Posted by Editor on 06/26/99
Clara Hughes (Saturn) and Eric Wohlberg (Shaklee) got the Canadian National Road Championships off to a fast start with dominating performances in the individual time trial on Wednesday). The course, in Sherbrooke, Quebec (one and a half hours southeast of Montreal) was, in Hughes words "demanding. It had a bit of everything - rolling hills and flat straight sections. I was really impressed."
For both riders, winning means that they have qualified for the Pan Ams team. This is special for Clara Hughes, since the Pan Ams are in her hometown of Winnipeg. "Winning this time trial was one of my goals for the year", said Hughes. The win is particularly satisfying since she is coming back from a year of injury, and doubts about whether she would ever make it back to the top. Former World ITT silver medallist Anne Samplonius (intersport) was second, with local favourite Lyne Bessette third. Hughes completed the 30 kilometre circuit in 30:35, with 55 seconds behind, and Bessette (Saturn) one minute off the lead time.
In the mens race, Wohlberg was the overwhelming favourite, having unleashed a blistering 50 kilometre an hour win in the time trial during the Beauce stage race less than a week earlier. Second place finisher Brian Walton (Saturn) had quipped prior to the race: "all I need to win is for Eric to have two flat tires..." That did not happen, as Wohlberg stormed the 40 kilometre course in 55:26, beating Walton by 1:22. Former ITT champion Peter Wedge (Degree Radio Energie) was third, a further 1:10 down.
On Friday afternoon the riders lined up for the Criterium championship race, in downtown Sherbrooke. The format was new for this event - a Points race - with the first four riders gaining points every fifth lap (5-3-2-1), and double points on the final sprint. This required strategizing - go for early points and hope to build up an insurmountable lead, or just stay in contention and go for broke on the final sprint.
British Columbia's Stacey Spencer (Fuji) opted for the latter strategy, and won her second consecutive title in the women's 40 lap race (8 sprints). "I wanted to win a couple of early ones (sprints), and then be there at the end." she said after the race. Spencer's plan was led to a tight race, since Annie gariepy (Elita) adopted an alternate plan of scoring points consistently through the race. Going into the final sprint, Gariepy had 19 points, with Spencer at 12. However, Spencer's final lap win vaulted her to 22 points. Gariepy could only manage 4th (2 points) in the final sprint, ending up in second place. "I thought 2 points would be enough, but misclaculated. I am a little disappointed, but I was cooked by the end of the race."
The men's 50 lap (10 sprints) race also went down to the wire, with Peter Wedge only one point up on Saturn's Mike Barry as the riders headed for the line the final time. Wedge took the final sprint, and the title, but said afterwards "man, that was way too close."
Unlike the women's race, a breakaway formed right away, with Wedge, Barry and defending road champion Mark Walters (Navigators) opening up a 10 to 15 second gap on the field. For the first have of the race these three riders scooped up points, with Walters grabbing the early sprints, and opening up a lead. Wedge: "Mark was killing us on the sprints, so I started going to the front on the last corner and gapping them."
When the trio allowed themselves to be caught after the 25 lap sprint it stood at Wedge with 21 points, Walters at 18 and Barry well back with only 9 points. Barry then stayed away on his own, taking the next three 5 pointers. Wedge continued to take points also and, by the time the regrouped pack started to jostle for the final sprint it stood at: Wedge 29, Barry 28. Saturn's Walton and Matt Anand set up a train for Barry but, in his own words: "I just didn't have enough left in the sprint, and Peter came around me in the end".
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