Posted by Editoress on 06/11/14
The 29th edition of the Tour de Beauce began on Wednesday with a modified version of the usual Lac Etchemin stage, held north of the host town of St-Georges. Italy's Luca Benedetti (Amore Vita-Selle SMP), winner of the polka dot jersey at the Grand Prix de Saguenay last week, took the opening stage win in a sprint, grabbing both the Yellow Jersey of race leader and the Points Jersey.
The final sprint w. Luca Benedetti at the front
The Amore & Vita rider edged out Eric Young (Optum-Kelly Benefits), winner of two stages at Saguenay, Asbjorn Kragh (Christina Watches), the Best Young Riderer in Saguenay, Charles Planet (Novo Nordisk) and Jure Kocjan (Smartstop), overall winner of the Grand Prix du Saguenay.
Unlike previous years, when the stage takes the riders on a long loop through the undulating countryside, starting and finishing in Lac Etchemin after approximately 160 kilometres, this year riders faced four laps of 49.1 kilometres that began and ended in the nearby village of Ste-Justine, for a total of 196.4 kilometres - a significant increase in distance.
The early break
The stage started, as it often does, with a breakaway forming the first five kilometres. The initial break contained Jonathan Hornbeck (5hr Energy) Joey Rosskopf and Joe Schmalz (both Hincapie) Remi Pelletier-Roy (Garneau-Quebecor) and Nicolas Lefrançois (Nordisk). Five more riders bridged up before the end of the first loop - first the trio of Oleksandr Sheydyk (ISD), Casey Roth (Ride with Rendall) and Joshua Berry (SmartStop), and finally Jimmi Sorensen (Christina) and Leonardo Pinizzotto (Amore Vita-Selle SMP). This group quickly took the gap to nearly 12 minutes, and was becoming a dangerous move, reminiscent of the 2001 first stage break by Henk Vogel and Svein Tuft that went some 20 minutes clear and still had four minutes at the finish.
With nine teams represented, there were not many left to chase, and it was left to Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies to shoulder the lion's share of the workload. "We would have liked the other teams to help us," said Young. "The team rode hard to catch up on the breakaway. Hats off to our riders who have done a great job. This is a big week for us and we are preparing for tomorrow's Mégantic stage. Our goal is to bring Carter Jones atop the standings."
Optum at the front chasing hard
With one rider initially at the front of the peloton, eventually it increased to four Optum riders towing the bunch, and the gap started to come down steadily. It was less than four minutes by the start of the final lap, and the break was starting to splinter, as weaker riders couldn't contribute the pace making and then fell off the group. Eventually, as the riders hit the final KoM climb with roughly 20 kilometres to go it dropped to under three minutes, and other teams were contributing riders to the chase. Pinizotto was the last rider caught, with less than three kilometres to go, and then it became a bunch sprint up a slight incline to the finish line.
"This stage was designed for me," said Benedetti. "We had a rider in the break and we organized to help. Then in turn he tried to help us by slowing down the tempo. It's just my sixth professional race and I did not expect to win. I am very happy with this victory. I dedicate it to my team, to our sponsors whose Faninni family and my athletic director Phil because he comes from Canada."
"We had to look for a long time," says Phil Cortes. "His amateur record speaks, but we did not want to rush to invite him to join us especially since his wife gave birth to a child in March."
Pelletier-Roy showed the colours of the Garneau-Quebecor jersey for most of the race in the breakaway. "It was a tough day at the office and it was expected with one less stage this year at the Tour de Beauce. We did very well in the Saguenay and wanted to continue here. We wanted to have someone in the break. On the last lap, we gambled that if we slowed the pace, the pack would also decrease its speed. That was not the case. Then there were breaks in our group. I am convinced that had we stayed together, we would have reached the finish line ahead of the peloton. For the following days we will see how everything unfolds. There are seven guys in the team so we can share the workload. I'm happy for the team and for me. That makes me 22 days of racing in 28 days. I'm trying to recover."
Rob Britton Interview
- Prior to the start, a black Navigator SUV rolled into the team area, with tinted windows and security type guy driving, and then standing outside. I assumed that it was Maxime Bernier, the federal minister and MP for the area, who's government had just announced funding for the race. It turns out that it was actually the private vehicle for Lauris Spillers, a member of the Latvian Alpha Baltic / Unitymarathons.com team, who also happens to be the owner of the team and a Latvian oligarch... By the end of the day, Spillers was out of the raced, fined and disqualified for holding onto a vehicle during the race. Turns out money cannot buy everything...
- Tomorrow's second stage is the infamous Mont Megantic finish. However, it is very different from past years. Instead of starting in St-Georges and winding its way over to finish atop Mont Megantic at the Observatory, it will begin in the town of Lac Megantic and make a series of loops through the surrounding countryside before ending at the five kilometre Mont Megantic stage. However, even the finishing climb is different - for the first time ever, the race will not go to the observatory. instead, it will turn right instead of left for the final three kilometres and go up a service road to the finish. No one has seen this finish - the race always goes left - but we are told it is actually steeper, with a 10% average grade for the final three kilometres. It is also supposed to rain all day, and not go above the high teens (Celcius), so this could be a miserable and epic day on the bike...
- The notorious blackfly has made an appearance. Every time we stopped on the side of the road to shoot the riders as they pass by, the blackflies descend... with a vengeance.