Loud and clear. “I’m going in to race with real goals of seeing results.” said Canadian Road Champion Will Routley of the Jelly Belly p/b Kenda team, about his goal for the the two ProTour races in Quebec.
Well maybe not so loud from the soft-spoken Routley but definitely clear.
Putting the finishing touches to his buildup, the 27-year old is in Vermont right now racing at the Green Mountain Stage Race. I caught up with him last Friday just as he was returning from the opening time trial.
“I haven’t seen the results yet but I think it was a little less than stellar for me today.” he said. Routley finished in 28th place, at 1:07 from the winner. “That was to be expected, I put in some pretty hard training, had a little rest and had a couple of travel days. Today was kind of the big warm-up. A little stale, I think I’ll be a lot better next day, the next couple of days for the road races and that’s what I’ve been preparing for, long hard road races.”
For the first time ever, a ProTour race will be held in North America this week. The Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec on September 10 will be run in the heart of the Vieille Capitale, a beautiful and hilly area. Two days later, the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal with its demanding climb. Both are considered a hard man’s course.
“They’re tough courses and that’s kind of my thing, I’m looking forwards to it. The training at home for the past month has gone really well so I’m going into it with a result in mind, not just happy to be there.”
National Team. Because of UCI rules, only ProTour, Pro Continental and National teams are allowed to race at ProTour races, which means that Routley will be racing as part of the Canadian National Team instead of his usual trade team. The challenge will be to become a cohesive unit with a shared common goal, especially with a lot riding on the line.
“I think because most everyone knows each other and has raced together at least somewhere along the line, hopefully that will help us work together a little bit. It’s always a challenge with the National Team to try and get guys to ride together, especially when the selection to the World Championship squad will be made right after these races so a good showing will probably get you picked for the Worlds.”
Twelve riders were picked for the team with some racing both races, such as Routley and some only one. The team will get together on Tuesday afternoon, along with DS Steve Bauer to plan their strategy. One thing that will help are race radios, which are allowed in ProTour races. “When it comes to a National squad that hasn’t raced together, I think that’s going to help the communication. When you race together all year round, I find that you don’t talk much on the radio but when it’s the first time that we race together, it might be advantageous for us.”
Does his plan include getting into an early break or wait for the final selection? “Hopefully we have a Canadian jersey covering both of those scenarios, that’s what I’d like to see. If it goes early on, you’d have to see just how big that early move is. Sometimes, for a guy like me, if it’s a big enough early move it’s almost easier for me to ride the front of the race the whole time and then let the big heavy hitters come up to me later on because you don’t have to be fighting all day for position, you can ride and keep it simple.”
Part of the strategy is to take advantage of being relative unknowns to the European peloton. “When it comes to a race like this they won’t know many of us, so that might play into our favor a little bit and it will certainly factor into the strategy when it comes to the end.”
A plus on their side is the knowledge of the Québec course. The same course was used for the Tour de Beauce stage earlier this year. Except that at Beauce, the stage was 127 km, and the ProTour version is 189 km (117 mi) long.
“It will certainly start hard and expect some pretty powerful attacks through the last 3km, on all those steep hills.”
That final 3 km of the 12.6 km loop includes 3 tough climbs. “It’s quite a tough, technical finish, not necessarily very easy to ride away at the very end but certainly I could see going with a few laps to go and a small select group.”
The Montréal course is an unknown. “I understand the hill is pretty nasty. That’s what my training has been all about, the long endurance stuff combined with the power on 2-3 minute effort over short, steep hills. The ability to hit those really hard after being on a bike for 5, 6 hours, that’s what I’m looking forwards to.”
The team will be counting on Bauer sharing his experiences from winning the Grand Prix des Amériques in 1988, on almost the same course.
Pressure. Canadian Road Champion. Canadian National Team. Canadian Races. Worlds Selection. Even the Canadian Champion is not a sure bet for the World Championships, so there is a lot riding on these two races.
“I do certainly feel a fair amount.” chuckled Routley about the pressure.
“I’ve had a block of just training at home so I’ve had to really make it count and it’s gone well. And I’d like to get picked for the World Championships coming up, a few people have talked about being a course for sprinters but there was an article saying that that’s probably not the case. It’s a hard man’s type of course, it does have a really nasty hill in it and I think the Worlds is a course I would really like so yeah there’s some pressure because I know a good performance here will lead to the selection.”
After a busy first half to two thirds of the year which included racing not only in North America but in Korea, capped off with his National Championship win, Routley took a break to recover and then focused on getting ready.
“There hasn’t been a lot of racing going on for me, so it’s been a matter of hard training and looking at the numbers on the wattage meter, and it’s one of the things that I had to just ensure that I was making the training count and making it hard. I was lucky the weather was great at home and I was able to put in some of the toughest rides I’ve ever done so I think it’s coming around. I think the form is there.” said Routley who returned home to British Columbia.
Adding to his motivation is the fact that he will be representing Canada for the first time at the Commonwealth Games in India later in October. “Sometimes it’s harder to be motivated later in the year but these are such important races and knowing that I’m going to the Commonwealth Games, it made it easier to stay motivated because they were for really big significant events that are new experiences for me.”
It’s not all about getting ready physically. “Well doing 6 hours by yourself, you certainly have a lot of time to think.” he laughed when asked about his mental preparation.
“That’s certainly been a big factor for me this year. Pretty much every day I do some qualitative self talk and remind myself what I have accomplish so far this year and remind myself that these courses do suit me and how to build that confidence and focus on it. I think that the mental aspect has been a huge factor in my year, my success all year and hopefully it’s going to help with these races coming up. I’ve been thinking about it. I don’t know the Montreal circuit, but I know the Quebec City one very well, I know it’s a tough course, I know that’s what I’m good at.”
But can you train alone to imitate the tough one-day courses with long distances and steep short climbs? “That’s the question, that’s what I’ve been asked many times.” he replied. “My whole goal, not just working on the mental side of things, my whole goal has been to go out there and make those key workouts as hard or even harder than racing, and I guess I can tell if it works in a couple of weeks.” he laughed.
Loud and clear. It’s been about long, hard hilly races all year for Routley.
“That’s what my year has been really about actually. The races in Korea, no one really sees those, we had a couple of stages that were 230 km long and those were the days that I was having some of the best form all year. Philadelphia again, it’s 260 km long, it’s a long day with a nasty little hill in there somewhere, that’s what I’ve been training for.”
Routley won his National Title, riding with no teammates against full squads, by bridging up to the early break and then winning the sprint after 100km in the move. “Again, another one day race with a a bunch of hills, that’s kind of what it’s been all about this year.”
“Bring on the challenges.” We’ll know in one week if Routley was ready for these two hard, long, hilly one-day races.
As for next year, Routley is hoping to announce very soon his team situation.