Posted by Editoress on 09/11/21
After a two year hiatus, the Canadian National Road Championship for Elite men took place on Saturday, with Guillaume Boivin (Israel Start-up Nation) winning for the second time after an impressive 50 kilometre solo effort. Antone Duchesne (Groupama FDJ) took second and Derek Gee (Xspeed), third in Friday's time trial, took another bronze medal in the road race. Carson Miles (TaG Cycling) took the Under-23 title, with team mate Thomas Schellenberg second and Eric Inkster (GSC Blagnac Velo Sport 31) third.
Held for the first time since June of 2019, the 199 kilometre men's road race saw over two-thirds of the field drop out. Constant rolling hills, rough roads and gusting wind took its toll on the field. The riders rode 30 kilometres from the start in St-Georges, south of Quebec City, to a 28 kilometre circuit for five laps before heading back to St-Georges.
Boivin was one of three WorldTour riders in the field, joined by Hugo Houle (Astana Premier Tech), winner of the time trial 24 hours earlier, and Antoine Duchesne (Groupama FDJ).
The pace was aggressive from the start, with a group of nine riders breaking clear in the first three kilometres. By the six kilometre mark they had 50 seconds, and Houle was blowing up the peloton with surging efforts at the front. Halfway into the first lap, on a long climb that maxed out at 13%, Houle, Boivin, Duchesne, Gee and a few others bridged across to the leaders, while the already much smaller peloton continued to disintegrate. Before the end of the lap, the chasers had caught the lead group, taking it to 14 riders. This group was, for all intents and purposes, 'the race'.
The remaining riders rode together until late in the third lap, when inattention on the part of a few riders on a long descent allowed gaps to open. Suddenly, a group of six was clear, with Houle on the wrong side of the gap. Boivin, Duchesne and Gee were joined by Alexis Cartier (Velo 2000 / Rhino Rack), Paul Blanc Pacque (Cycle Regis / 360 Agency) and a lone Under-23 rider, Schellenberg, and lost no time in extending the gap over their main rival.
Houle managed to keep the gap at 30 seconds for a while, but he had no help in the chase and the split started to climb to a minute and beyond, putting him out of the picture. Schellenberg dropped back the chase duo of Houle and his Under-23 team mate Carson Miles, leaving five at the front. Miles would eventually take the Under-23 title.
Into the final lap, Duchesne attacked and, when he was brought back, Boivin immediately countered. Over the longest climb on the circuit, he gradually extended his lead to 30 seconds, and then 50 seconds by the end of the lap as he headed back towards St-Georges.
The chase held it there for a few kilometres, but they were all clearly at their limits, and Boivin was pounding on the pedals, and not slowing. As cracks developed in the chase, the gap started to grow, reaching nearly two minutes in the final 15 kilometres, and 2:24 by the finish line. Duchesne finally managed to break clear of the other four in the final ten kilometres to take second, while Gee outsprinted the remaining riders for third. Houle finished seventh, ten minutes down.
"It wasn't an easy day out there at all," agreed Boivin, who previously won the road title in 2015 as an Elite and in 2009 as an Under-23 rider. "It was full gas from start to finish, and everybody was on their knees. I just gave it a try and paced myself. I knew if the guys were going to come back they were going to have to work for it, and eventually they didn't come back. Cooperation wasn't so good in the group and guys were skipping pulls, and it was kind of annoying, so I just got a gap and kept the pressure on. For me, it's the continuation of an amazing season."
This is the first title awarded in two seasons, so Boivin is looking forward to wearing it in the peloton back in Europe. "I'm flying back to Belgium on Monday to do a couple of one days, then Worlds, [Paris-] Roubaix and then Paris-Tours or Lombardy with Woodsy [Mike Woods]; it would be fun to have the national champion's jersey helping Woodsy in Lombardy."
Carson Miles "It went really early; on Kilometre One I attacked with ten other guys, and we got a good little group going. We wanted to make it to the circuits and have guys come up to us. The big WorldTour guys came up to us and from there we just worked together until three laps to go. I eventually just sat on with [Houle] and my team mate Thomas [Schellenberg] dropped back to us. Thomas did a huge pull for me to help us keep a gap [from Under-23 chasers]; I owe a lot to Thomas."
"This is huge [winning the national title], something I've so hard for ... the whole Ottawa community really backed me. It's a dream come true and I've worked at this for so many years. Last year was a tough year; this year to come back ... I couldn't have asked for more."
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