Posted by Editoress on 06/15/05
Tour de Beauce St Georges, QC
Stage 2: Lac-Etchemin to Lac-Etchemin, 180 km
Quebec riders made it two-for-two in the second stage of the Tour de Beauce, with Dominique Rollin (Equipe Quebec) winning the 180 kilometre stage. Rollin finished second to Martin Gilbert (VW-Trek) in Tuesday's opening stage and, with the time bonuses awarded for winning the stage, takes over the yellow leader's jersey.
The race took the riders on a long, hilly loop around Lac Etchemin, through the Beauce region south of Quebec City. The weather played a major factor in the stage, with cold rain and strong winds forcing the abandonment of many riders. The stage started at 7 degrees Celcius (45 Fahrenheit), and only warmed up a few degrees as the stage progressed. However, while the cold, wet conditions made the race miserable, it was the wind that had the most impact. In addition to discouraging breakaways, it literally blew riders off the road.
Charles Dionne and Max Plaxton, both riding for Team Canada, were literally blown off their bikes into the ditch, according to team manager Kris Westwood. Greg Reain, a Canadian riding for Steven's Racing, was also pushed into the ditch by the wind, snapping his fork off and incurring a sizable black eye in the process (he was forced to abandon).
Until the first KoM, at the 60 kilometer mark, the field stayed and suffered together, with Gilbert's team sitting at the front, assisted by Health Net. On the KoM, the pace made the first significant selection in the peloton. Andrew Randell (Team Canada) took a flyer after the climb, but was back in the peloton after 10 kilometres, eventually abandoning with back problems.
The second KoM proved to be even more selective, and the first serious break of the day took shape, with 11 riders going off the front (eventually growing to 15), including a number of riders who had been in the break the day before - Svein Tuft (Symmetrics), Nathan O'Neill and Jeff Louder (Navigators) and Glen Chadwick (CyclingNews.com). This was the start of the final form the race would take. A second group, containing Mike Sayers (Health Net), former Beauce winner Eric Wohlberg (Symmetrics), Dionne and yellow jersey Gilbert started chasing shortly afterwards, and then a third group, containing John Lieswyn (Health Net) formed.
Eventually, a core group of 30 formed, with all the major teams represented, while the dispirited remains of the peloton trudged along, further and further behind. The leaders had less than 50 kilometres to go, and the attacks began almost immediately. The constant attacks and counters eventually split the leaders into two groups, with 20 remaining at the front.
Rollin made the split, plus Walters, Tuft, Louder, Lieswyn, Mike Jones (Health Net), Wohlberg and O'Neill. Significantly, Dionne didn't, and neither did Gilbert, who finally cracked under the effort, eventually losing 11 minutes. One final climb, five kilometers from the finish, brought the lead group down to 15, setting the stage for a sprint finish. Coming into the town of Lac Etchemin, Walters had to be one of the favourites, but in the last corner, a slight misdirection by a course marshal took the wrong route, letting Rollin (a time triallist rather than a sprinter) jump from the back of the group to the front. Walters moves into second place overall, 15 seconds back. Twenty four riders either abandoned or were outside the time limit.
"It was an extremely difficult day, with the wind and the cold. My goal was to make sure that I did not miss the critical breakaway." explained a cold but jubilant Rollin after the stage. "To win the stage and to wear the yellow jersey is incredible and totally unexpected. Our team will do its best to defend this jersey in the next stages, but tomorrow is a very difficult stage."
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