Posted by Editoress on 07/9/07
Canadian Road Nationals
The Elite and Espoir categories began their National Road Championships today with the individual time trial events. The elite categories saw two new faces on the top step of the podium - both long time top performers, but neither, surprisingly, has won an elite national title. Anne Samplonius (Expresscopy.com) took the women's title over an 'unretired' Lyne Bessette (Equipe du Quebec), while Ryder Hesjedal (Health Net - Maxxis) finally beat Svein Tuft (Symmetrics) for the men's title. David Veilleux (Jittery Joe's) repeated for the men's Espoir title, while first year Espoir Julie Beveridge (Alberta) won the women's title.
The course was the same as used for the Tour de Beauce last month, with the women doing 20 kilometres, the Espoir men 30 and the Elite men 40 kilometres. After a steady gradual climb for the first six kilometres, the road leveled out, except for a further short climb before the elite men's turnaround. "Leveled out" in Beauce terms means constant rolling terrain, by the way...
The terrain wasn't the problem today, however. For the women it was a stiff gusting crosswind on the majority of the circuit, and for the men add in rain - heavy rain at times.
The early leader for the women was Beveridge - last year's Junior champion - who set a strong time of 30:47, which ended up being good enough for fourth place overall among the women. Lyne Bessette, the former multi-time national champion, who was using this as a test of her fitness, finally supplanted Beveridge by 39 seconds.
"It's good, a good result. This is only my fourth race this year, so I'm happy that I was able to complete it with no major mistakes. Anne has been racing the whole season, so she is very fit, and to be beaten by Anne is okay, because she is riding so awesome right now."
Leigh Hobson (Cheerwine) also bumped Beveridge by nine seconds, but it wasn't until Samplonius went, second from last, that Bessette was finally pushed out of the lead. Samplonius was simply the fastest on all parts of the course, eventually knocking 35 seconds off of Bessette's time. However, Samplonius was wary of celebrating too early, since she was beaten last year by the slimmest of margins by Alex Wrubleski - half a second.
This time, however, Wrubleski didn't have it, finishing a distant fifth, 1:19 down on Samplonius, who finally followed up her early career promise as a time trialist back in 1994, when she was part of the squad which took the silver medal in the team time trial at the Commonwealth Games in Victoria and followed that up with a silver medal at the world championships.
"Finally! That's all I can say. the course was good, and I had a good day with good legs. I've been second ... I don't want to count the number of times. This is something I've been thinking about since last year, but the last four weeks I've really focussed on it, so when I arrived here I was relaxed, because I knew I had good legs. For my preparation I did Montreal (World Cup and Tour of Montreal) and Tour de l'Aude, and then I spent the last four weeks at altitude."
Samplonius also commented on winning this national title versus her Worlds silver medal 13 years ago. "It's hard to compare, because that is almost a different era .. it happen just when I was starting, and it came so easy ... but now I had to work hard for this one, so it almost means more. Really, I'm just ecstatic."
Shortly after the women finished, the skies opened and it poured on the Espoir men. This was expected to be a race between defending champion Veilleux and the man he supplanted last year - Meier - and that is what it proved to be.
Meier, starting second from last, was fastest at the turn by two seconds, and was still in front with six kilometres to go. But Veilleux turned up the pressure on the final run down into the finish, and through the tricky corners which led into the finishing straight to pull back four seconds and win by two.
"One thing may have cost me a second" admitted Meier. "Coming through one of the corners before the finish it goes into a sharp uphill and I messed up a shift and was in too big a gear. But David is riding strong, I've seen that he's been ramping up as the Nationals were getting close. I'm still pretty happy with my ride; I'm not time trialing as fast right now because I've been doing a lot of stage races and working on my climbing, so the higher power just isn't there."
Veilleux knew that he was slightly behind at the turn, but wasn't worried: "I knew that I had nearly the same time, but no, I wasn't too worried. I know that I am good on the descent at the end of the course, and that I could make some time there. I have prepared very well for this race, and for the last two weeks used only the time trial bike, so my position was very good."
After the Espoir men finished the rain slackened off for the 90 minutes before the elite men started, but just before the first rider headed down the start ramp it came back with a vengeance, heavy enough to leave big puddles in the depressions in the road.
Tuft's team mate Zach Bell was only the seventh rider to start, but set a blazing fast time that lasted until the final two riders came in - Hesjedal and Tuft.
"I think I've always been capable of riding like this," commented Bell. "But I didn't do the Nationals last year, so I was off the radar, I guess. But I knew that my time trialling was going well after the Pan An Championships (he finished second in the time trial). As soon as the heavy rain started I got excited and went harder, because that's when a lot of people slow down."
Eric Wohlberg (Symmetrics), the eight-time national champion who has been on the podium at Nationals every year since 1993, came close to Bell, only eight seconds back, but was immediately relegated to fourth when the final two riders came in.
It was expected to be a battle between Tuft and Hesjedal, and they did not disappoint. Two years ago, Hesjedal was third and last year second; this year he was determined to dethrone Tuft. The Health Net-Maxxis rider went out hard and was eight seconds up after six kilometres, 23 seconds ahead at the turn and 38 seconds in front by the finish line, having caught and dropped everyone up to and including his five minute man.
"Since I can't be here for the road race (team commitments at the Cascades stage race), I put everything in the basket for the time trial. there was some good headwind at times, but it was all managable. Basically, I had the perfect ride. I started catching guys right away, which is good for the confidence. I wasn't getting any splits, and I tried to judge at the turn, but that is hard to be exact. However, once I got on top of it for the downhill return I knew that I would be hard to beat. last year I came to Nationals after doing some big ProTour races - Catalunya and Dauphine - so I wasn't so prepared, but this year I've been focussing just on this race since Philly. But I also have seen how much Svein has been racing February, and it is hard to keep it up for that long at the highest level."
Tuft agreed that his heavy schedule is a factor "It's been a long season, for sure, and lately I've been fading a bit in motivation; it's hard to keep super motivated at times. But, I know that it was a good ride for me; if I rode like crap and won I would be madder than losing after riding well, so I have nothing to complain about."
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