“We showed that the Canadians are here and that they’re ready for the dance.” Directeur Sportif of Team Canada p/b Spidertech Steve Bauer said after the Grand Prix Cycliste ProTour Québec.
A page of cycling history was written on Friday when Québec City hosted the first race of the ProTour on the American continent. A total of 173 cyclists from 22 professional cycling teams took the start in front of the fortified gates of Old Quebec. And one of those teams was Team Canada, a 12-rider strong team created exclusively for the event in Quebec and its sister event, the Grand Prix Cycliste ProTour Montréal on Sunday.
On that historic day, 8 teammates, average age 26, lined up to battle against the top cyclists in the world and only one had experience at that level. At the line were Canadian Road Champion Will Routley, Guillaume Boivin, Charles Dionne, Keven Lacombe, Bruno Langlois, François Parisien, Dominique Rollin and David Veilleux. Both Rollin who rides with the Pro Continental squad Cervelo TestTeam and Bauer shared their knowledge when the team got together a few days earlier.
Part of the meeting was to designate the protected riders and sprinters Boivin, Dionne, Lacombe and Rollin received the nod. Their job was to stay safe in the peloton and be ready for the finish.
Sacrifice. From the get go, Team Canada was aggressive with Langlois launching the first attack in the first kilometer, maybe ever meter. He was quickly reeled in with a very active and fluid front of the peloton until the elastic broke on the Gilmour descent 5km into the second 12.6 km-lap.
“Already there was movement and attacks, the peloton was stretched out even before Gilmour and I was well positioned at the front. At the bottom, when we turned left, the acceleration was so hard, gaps were created and we were off.” Parisien explained.
Two laps in, a 13-rider break was off the front and Parisien made the split. He is well known for getting into long breakaways, and this one was for his protected teammates. “I went to the front, I sacrificed myself to decrease the pressure on their shoulders.”
All in the break, except one, worked together lap after lap, the field happy to let them dangle off the front in a controlled manner.
“A ProTour race is structured, that’s normal. An early break and slowly it’s reeled in.” explained Parisien. But one day it might stay away. “In future years a break might make it to the end on such a course. The teams that chased lost a lot of feathers.”
It didn’t stay away this time. The break exploded with 5 laps to go when the breakmates attacked each other. Parisien didn’t see it coming and was dropped. Seeing the gap was too big to catch up, he called it a day to save his legs for the Sunday race.
Finale. Meanwhile Parisien’s teammates stayed in the field, with always at least one close the front. Dionne, Veilleux and Routley took turns monitoring the action. When the break almost reeled in, Routley and Veilleux put in attacks to try and get away.
Team Canada riders were not able to follow the final attacks and missed the final selection.
In the end, winner Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouygues), used his experience to perfectly time his attack to escape in the final 500 meters while all the others were looking at each other.
Lacombe was the highest-placed rider from Team Canada, taking 20th place, 20 seconds behind the winner.
Proud. “From start to finish, the team rode superb. Parisien represented the team in the break which was important for the riders behind to relax. Veilleux attempted to make the counter attack. We had some guys in contention for the win in the final straight, right to the last kilometer. Little more depth in the fitness and a couple tougher races and he (Lacombe) would be there for the win. It’s a matter of time, and the guys did Canada proud.” Bauer commente.
“We were well prepared, it was really hard but finally we did well.” Lacombe said. “For guys that are not in the ProTour, we were knocking at the door and we were competitive. I felt food but to measure yourself against the best of the best, you have to be on your best day. With 1 km to go, the check engine light went on.”
“We go a little unnoticed throughout the season so to have all these people cheering for us was really exceptional.” Veilleux said.
All day, the team received loud cheers from the appreciative and fabulous crowd.
“It was a beautiful day on the bike and it’s the type of course that suits me. I am still a bit young to challenge for the win and the guys are a notch above me. There was only a little something missing to finish in the first group.” 22-year old Veilleux added. He had a big smile when he crossed the line in 31st also at 20 seconds back.
Both Lacombe and Veilleux are still at the University.
Sunday. It ain’t over, there is the Grand Prix Cycliste ProTour Montréal, a tougher course, a race of attrition in its history. Ryan Anderson, Rob Britton and David Boily will join Rollin, Lacombe, Boivin, Parisien, Routley for the nowhere-to-hide course.
Parisien is hoping to be one of the protected riders. “It was normal that I sacrifice myself today [Friday] because I think that the team will designate me as somewhat of a leader on Sunday, completely natural.”
“Montréal looks very positive, and I am looking forward to Sunday. With one race on their legs, some riders will be a little bit more tuned, and I am hoping our fresh guys David (Boily), Rob (Britton) and Ryan (Anderson) can contribute substantially to the overall effort and that they will come through with the required strength. Montréal will certainly require more sustained efforts on the climb and I believe that there is no hiding on that race course. A World Champion contender will win the race, without a doubt.” Bauer explained.
It’s a tough one alright. A total of 16 laps 193.6 km. Each 12.1-km loop includes the 1.8km climb up Camilien Houde with an 8% average grade and the 780-meter Côte de la Polytechnique at 6% average grade with a 200-m kicker at 11%. A total of 3664 m elevation gain.
“It’s going to be hard, I can’t wait for Sunday.” Parisien concluded.
Grand Prix Cycliste Quebec – Team Canada Results
20. Keven Lacombe (Can) – Team Canada
31. David Veilleux (Can) – Team Canada
36. Charles Dionne (Can) – Team Canada
43. Dominique Rollin (Can) – Team Canada
69. Guillaume Boivin (Can) – Team Canada
73. Will Routley (Can) – Team Canada
106. Bruno Langlois (Can) – Team Canada
DNF. François Parisien (Can) – Team Canada
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