With 20 kilometers to go in stage one of the 47th annualTour de l’Abitibi, Team USA’s Brandon McNulty took a solo flyer to win stage one in Val-d’Or, Quebec.
“When it started to get really windy, in the crosswinds, a couple of my teammates started drilling it and we got it down to maybe six guys and one of the guys stopped pulling. It was a distraction so I just swung to the side and snuck away. Then I got a huge gap,” the 17-year old rider said.
The reigning Junior 17-18 National Time Trial champion pushed the gap to 20 seconds as he entered the first of three 3.2-km finishing circuits. While a few short-lived attacks flew from the main pack, McNulty kept his head down, not sure he could win until he heard the bell.
“I just didn’t know once when we hit these hills in the circuits, I didn’t know, I thought they might be able to catch me on those but then once I got with one to go, I knew that I could stick it.”
McNulty had time to post his victory salute, crossing the line eight seconds before the sprinting field. Pier-André Côté (Quebec) was second and Sprint Challenge winner, Pierre Barbier (France) third.
Team USA took control of the peloton from the beginning of the 115.6-km stage, holding the gap to a two-rider breakaway close to the minute mark. Team Morocco also put in riders at the front of the field.
“I think USA has a big presence at this race,” McNulty answered when asked if the other riders were looking at Team USA to assume control. “We do a lot of work because we want to do well, I don’t know if it was expected by everyone.”
The duo of Luis Ricardo Villalobos Hernandez (Mexico) and Francisco Carratala-Jorda (Novo Nordisk) stayed away for around 50 kilometers. The field was back together, speeding along, as they made a right-hand turn into crosswinds. The 132-rider peloton splintered into three groups.
Not only does McNulty have the brown leader’s jersey but he also holds the orange sprint jersey and the blue best young rider jersey awarded to the best first-year junior.
The plan is to defend. “We definitely want to keep the jersey so we’ll have to ride in the front a lot. I’d like to do well in the time trial and we have another teammate so we could go 1-2 in the time trial, it would be a dream but to just keep the jersey really.”
- El Mehdi Chokri (Morocco) won the polka-dot climber’s jersey by claiming first and second in the two KOM competition.
- Stages include Mayor’s Sprints where the first rider across the line wins $250. No sprint points or time bonus seconds are awarded at these sprint points.
- Due to visa issues, the Costa Rica National Team did not start the event this year.
- Starting with 2015, agreements have been made to have at least six more years of racing for the Tour de l’Abitibi, with Val-d’Or, Rouyn-Noranda and Amos alternating as the host cities. Val-d’Or will host the 50th edition of the race.