Posted by Editoress on 06/22/12
Canada's Olympic team finished 1-2-3 on Friday in the women's road race at the national road championships in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. Denise Ramsden (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies), outsprinted Clara Hughes (Specialized-lululemon) to win the title, after the two broke away from the lead group with 30 kilometres remaining in the 107 kilometre race. Joelle Numainville (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) won the group sprint for third, two minutes and 20 seconds behind. All three riders were named Friday to represent Canada at the London Games next month.
Hughes, Ramsden, Numainville
The race took the riders on an almost 40 kilometre run from Lac-Megantic, through rolling terrain, to the 14 kilometre loop that they rode twice. Dominating the circuit was the two-plus kilometre climb up Mont Morne.
Attacks began almost immediately after the neutral zone ended on the outskirts of town, but the first serious one occurred roughly 15 kilometres into the race, when Julie Beveridge (Equipe Vienne Futuroscope) and Jasmin Glaesser (Cycling BC) broke clear. these two went 45 seconds clear and there was an immediate reaction from the rest of the favourites, which split the field. However, the peloton soon came back together and rode into the first ascent of Mont Morne with only two riders off the front - Jenny Lehmann (Trek Red Truck) and Joanie Caron (Colavita-ESPN).
The duo crested the climb in the lead, as the rest of the field gradually falling off the pace set by Hughes at the front of the bunch. Sitting down for the climb, Hughes revealed afterwards that she spun it in a 39x27 - a far cry from the 42x23 she rode 20 years ago when she won the national title.
Before the start of the second climb, the bunch was mostly back together, with only Lehmann still away. Veronique Labonte (CSM Epinay sue Seine) bridged up, and again Hughes led the splintering field, with Ramsden beside her. Defending champion Veronique Fortin (Tibco to the Top), a great climber, started the climb with Hughes, but then fell back, appearing to struggle with cramps, and was no longer a factor.
Labonte and Lehmann second time up the climb
Over the top, a much smaller group came back together, absorbing the leaders and, as they finished the second lap and headed back towards Lac-Megantic, Hughes, Ramsden and Numainville took tunrs launching attacks on the remaining eight riders at the front.
"There were a lot of attacks," explained Ramsden, "but nobody could get away. So when everyone sat up for a moment I attacked and got a gap. Then Clara bridged up to me and set the pace. Clara is so strong that I tried to help when I could, but she was doing most of the work."
"Denise attacked," agreed Hughes, "and I bridged across and then just drilled it. Denise didn't help for a while (due to Numainville behind), but then her team car came up and I ask if she could help, and she did after that."
Ramsden and Hughes go clear
The pair took ten seconds quickly over a chase group containing Numainville, Glaesser, Rhae Shaw (Exergy Twenty12), Beveridge and Labonte. Then it stalled at around 15 seconds until Glaesser dropped her chain on a climb, had to get technical assistance and chase back up. the others didn't seem to have the power without Glaesser who, immediately upon rejoining the group, went to the front.
But the damage was done, as the lead pair went a minute clear and finally over two minutes as the race entered town. After going up the main street, the riders had to negotiate a chicane turn 300 metres from the finish, and this is where Ramsden made the winning move.
"In the finish, I knew that I had to be first going into that chicane - Joelle and I had talked about it earlier," explained Ramsden. "That was my plan, to stick behind her and wait until right before that last corner. I was able to jump away and sprint that last 300 metres. It's been an incredible two days, with the Olympics and now this, I don't think it has really sunk in yet."
Note: We have video interviews with both Denise and Clara that will go up shortly.