Posted by Editor on 06/16/16
Once again, the mountain top finish at Mont Megantic, on stage 2 of the Tour de Beauce, has shuffled the standings. Gregory Daniel (Axeon Hagens Berman) now holds the Yellow, Points and Young Rider jerseys, despite finishing 1:13 down on stage winner Sepp Kuss (Rally Cycling). Stage 1 winner and former leader Mikhel Raim (Cycling Academy) finished more then nine minutes back. Hugo Houle (Team Canada) was third on the stage, finishing eight seconds behind Kuss, and is now third on GC at 19 seconds.
While the 170 kilometre stage is dominated by the five kilometre Mont Megantic climb, which averages 12% for the entire length and maxes out at 18%, the riders face four KoM climbs before they reach the final ascent.
The race began with multiple break attempts, but nothing stuck until the race had covered nearly 30 kilometres. A large group of 24 riders broke clear, including Raim, Daniel, Ryan Anderson (Team Canada) and Rob Britton (Rally). Canada had three riders, Cycling Academy three, Axeon Hagens Berman had four, Rally two and Holowesko Citadel three. The teams that really missed out were Silber, Lupus and Jelly Belly, and they had to drive the chase.
The gap never went over two and a half minutes, but stubbornly refused to shrink until the final 25 kilometres. The break was shrinking in size as well, with seven riders remaining as they hit the Megantic climb, and only 20 seconds in front of the vastly reduced peloton.
Luis Lemus (Cycling Academy) attacked out of the break near the base of the climb, shedding everyone else. Daniel managed to set a steady tempo that kept him near the front as the top climbers came by him. Kuss, Hugo Houle (Team Canada), Chris Butler (Cycling Academy) and Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly) went after Lemus, who was still leading with 1.5 kilometres to go, followed by Morton at about ten seconds, and then Kuss and Houle a couple of seconds later.
Kuss then upped the pace, dropping Houle and Morton, and racing right by Lemus to take the stage win. Lemus managed to just hold off Houle for second, with both riders eight seconds down on Kuss.
"With Rob [Britton] and Will [Routley] in the break, along with some other GC threats, the pressure was on Silber and Jelly Belly to bring down the gap," said Kuss. "This took the pressure off us back in the field. Emerson, Shane, Pierrick and Eric [team mates] were incredible and kept me out of the wind all day and got me to the base of the climb in good shape."
"We caught the break on the first ramp of Megantic and Rob was still looking good. Rob told me to give it a go, so I attacked early on the climb with Lachlan Morton. Midway up, Hugo Houle bridged across and attacked, and I followed, but didn't want to pull him along because he is the favorite for the TT. I bluffed it a bit and then made a big acceleration in the last 500 metres to try and get some distance and hung on for the win!"
"It's an honor to win on such a prestigious climb. A lot of big names have won on Mount Megantic and it feels amazing to be on that list. It also feels great to finish off a great day of teamwork and repay the team's faith in me to go for the win while setting up Rob for GC later in the week."
"After the TT tomorrow I think Rob and I will be well-placed in the overall, which will tactically favor the team as the races goes on."
Canada had a strong day on Megantic, with three in the top ten and seven in the top 20. One rider of particular note is David Drouin, riding for Team Canada. Drouin was 13th on the stage and is 14th overall - third in the Under-23 standings. He is also a local Beauce resident (from the village of St-Prosper, where tomorrow's time trial starts and finishes). He also holds the distinction of being the only Beauce rider to have ever raced Tour de Beauce for the national team.
Houle said that the day went well for Team Canada, "I was not concerned about the break because we had a good guy up there, Ryan Anderson, and two more team members. I made the call to not go when it went, because everyone was watching me and it would bring it back. Silber and Lupus realized they were in trouble so they had to chase all day long. We caught the break at the bottom of the climb and then it was time to do my job."
"I came here saying I wanted to win the GC and I had to respond today and get some time on others. I gave everything I could and I'm pretty happy. the guy from Rally [Kuss] was really strong and he was right on my wheel. I just rode as hard as I could to gain some time on other guys. When he went I could not respond. It was a really good day for Cycling Canada, and I'll see tomorrow if I can get some more time."
Gregory Daniel now leads by 11 seconds over Kuss, with Houle and Lemus at 19 seconds, Butler at 24, Morton at 41 and Ryan Roth (Silber) at 55 seconds. Friday is a double stage day, with a 19.4 kilometre time trial in the morning and a 78 kilometre circuit race in the evening. Houle, the current Canadian time trial champion, and Roth, who finished second to Houle, have to be clear favourites to do well, but the question is how much can Daniel and Kuss limit the damage?
"We have a lot of good riders here," agreed Houle, "but I'm confident in my TT skills, and it's going to be really important for me to do a big ride; it's come down to me, to see if I can gain that 19 seconds tomorrow."