September 10/12 12:12 pm - Weldon & Bessette Take Tandem Gold Medal at Paralympics
Posted by Editoress on 09/10/12
It was a golden day for the Canadian Para-Cycling Team at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, Great Britain, with the powerful tandem of Robbi Weldon (Thunder Bay, ON) and Olympian Lyne Bessette (Knowlton, QC) riding to the gold medal in the Women’s B Road Race.
For the first time at these 2012 Games for cycling events, the Canadian Anthem was played to the crowd gathered at Brands Hatch to cheer on the para-cyclists of all nations.
Weldon and Bessette crossed the finish line with a time of 2:08.26, a lead of 34 seconds on their closest competitors and silver medallists, the tandem from Spain.
“I am very happy. Lyne and I are thrilled about this golden performance. It’s good to end on a golden note. We had a fantastic race. Everyone was strong in the peloton. We had respect for everyone,” said Robbi Weldon, a former cross-country skier turned cyclist after the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Games.
The two tandems, Canada and Spain, separated from the main peloton in the fifth of eight laps, and they managed to increase their lead throughout the rest of the race. “Fortunately for us, no one followed our big attack but Spain. We worked hard non-stop until the end. Anything can happen with bikes as we saw with the guys in the time trial [the men's tandem punctured with one kilometre to go],” continued Weldon.
“What we wanted to do was to be patient in the early laps,” added Bessette. “At the mid-point, the goal was to make the race a little harder if nothing had happened.”
The two fought hard together in the break and, ultimately, Canada’s golden girls placed an attack on the very last lap, which proved to be the winning move. "Although they did not have much experience, the Spanish tandem is very strong, so it was perfect for us. Then, it was up to me to decide when it was time to attack for the win,” said Bessette.
"We are very happy with this particular medal. We were disappointed with the time trial so we wanted to take the win today. It ends the Games well,” said Bessette, who also took the opportunity to announce her retirement from Para-cycling. “I wanted a happy ending on this last day. I can leave happy. It was a very rewarding experience, which grounded me as I worked with exceptional people.”
The Dutch team went on to finish the line in third place, edging the second Canadian tandem of Geneviève Ouellet and Émily Roy in a nail-biting finish for the bronze.
“I'm glad with the fourth position in a race that our teammates won,” said Geneviève Ouellet. “We gave everything we had, and it is still surprising for a small tandem like ours, not very powerful, to finish second in a sprint for the bronze,” added Ouellet, competing at her second Paralympic Games.
“I'm thinking about my future right now. Currently, there may be the 2013 World Championships in Baie-Comeau, but it is certain that I will not go further than that,” admitted Ouellet.
“The two Canadian tandems raced to win today. Today, what was important was that Canada won. After the excellent attack placed by Robbi and Lyne in the sixth lap, our role was to answer every attack by other countries. In the final sprint, we were able to hang onto the wheel of the Netherlands. They were on the podium throughout the year, so we knew it was a good wheel to follow. In the end, Canada won the race and that's what matters. It is certain that we are a little disappointed because we won the chocolate medal awarded to the fourth place, and we would have liked to return to Canada with a real medal,” said Roy.
In the men’s tandem race, Canada’s tandem of Daniel Chalifour and Alexandre Cloutier, the reigning Canadian Champions in the event, finished their race in ninth spot.
The tandem rode safely within the peloton for the first 88 kilometres of the 104 kilometre race, and unfortunately missed the attack that would eventually prove to be the winning move.
The road race for the tricycle was also held on Saturday. Toronto’s Shelley Gautier was lapped and did not finish the race, while Marie-Eve Croteau did not start as she is still recovering from an injury.
The Team Relay was also held to end these Paralympic Games. Canada’s team, comprised of Robert Labbé (H1), Mark Beggs (H2) and Mark Ledo (H3), placed fifth.