Posted by Editoress on 06/28/10
New National Champions Crowned in Edmonton AB
by Rob Jones
Once again, Road Nationals proved that it is the one event of the year where there are no absolute favourites. It doesn't matter whether you are a pro with one of the top teams in the world, or a domestically-based rider, this race has shown time and again that any rider can rise to the occasion. For the 2010 national road championship races for men and women this proved to be particularly true, as two first time winners were awarded the right to race in the maple leaf for the next 12 months. Joelle Numainville (Webcor Builders) and Will Routley (Jelly Belly) won the elite women's and men's titles on Sunday in Edmonton, Alberta, to add their names to the list of Canadian national champions.
Despite overnight rain, race day dawned bright and sunny, with a promise of hot conditions to challenge riders. The organizers had managed to pull off the impressive feat of total road closure in the middle of a major city, allowing riders to race without the added burdens of rolling enclosures and yellow line rules.
The circuit was centered in Hawrelak Park, in the valley created by the North Saskatchewan River. This geographic feature dominated the 13 kilometre circuit, with riders climbing out of, and descending back into, the v alley three times per lap. None of the climbs were particularly steep, but the cumulative impact of the constant ascents took their toll, especially as the temperature climbed into the high 20s.
Numainville came into the nine lap, 117 kilometre women's race as a favourite if the race came down to a sprint, but there were lots of riders looking to split things up and deny her that opportunity.
Lex Albrecht (Cascades-ABC Cycles) attacked in the opening loop through Hawrelak Park, and by the midpoint of the first lap was three minutes up on the field. Cara Gillis (Specialized D4W/Bicycle Haus) tried to chase on her own, but never managed to get closer than one minute, while the peloton hovered at the three minute mark for the first half of the race.
Multiple attacks were launched, by danger riders such as Anne Samplonius (Vera Bradley Foundation), Karol-Ann Canuel (Equipe Vienne Futuroscope) and Numainville's team mate Erinne Willock, but none gained more than a few seconds before the peloton reacted and chased them down.
This allowed Albrecht to continue to lead for the first half of the race without serious challenge. The only excitement to occur was a crash by one of the favourites, Tara Whitten (Specialized Mazda Samson G Conseil), who went down in the feedzone after hitting a dropped waterbottle. Whitten rejoined the peloton after half a lap of chasing.
When the field became more serious about chasing, Albrecht's lead quickly dropped and, with a little less than two laps to go, the group was all back together. Willock went to the front on the climbs to force the pace and discourage breakaways, and to keep the race together for Numainville. Samplonius, Canuel and Whitten all made attempts, but it was clearly looking like a sprint finish, and Numainville was ready.
The finish was a little tricky, with a narrow sweeping right hand turn into the Park and then a wide but curving run to the line for the final 300 metres. Numainville went to the front going into the Park and easily held off Whitten for the win, with 2009 champion Alison Testroete (Cycling BC) third. Leah Kirchmann (Trek Red Truck p/b Mosaic Homes) won the Under-23 title after finishing seventh in the field sprint.
"It was never the right group of girls that wanted to break away," explained Numainville. "So, it stayed together and I was fine with that, because I knew I had a good sprint. The finish was super fast, so my goal was to be in top three [in the last corner]. I was on Steph Roorda's wheel I think, and at 200 metres I just sprinted as hard as I could. I am really happy, it was one of my goals this season."
For Whitten, it was a difficult day from the moment she woke up. "My whole morning was a bit frazzled," Whitten commented. I set my alarm clock to the wrong time, so I woke up late, and then right on the start line I got a flat, then in the fifth lap I hit a stray water bottle and went down pretty hard."
"Everyone could tell it was coming down to a sprint, and I was trying to find a good wheel on the final descent. It was getting pretty fast and aggressive, and I was getting boxed out, and I thought that I'd lost my chance. But then, coming around the last corner I was able to come wide and go for it. I couldn't quite match Joelle, but I'm really happy with second. It's the first time I've managed to put together a good sprint in a road race."
Unlike the women's race, the 182 kilometre, 14 lap men's race was aggressive from the gun. SpiderTech had the numbers, with 13 riders in the field, but they were going up against some heavy hitters - Svein Tuft and Christian Meier from Garmin-Transitions, Dominique Rollin from the Cervélo Test team, four riders from Kelly Benefit Strategies, led by Zach Bell and David Veilleux, plus Routley, Rob Britton (Bissell) and top sprinter Andrew Pinfold (United Healthcare).
SpiderTech team director Steve Bauer's plan seemed to be two-fold: tag along with any attempt by the danger riders to get away, and gradually put more and more team members up the road, as riders went across to the break. For the most part, they executed well, but just came up against a faster rider in the finish.
The early laps saw multiple efforts attempt to go up the road, but they clearly didn't contain the right mix of riders. One of the most dangerous was late in the second lap, when approximately 25 riders rolled off the front of the field, including Tuft, Bell and others, which the entire peloton scrambled to shut down.
