USA and 8 from Canada, battled at the 42nd edition of the race, the only stop outside of Europe of the UCI Coupe des Nations for junior men aged 17-18. Also represented were teams from New Zealand, Japan, Belize and Thailand in the 154-rider field.
James Laberge (Team Specialized Juniors) took the bunch sprint in the opening stage, the 94,6 km from Preissac to Val-d’Or on Tuesday July 20. A few breaks were tried on the stage, but the lead group came in together for the 3 finishing circuits where Laberge came out on top ahead of Jean-Samuel Deshaies (Team Canada) and Philippe Nadon (équipe du Québec).
The leader’s jersey changed hands on the 105,8 km second stage which started in a light rain and on wet roads. Early crashes splintered the field but it was all back together 20 kilometers later. Mid-way through the stage, Deshaies and his teammate Craig Logan (Team Canada), Paul Lynch (Team USA), David Kessler (Holowesko Partners), Jonathan Merritt (South Eastern Regional) and Robin Carpenter (Young Medalists / Team Dual Temp) escaped the field. The 6 riders pulled themselves inside out to stay away gained almost one minute to the field but most of the them were reeled in by the finish. Logan attacked with 2km to go for the victory. The other survivor of the break, Carpenter chased hard and came into second 2 seconds behind. Benjamin Sweberg (Team USA) won the field sprint for third 23 seconds later. Though tied on time with Carpenter, Logan became the new leader by virtue of his win being the tie-breaker. Laberge crashed but chased back and finished in the field, and kept the blue jersey for the best young rider classification. Logan also took over the points classification and Nick Sutton (New Zealand), the KOM.
Thursday brought a double-stage day starting off with the time trial followed by a road stage in the evening. Morton clocked a time of 20:20 on the 14.5km time trial which started underground at the Cité de l’Or mine. Morton set an average speed of 42.78 km/hr on the technical 22-corner course which included the 525-meter ramp with a 17% grade that took the riders back to the surface. Eamon Franck (Team Specialized Juniors) was second at 43 seconds back and Zack Noonan (Young Medalists/Team Dual Temp) third at 57 seconds. With that, Morton took over the lead with 40 seconds on Logan.
Colt Peterson (Team USA) outsprinted his breakmates to win the 52.2 km out-and-back stage 4, ahead of Jukrapech Wichana (Thailand) and Blair Turner (DIY Music). The break was initiated by Robert Chorost (Mid-South Regional) and Jean-Samuel Gauthier (Espoirs Saputo) only one kilometer from the start in Malartic. Soon others bridged up making it 11 riders off the front. In the move were also winner of the first stage Laberge and his teammate Andrew Lanier Jr, Nicholas Hand (New Zealand), Alex Cataford (Team Canada), Thomas Jondall (Team USA), Gabriel Murray (Mid-South Regional) and Peterson, Wichanan and Turner. But it wasn’t all rosy in the break with reports of disagreement between the riders. Regardless, the gap grew up to 43 seconds back down to hover around 30 seconds with Holowesko Partners leading the chase. In the end, the peloton came in 36 seconds behind the winner keeping Morton in the lead. James Oran (New Zealand) takes over the blue jersey in the best young rider classification.
Rain greeted the 136 riders left in the field for the longest stage of the event, the 115.4 kilometers from Rouyn-Noranda to Val-d’Or. Five crashes took their toll, including four in a 2-km period which caused the peloton to slow down to make sure that everyone could catch up. Unfortunately, another crash, this one at 1-km from the finish, took down more riders. In the end, Swedberg took the field sprint for a second stage win for Team USA. Daniel Farinha, also of Team USA, was second and Jordan Brochu (Equipe Québec) third. After a quick change with a teammate due a flat, Morton was able to rejoin to finish in the field and keep his brown jersey. Swedberg took over the points lead and Oram stays in blue.
Morton made it two in stage 6, the 86,8 km circuit race in Val d’Or. Morton followed a counter-attack the final lap of the 7 times around the 12.4 km loop and kept on going to solo to victory. Swedberg won the field sprint 9 seconds later with Wataru Mutsumine of Japan in third. Carpenter and Scott Creighton (New-Zealand) went up the road early on in the stage, staying away for 50 km, grabbing sprint and KOM points before being reeled in the final lap. Right after the catch Peter Taylor (Team Specialized Racing Juniors) attack and was quickly joined by Morton and a few others. Morton powered away for the win with the rest caught before the finale. Morton increased his lead to 58 seconds in GC while Swedberg solidified his lead in the points classification. Oram kept his blue jersey.
Major crosswinds in the final stage led a powerful break making it up the road. Attacks started 10 kilometers in the 114.6 km stage and a few kilometers later, 22 riders were off the front. In the break were the three jerseys: Morton with two teammates - Kessler and Jacob Arnold -, Swedberg with three teammates - Jondall, Lynch and Nate Geoffrion – and Oram with four teammates – Dion Smith, Creighton, Sutton and Louis Wright. Also in the move were Nadon and Brochu (Equipe Québec), Team Specialized Juniors dup of Franck and Laberge, Young Medalists/Team Dual teammates Carpenter and Noonan, Edison Turner (DIY Music), Masaru Nakazato (Japan), Matthew Lipscomb (South Eastern Regional) and William Zellmer (Mid Atlantic Regional). Missing was Team Canada’s Logan, who flatted during the attacks, putting his second place on GC in jeopardy. The gap grew up to 4 minutes and 10 seconds by the time they made it to the 9 finishing circuits of 5 km each. Despite multiple attacks, the lead group came in together with newly crowned Canadian Jr Crit Champion Nadon taking the win ahead of Smith and Swedberg. Morton won the overall with a 59-second lead on Franck who moved up to second and 1:16 on Noonan. Swedberg won the overall points classification, Oram the best young rider and Sutton the KOM.
Final Top 10 GC (Complete Results)
1. Lachlan Morton (Team Holowesko Partners 13:41:38)
2. Eamon Franck (Team Specialized Racing Juniors) +0:00:59
3. Zach Noonan (Young Medalists/Team Dual) +0:01:16
4. James Oram (New Zealand) +0:01:17
5. Robin Carpenter (Young Medalists/Team Dual) +0:01:24
6. Thomas Jondall (USA National Team) +0:01:27
7. Mathew Lipscomb (South Eastern Regional) +0:01:37
8. Scott Creighton (New Zealand) +0:01:40
9. Edison Turner (DIY Music) +0:01:40
10. Louis Wright (New Zealand) +0:01:47