Since I’m on a bike racing adventure at the moment, I’m also on a blogging frenzy. That’s what happens when you only have to ride and rest. So after GP Saguenay I had two days off before starting the famous and wickedly hard Tour de Beauce. The peloton was mostly the same but for a few key changes, Optum brought in Carter Jones, and Smartstop brought in Rob Britton. A few teams that didn’t do Saguenay came to Beauce and vice a versa. I rode for a different team than at Saguenay, this time Team Veloselect out of Montreal, a small development team who wanted me to show their young guys how to race at an international level.
Stage 1 went according to the typical stage racing script. A break got away in the first 15 minutes and gained a maximum of 12 minutes after 50km of racing. The only concern was the break had ten riders so it was a bit too big of a gap for comfort. Optum started riding eventually since the finish really suited their sprinter Eric Young. Unfortunately for them, they only had 6 riders and Carter was riding for G.C. so their 4 workers didn’t quite have enough power to bring it back on their own. A few teams jumped in to help however and we drilled it the last 30km to catch the last rider at 3km to go. Eric just lost the field sprint to an Amore & Vita rider.
Stage 2 was cold, wet and finished on Mt. Megantic, a 4km climb that had plus 20% gradients in the last km. I didn’t realize that they were using a different road for the finish then normal so I came a bit over geared with only a 39×28 while other riders ran compact cranks or 32 cogs. The normal finishing climb is 5km long; you climb the same altitude in the last 2km that we did in the last 1km this time around… In other words quite brutal. The break took a bit longer to go on this stage, which is usually the case. I was in a good position when it went but decided I didn’t really want to be in it since I have never seen it succeed in my previous Beauce experiences. Unfortuantely, I was mistaken. I think the cold rain took its toll on the field more than the break, and despite an ok chase, the break still had 2 minutes at the bottom of Megantic. A Hincapie rider had an awesome ride and kept most of his 2 min advantage all the way to the line. In the field everyone was pretty cracked and the gaps among the top 20 were all really small, the gradients serving to decimate everyone. I finished 11th on the stage.
Stage 3 I want to forget about. It was the TT and I really rode like crap. Team Veloselect were kind enough to loan me a TT bike to use but with the rain I didn’t ever ride it outside before starting the race. That was a huge mistake. I can’t tell what a bike really feels like while riding the trainer and once I got out on course I was super not comfortable with my set up. I was having a hard time putting power out and staying aero in my position. The bumpy roads and crosswinds didn’t help, but I really should have just sacked up and warmed up in the rain on the road to really dial in my position. Regardless I lost over a minute more than I should have done.
It was still raining for stage 4, a circuit race in historic Quebec City. This is the same venue as the Pro Tour races in the fall, but on a slightly different course. The key feature is a 500m wall of a climb, followed by a 1km false flat drag up to the finish line. I was having a hard time seeing the road with the heavy amount of water spray and by the time I got myself to the front, the break was already gone. I tried going for it a few times to get a group to bridge across but the field either let me go solo, or just followed me and sat on. So that wasn’t going to happen. Then just when the pace was really starting to kick up with 2.5 laps to go, disaster struck. I double flatted. SRAM neutral was on the scene ASAP, but changing two wheels always takes a while. I was motor pacing along the river road behind our Veloselect team car at almost 70kph but still barely making ground up on the peloton. I hit the climb at the very back on the caravan and was going past the cars and riders getting dropped. Gord Fraser, currently directing with Silber Pro Cycling, helped me out with a super steady draft along the gradual part to the finish line. But then we were into the super twisty first part of the lap. Rolling around in the caravan with potholed roads, cones, turns, and heavy rain was definitely nerve wracking, but I kept fighting and eventually caught back on the field half way down the river road again. More than a lap after I flatted. All of this was a bit of an energy drainer and I lost 7 seconds the final time up the hill to finish 30th on the stage. Two riders from the early break did stay away but a dozen seconds, with Amore & Vita taking another stage win. Afterwards I discovered that I had flatted again and finished the stage with barely any air in my rear tire.
I was only 18th on G.C. at this point so I had really nothing to loose going into the last day, 12 laps of a technical 10km circuit with 20 turns and over 600 ft of climbing per lap. I wanted to be aggressive and see what happens. Unfortunately again, before I managed to get to the front, the break already had a gap. I decided to wait until the first time up the 1400m finishing hill to try and get across. I went all out from the bottom but the gap was bigger than I thought and they were really hammering. I made it 2/3s of the way there but ran out of hill and was well out gunned on the flats against 8 riders. I sat up and spent the next two laps really paying for my effort. The pace was still super fast and I was stuck suffering at the back. The back was a horrible place to be because we had to sprint extra hard out of the many turns. Eventually I recovered and got myself back into position. With 5 laps to go the break was coming back and the pace was up again. The group exploded on the climb and I made the split of 12 or so. We started attacking each other non stop and I was trying to pick the right group. I attacked maybe 3, 4 times but the group that went was not what I expected. Britton, 4th on G.C., went with Skujins, the leader. Kirk Carlsen, who’s team mate Tvetcov was 2nd on G.C., covered the move as well with a Columbian rider. I was sure that move wouldn’t go anywhere, but I was wrong. All four worked super well together and started to pull clear. No one could or would chase, but Mike Woods of Amore & Vita bridged solo the next time up the hill. Realizing I had to go, I attacked with an H&R Block rider, Langois of 5-hour, and an ISD rider.
Unfortunately, we didn’t work smoothly together, and didn’t really have the power either. We dangled 20-30 seconds behind the lead group for three laps but couldn’t close it. We got caught by the remainder of the field with 5km to go. I knew my best chance was to go at the bottom of the hill where the gradient was steepest. I tried, but was pretty dead at this point so didn’t get the gap I needed so I had to settle for 15th on the stage. A lot of people dropped out of the stage and I ended up moving up to 13th overall. That TT was the only thing that kept me out of the top 10. Luckily I will be on my actual bike for my next TT at Cascades.