Cooper Willsey (Hincapie Sportswear) didn’t let the rain, cool weather and a “little” road rash stand in the way of taking the biggest win of his cycling career – so far – on stage 2 of the 47th Tour de l’Abitibi on Tuesday evening.
The 18-year old American was part of a 50-rider group that entered the three finishing circuits on the heel of solo rider Raphael Auclair (Quebec). Having raced on the same circuit yesterday, Willsey bided his time.
“I came into the circuits about 50th wheel in the group. In the first circuit, I just hung out, chilled and saved my energy. I started moving up on the second circuit, made my way to maybe 20th wheel behind a few very fast riders and then coming into the final circuit, I moved up right into the front of the race, and I waited for the climb and launched at the right moment and dug it really deep,” he said.
The numerous attacks in the final nine kilometers shattered the already small field. But one rider jumped to try to make it across to Willsey.
“Adrien Costa [USA] was coming up really fast. I saw him over the top of the hill, I looked back and I saw him starting to chase so I knew that I was in for a hard effort. I just tried to rail the turns and get back on the gas as soon as I could. And I held him off.”
Willsey had time to post up his victory before crossing the line a bike length ahead of Costa. Pierre Barbier (France) took the field sprint for third place, again.
“It feels amazing,” he said with a laugh of the biggest win of his career.
The team plan for today was to be opportunistic. “It was basically survival for us, just to get through unscathed and rest up for the next few stages.”
The 130 riders lined up in the pouring rain in Amos, Quebec for the start of 104.4-km stage 2, and soon after a lone rider was off the front. After 15 kilometers, Kento Omachi (Japan) was joined by four other riders Mathieu Roy (Iamgold-Specialized), Hubert Laferrière (Quebec), Abdellilah Radif (Morocco) and Nicholas Vorwerk (Novo Nordisk). The five stayed away for 50 kilometers before being reeled back in by the peloton led by Team USA. Auclair made his counter-attack soon after the second KOM before being reeled back about 25 kilometers later.
Two major crashes took down many riders on the wet roads. The first at 12 kilometers into the stage and the second one which involved Willsey, 61 kilometers later. “I went down on the second crash, a little bit of road rash but nothing bad.”
After two stages, Willsey sits in second in the general classification tied in time with leader Brandon McNulty (USA). “I think it’s just going to get harder and harder,” he said of the upcoming stages. I know that the national teams are just going to dig and I’m in for it. I’m ready.”
- All three KOMs were won by riders from Morroco National Team with El Medhi Chokri retained the polka-dot jersey.
- Barbier has a four-point lead in the points classification.
- Seven riders did not finish the stage.
- Split stage day on Thursday: time trial in the morning and a 51.5-km road stage in the afternoon.