Ottawa, ON – Most of the Canada’s top cyclists had June 26th circled on the race calendar this year. The one day race that is the National Championships can play such an important role in a rider’s career development. Canada’s best riders fly in from all over the world to attempt to win the honour of wearing the Maple Leaf on their back for an entire year. Most domestic and professional teams were coming off an incredibly hard Tour de Beauce and how the athletes react during the 7 day rest period between races played a vital role in their success or failure.
Ottawa played host to this year’s National Championships and they did not disappoint. The 10km road course that included barely any elevation gain, was to be completed 18 times. Temperatures creeped into the mid 30’s and the humidity factor made it feel even warmer. Riders had to compete not only against each other, but also the demanding elements. A small group of 7 riders rolled off the front in the early beginnings of the race. Notably, all World Tour riders had been caught out and the breakaway gained ample time in a very short distance. Travis Samuel and Danick Vandale, both U23 riders, had made their way into the select group that had some serious horsepower. With several bridge attempts falling short, the air seemed to be sucked away from the chasing peloton and with no less then 5 laps to go, the breakaway group had gained over 7 minutes on the field. With the risk of the lead group lapping the field, the main bunch that included over 95 riders, was pulled from the course with 30km remaining. Attacks flew in the closing laps and a group of 4 riders distanced themselves from the bunch. Travis and Danick battled hard against the U23 competitors in the breakaway and their focus shifted to landing on the podium. A crash filled home stretch saw the road open up to veteran Bruno Langlois who stayed upright as he crossed the finish line first to become the new Canadian Road Champion. Danick and Travis sprinted hard to the line and would finish 6th and 7th in the Elite category and 4th and 5th respectively in the U23 competition. Notable, Chris Prendergast never gave up and although his group never made the junction to the breakaway, Chris would finish the race in 14th place in the Elite competition and 6th in the U23 competition.
Gatineau Park provided one of the hardest TT courses in recent history. With almost 800m of elevation over 39km, the hard course suited the strong men with the ability to go uphill. Young talent Jack Burke, who was fresh off his BC Time Trial Championship victory, had an amazing ride and covered the course in 51:08. He sat in the hot seat for most of the day in the U23 competition and would only slide one spot slotting himself into second in the U23 field. Travis and Chris both had amazing rides and fell just shy of a podium spot landing in 5th and 6th.
The criterium was the final event of the 2016 National Championships and with almost all riders from Canada’s 3 Continental Cycling teams present, the crowds were gifted with an incredible battle to crown the 2016 Canadian Criterium Champion. After 30 minutes of explosive attacks, a group containing Danick and 4 other riders, rode clear from the field. With all 3 major teams represented in the break, the gap grew steadily and the victor would come from this select group. Defending champion, Ben Perry, launched a winning move in the closing lap to successfully retain his jersey and Danick sprinted to a respectable 4th.
With many positive results coming from this year’s National Championships, the H&R Block Pro Cycling Team looks towards BC Superweek. The upcoming races will play a vital role in preparing the riders for the upcoming Tour of Alberta.
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