Posted by Editor on 06/4/02
There were two winners on Tuesday, in the final stage of the Tour of Montreal, neither of whom expected to be in that position. Laura Van Gilder of the Trek Plus-VW team won the final 113.5 kilometre stage around the Terrebonne region in a mass sprint, and squeaked into the leaders jersey ahead of Dede Demet-Barry (Talgo America), while Clara Hughes surprised herself with her sprint prowess to finish second in the stage and take the automatic berth on the Canadian Commonwealth Games team as top Canadian finisher. Hughes was also the top Canadian finisher overall, in third place behind Van Gilder and Demet-Barry.
The third and final stage in the Tour of Montreal was expected to be the decisive race of the event, and there was no shortage of riders at the top of the standings. Demet-Barry, winner of the World Cup in Montreal on Saturday was in the leaders jersey after the Petite Italie criterium on Monday night, but only five seconds in front of stage one winner Genevieve Jeanson, and six and a half seconds ahead of Hughes. Van Gilder was in fifth, at 9.7 seconds, and Knowlton's Lyne Bessette was just 10.2 seconds in arrears.
The final stage consisted of 5 circuits of a 1.3 kilometre route through the Terrebonne downtown, followed by two 30 kilometre loops through the Mascouche countryside. The rolling terrain and narrow, twisting roads meant that the riders did not have a moment to rest. The race began with a ceremonial lap led by Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa of the Sauber team, before the 88 riders got down to business.
The riding was very aggressive, with constant attacks and counter-attacks, as riders tested the ability of Demet-Barry's team to protect the leaders jersey. The most dangerous attack was launched by local favourites Jeanson and Bessette, who teamed up for 30 kilometres to try and break away from the field.
"Lyne and I went for a time bonus sprint side by side. When I looked back, there was a gap. I really thought that we could do it, but the chase was to strong." explained a discouraged Jeanson.
Bessette concurred with her regular rival: "We tried very hard, but it just wasn't a course made for us."
Van Gilder, a rider known for her ability to win sprints and stage victories rather than overall races, was stunned by her victory.
"I'm completely surprised and shocked. I was hoping for a podium position on one stage, but to sneak in and win the overall... This is the biggest win of my career."
Clara Hughes, who returned to cycling this spring after winning a bronze medal in speedskating at the Salt Lake Olympics, was also a happy finisher, with her confirmed berth on the Manchester Commonwealth Games team.
""I'm just happy. My major goal was to make the Commonwealth Games team. For me it's kind of surprising to finish up there in a sprint (second). I realized about halfway through the race that I wasn't going to get away and that it would come to a sprint, so I hung back and conserved my energy."
Clara Hughes took the awards as top Canadian and Quebec rider, while Genevieve Jeanson won the Young Rider trophy.
- many riders commented on the size of the crowds, all around the course. "I've never, ever seen this in Canada, it was amazing.", commented Hughes.
- many of the riders had difficulty determining where the intermediate sprints were in today's stage, a critical point when so many riders were so close on GC.
- Jeanson was one of a number of riders caught behind a crash as the riders entered the finishing circuit.
- Pia Sundstedt (Team Service Support) did not start stage 2 due to knee problems. Also, Annie Gariepy was seen working with the television crews at the Montreal World Cup, also a victim of knee problems.
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