June 23/09 13:22 pm - Elite Road Nationals Preview
Posted by Editor on 06/23/09
The biggest event on the domestic road calendar takes place this weekend in St-Georges de Beauce: the National Road Championships. In addition to the status of being the national champion, and having the privilege of wearing the jersey in competition through the next year, a strong performance offers the chance for riders to be selected for national team projects, including the world championships.
This year, the competition begins on Friday (June 26th), with the Individual Time Trial for the U23 (Under 23) and Elite women and men categories. Nearly 120 riders have registered to contest the championships for this event, with four national titles to be awarded. The time trial course is an extended version of the one used for the Tour de Beauce a couple of weeks ago, with an opening climb and then rolling terrain to the turnaround for the women, while the men continue on up a second longer climb before reversing their tracks.
In the U23 category, both defending champions are registered to defend their jerseys, and can be counted among the favourites. Julie Beveridge, racing for U.S. professional squad Team TIBCO, is coming off a stage race win in Banff, and is certainly showing the form needed to defend her title. Other women to watch for this 20 kilometre race include last year's silver medalist Karol-Ann Canuel (Specialized-Mazda-Samson), defending bronze medalist Véronique Bilodeau (Cascades ABC Cycle) and Manitoba's Leah Kirchmann.
On the men's side for the U23 category, the defending champion, David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit Strategies) is always a strong contender in the 40 kilometre event, but he is coming back from a broken collarbone suffered in March, so will he be back to full form? Other men in contention include 2008 silver medalist Bryson Bowers (Team Ontario) and his team mate Mathew Bell, plus 2008 bronze medalist Garrett McLeod (H&R Block-Kona) and Cody Campbell (Trek-Livestrong U23).
For the Elite category, the defending women's champion is missing - Anne Samplonius. However, there is still tremendous depth in the women's field. For the women, who will race 20 kilometres, top contenders include Alison Testroete (Total Restoration Cycling Team), who finished second to Beveridge in Alberta, perennial top time trialist Merrill Collins (La Bicicletta/J Lindeberg) and Tara Whitten (Velocity Cycling Club). Whitten is the dark horse in this competition, an Olympic track cyclist who won two silver medals at the Track World Championships this spring, and is now on the road, having recently won the Tour of PEI stage race before an international field.
In the men's race, there are lots of potential champions to choose from. Defending champion Svein Tuft (Garmin-Slipstream), who finished seventh at the Olympics and won a silver medal at the World Championships in this event last year, is clearly one of the favourites, and going for his fifth title. However, Tuft has been recovering from a serious crash earlier in the season, and is still possibly not in top form. This opens the door for other riders, including former team mates of Tuft: Cameron Evans (OUCH-Maxxis), Zach Bell (Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Will Routley (Jelly Belly). Another rider to watch is last year's silver medalist Ryan Roth (Planet Energy). Tuft's current team mate Christian Meier is scheduled to race the time trial, but the expectation is that he will be saving himself to defend his road title on Sunday.
One day after the Individual Time Trial, the women line up for the 135 kilometre Road Race championship on a tough undulating circuit south of St-Georges, followed by the men's 180 kilometre race on Sunday. Both races make use of a 45 kilometre circuit incorporating the time trial course, with most of the climbing in the first half and then a fast, mainly descending run into the start/finish line. The favourites will be the same as in the time trial in most cases, with Beveridge looking to repeat for the U23. Canuel, Kirchmann and Team Ontario's Denise Ramsden will also contend. In the Elite category, defending champion Alex Wrubleski (Columbia-Highroad) is not registered, as she takes time off to recover from illness, while the second and third placed riders (Leigh Hobson and Felicia Gomez) have both retired. This leaves the race wide open for a new champion. Testroete, Whitten, Collins and Olympian Erinne Willock (Webcor Builders) are all sure to be in the final mix.
On Sunday, the men race 180 kilometres to determine Canada's new National Road Champions for both U23 and Elite categories. Again, we can expect Veilleux, Bell and Campbell to be in the mix for the U23 title, but they will face other top prospects, such as 2008 silver medalist Éric Boily (Planet Energy), Ryan Anderson (Kelly Benefit Strategies) and the local favourite Guillaume Boivin (Volkswagen-Specialized).
In the Elite race, the champions for three of the past four years are in attendance - the defending champion Meier, his former team mate Evans (2007) and Francois Parisien (Planet Energy) from 2005. The 2006 champion, Dominique Rollin (Cervelo Test Team) is still recovering from a bout of mononucleosis and will miss the championships. Tuft has stated that he will work on behalf of Meier (his professional team mate with Garmin-Slipstream) to defend the jersey, while Evans will have the support of his team mate Andrew Pinfold, and Parisien will have the backing of Canada's most powerful men's squad - Planet Energy. Planet Energy has numerous other options, including Roth, 2008 silver medalist Bruno Langlois and Andrew Randell. Finally, the Kelly Benefit Strategies duo of Bell and Jake Erker shouldn't be discounted.
All in all, these road national championships should provide some of the most exciting racing of the year.
CC will be onsite all weekend to provide news, updates and photos