On the third lap, the beginnings of what be the crucial move took place, with eight riders going clear - Ed Veal (La Bicicletta Elite Team), Jean-Michel Lachance and Andre Tremblay (Nativo-PG-Devinci), Bruno Langlois, Mark Batty and Randell (all SpiderTech p/b Planet Energy), Derrick St. John (Garneau Chaussures-Ogilvy Renault) and Spencer Smitheman (Hagens Berman LLP).
By the beginning of lap five, the group was two minutes clear, and Routley decided it was time to bridge across, along with Equipe Quebec's William Goodfellow and Kelly Benefit's David Veilleux. Routley went across quickly, but Veilleux was left dangling in no-man's land for a couple of laps before finally joining the leaders.
Following this expansion of the leaders, yet another group began to chase and, powered by Britten, the group of five swelled the ranks of the leaders to 16. The vastly diminshed peloton finally began to chase in earnest on the tenth lap, pulling the leaders back to just over a minute up as Tuft, Meier and others went to the front. However, once the pros stopped setting the tempo the gap began to grow again.
"We were at the point where we tried to give it a final few digs," explained Tuft. "But Christian and I, even if we could have pulled it back, probably wouldn't have had anything left. That sort of thing would only work if everyone was committed, and there were too many guys hanging on."
As the gap had dropped, more small groups jumped across to the leaders, including Frank Parisien, Eric and David Boily (all SpiderTech), Trevor Connor (Chris Cookies/Swan Cycles), Michael Joannisse (Equipe Quebec), Ryan Aitcheson (Team Ontario), Arnaud Papillon (Equipe Quebec), Cody Campbell (Trek-Livestrong), Aaron Schooler (H&R Block), Jesse Reams (Cycling BC) and Nic Hamilton (Trek Red Truck p/b Mosaic Homes).
The front group was now a peloton in its own right, and as the race entered its final three laps, it began to disintegrate under attacks. A front group of eight formed, containing Routley, Randell, Langlois, Veilleux, Britton, Jean Sebastien Perron (Garneau Chaussures-Ogilvy Renault) and Jean-Michel Lachance (Nativo-PG-Devinci). Randell took adavantage of a momentary lull in the action shortly after the race began the final two laps to make his own solo attack, and caught the group off guard, taking a 30 second lead quickly over the first climb. Routley was the only one to respond, and managed to make his way up to his rival as they started the last climb of lap 13.
"He [Randell] had a good gap, he was riding well; he was riding well all day," commented Routley. "Guys were looking at each other, and I just saw a good opportunity and went across on the second climb. The two of us rolled pretty good and held onto that 30 seconds."
Into the final lap the pair were holding a 35 second lead on the six remaining riders in the chase, while the rest of the group was over a minute back, and the Tuft/Rollin peloton had completely given up (eventually rolling in nine minutes down). Over the first two climbs the duo worked together, taking turns setting the tempo on the climbs. However, on the final climb Routley jumped, gaining a few metres before Randell managed to rejoin him on the descent.
"I figured on that final climb it might be the time to have a try and I attacked, but he was really strong and didn't have much trouble catching up to me," said Routley.
Behind, the chase had gotten more organized, and was starting to reel them in, bringing Randell's team mate Bruno Langlois potentially back into the picture. Routley was forced to lead down the final descent and across the bridge over the North Saskatchewan River towards the finish in Hawerlak Park, while Randell sat on, waiting for the arrival of his team mate. Fortunately for Routley, this put him in the lead at the narrow entrance to the Park, and he led out the final 200 metres to take the title ahead of Randell, with Langlois winning the sprint for third. Arnaud Paillon, the only U23 rider in the group took the Under-23 title.
Andrew Randell, after being out in the break all day, to lose the national title by half a bike length, summed up his feelings in one succinct four letter word, and then elaborated: "Will rode a great race, and when it came down to the sprint I messed up, I really should have gone earlier. I should have jumped, I hesitated, and that's how it goes."
Steve Bauer commented: "We made three big mistakes out there today, we let Will Routley go across [to the break] without one of our guys, we let David Veilleux go across on his own and we let Rob Britton do it without a SpiderTech rider. We can't be doing that sort of thing with dangerous guys like that."
Will Routley couldn't keep the smile off his face, as he contemplated his victory. "Andrew was just sitting on, on the [final] descent and across the bridge, so I had to keep going. I tried to go hard enough to maintain the gap and go for the win, but as easy as possible to save something for the sprint. I felt pretty confident coming into [the sprint] that I had some sprinting legs in me ... This means a lot, it's probably the best result I've ever had. Ever since Junior mountain bike days I've thought I had a shot at Nationals. I've been on the podium before, but never managed to do it ... Junior mountain bike, Espoir mountain bike, then I switched to the road as an Espoir ... I've been trying for a long time, it's been ten years of trying."