Posted by Editoress on 06/13/15
The Tour de Beauce moved to Quebec City for the penultimate stage of this 30th edition of the race. The Spanish Caja Rural took their third stage win in five stages, with Carlos Barbero winning his second stage, but the team was unable to dislodge defending champion Tom Skujins (Hincapie) from the yellow jersey.
The 9.6 kilometre circuit is a shortened version of the one used in the Gran Prix Cycliste Quebec WorldTour race held each September. While it cuts out some of the flatter sections on the top and bottom of the course, the main Cote de la Montagne climb is still there and has to be climbied a punishing 13 times. The descent on Cote Gilmour is actually steeper and technically more difficult than the one used in the WorldTour race.
After a series of attacks, five riders broke clear - Friday night's criterium stage winner Guillaume Boivin (Optum), Climber's Jersey holder Mauricio Ortega (Orgullo Antioqueno), Hugh Carthy (Caja Rural), break initiator Alex Braico (Jelly Belly) and Evan Huffman (Team Smartstop).
Usually on this stage, the break gets an extended gap, with the bunch reeling in some or all of it only in the final laps. Hincapie seemed to be content to follow this program, but Caja Rural, after sending Carthy across, then set a hard tempo on the climb each lap, possibly looking to put the yellow jersey under pressure.
This meant the break never gained more than 1:10, and also that the peloton steadily lost clumps of riders off the back. By the final few laps barely a third of the field was still in the bunch, and the break shrunk to Boivin, Carthy and Braico as they were reeled in.
Boivin was caught on the final descent of Cote Gilmour, setting the stage for a long sustained pace up the final climb and false flat to the finish. Stage 1 winner Barbero outdistanced Skujins' team mate Dion Smith for the win, but Smith took second and a 6 second time bonus, jumping him up to second ahead of Caja Rural's top rider, and Stage 2 winner, Amets Txurruka. Smith also took back the Points Jersey from Caja Rural's Eduard Prades, so it's hard to see what they accomplished.
"We are one and two in the overall standings," said Toms Skujins, "and our team is very strong when we work together, and now everyone feels great. Is it me or Dion that will take the yellow jersey? I do not know exactly who and it makes no difference, as long as it is the team."
"It [the stage] was harder than we thought," he continued. "It was not us who worked to bring back the breakaway. Personally, I still had good legs. I was a little surprised to see Caja Rural attack, but that was their strategy. We are two very good teams and it will be a good fight for the last stage, with different strategies."
"Nine times out of ten this break would make it to the finish line," commented Boivin. "When we caught up with the Caja Rural rider [who attacked late in the race], he would not take his relay."
"We did not try to catch him right away to get him tired. Then his team forced the train, and I was caught in the final descent of the Gilmore hill. I had great legs and there are many cyclists who think that, because of my size, I'm not a good climber. This is not the case. It was fun to race in Quebec City, with my family there."
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