Beauce, QC – The hills around Saint Georges greeted the riders as they made their way from Philly to Beauce this past week. Yet again, the town of Saint Georges would play host to North America’s longest running stage race. With five days of racing and six stages, the riders would have to tackle some of the hardest back to back racing they have faced all year. Famous for it’s hilly terrain and incredible heat, the Tour de Beauce has often been described as one of the hardest stage races the North American peloton competes in all year.
The 180 km stage one was almost a carbon copy of last year’s National Championship course. A tough lollipop style course that ended with a selective climb back to the finish line. The youngest member of the team, Danick Vandale, rolled off the front of the peloton in the opening kilometres and never looked back. He was in good company as no less than 4 National Champions joined him in what would end up being the winning move. Danick placed himself well in the KOM sprints and would snag enough points to land him second in that competition at the end of the day. The breakaway disintegrated on its way back from the circuits and eventual GC winner, Greg Daniels, finished second on the stage behind Cycling Academy’s Mikel Raim. With the main field whittled down to a mere 30 riders, Bailey McKnight placed himself well rounding the last corner and came 8th out of the bunch. With 5 riders up the road, Bailey walked away with 13th place and Danick second in the KOM competition.
The daunting climb of Mt Megantic was on tap for the finish of stage 2. This 5 km climb that shoots up in sections of over 18% gradient is usually the deciding factor in the GC battle of the Tour. Poor luck started early in the stage when an untimely overlapping of wheels in the breakaway saw Travis Samuel hit the deck. Felix Cote Bouvette, who was also up the road, represented the team in the breakaway for most of the day but similar to the stage before, the breakaway disintegrated as the field approached the mountain. Unfortunate flats and crashes for both Jack Burke and Chris Pendergast forced them to miss a split in the field and the selective peloton caught the remnants of the breakaway at the bottom of the climb. Bailey rode a steady pace to the top but would eventually lose 4 minutes to stage winner Sep Kuss. Bailey rode in for a respectable 29th place on a tough day.
An unusual “double day” on Friday was home to a hilly and less technical individual time trial and a shorter but more selective 80km circuit race. With the National Championships not that far away, Jack Burke set a blistering pace on the course. He was the marker to beat for most of the day but as the GC contenders rolled in, his placing would slot him into 11th place. His time was best of all Canadian riders in the U23 competition.
The circuit race ended on a true “wall” as the finish line was placed atop a 500 metre hill where the average gradient hovered around 20%. A single lane bridge funnelled the riders towards the finish and chaos ensued as riders battled for position. Although being pinched out on the bridge, Bailey was able to claim a few spots on the finishing kick and finish the stage in 23rd place.
The usual Quebec circuit race had been replaced this year with an equally hard criterium. The 75 km stage covered 35 laps of a course in Old Quebec that included the finishing uphill drag used in last year’s World Tour races. With temperatures creeping into the low 30’s and an unusually high humidity index, the riders were challenged by more than just the tough course. Again, a breakaway would end up stealing the glory on the day but Danick slotted himself well in the last lap with help from his teammates in order to snag 6th place out of the bunch and 12th overall.
Sunday’s stage at the Tour de Beauce can only be describes as “a true race of attrition”. The demanding 120km stage snakes its way around St Georges and the tired peloton is usually cut in half by the end. Jack and Chris placed themselves well in the final laps and were able to walk away with 20th and 25th respectively. With only 62 finishers on the stage, both riders did amazing jobs to stay hydrated and out of trouble throughout the day. Bailey and Danick rolled in together 11 minutes behind the stage winner but still in 41st and 45th place.
There were many lessons learned at this year’s Tour de Beauce and the team continues to gain strength as they look forward to the 2016 Global Relay National Road Championships that will take place in Ottawa this coming weekend.
The team is together and ready to go for the Canadian National Championships happening in Ottawa this coming weekend. Stay tuned for updates on the races throughout the weekend and we look forward to having the team travel back to the west coast after this weekend.
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The M1 Project will be posting regularly on what it’s like to plan, prepare, and compete as a UCI Continental Professional Cycling Team.