July 2/06 9:58 am - Canadian Road Nationals
Posted by Editor on 07/2/06
Dominique Rollin (Equipe Quebec) scored one of the biggest wins of his career on Saturday, becoming the Canadian Elite Men's National Road Champion. Rollin beat national time trial champion Svein Tuft (Symmetrics) in a sprint, after the two professionals dropped the rest of a six rider breakaway with less than 20 kilometres remaining in the 178 kilometer race. Dominique Perras (Kodakgallery.com-Sierra Nevada) finished third, while 18 year old local favourite David Veilleux (Garneau Optiks) took the national title in the Under-23 category by finishing fifth overall just behind eric Wohlberg (Symmetrics).
Riders woke up to rain, but by the time the race got underway in the early afternoon the skies had cleared and the temperature had risen to a near perfect 23 Celcius. The only negative factor was a strong northwest wind - strong enough to blow barricades over, and in the riders' faces for the long flat section at the beginning of the lap. Once at the end of the headwind section, the riders dropped down beside the St Lawrence River and were pushed back by the now tailwind to the base of the climb up Cote Gilmour. This one kilometer climb was 13% at the base, with a switchback halfway up, which put riders back into a headwind. Once over the top there was a two kilometer tailwind run in to the finish, with the final 500 meters on a slight downhill.
Attacks began almost immediately, with Eric Wohlberg (Symmetrics) and Martin Gilbert (Kodakgallery.com-Sierra Nevada) gaining 20 seconds on the second lap. This pair was too dangerous to be allowed to stay away, and the chase split the field, with Ryder Hesjedal (Phonak) bringing them back on the next lap. But the damage was done to the field, with close to half the riders shed under the fierce chasing. The attacks continued, until a group containing Mark Walters (Navigators), Tuft and Christian Meier (Symmetrics) and Veilleux managed to establish themselves in front on the fourth lap.
Two laps later, and the front group was up to 13, and stacked with five Symmetrics - Wohlberg, Tuft, Meier, Brandon Crichton and Jeff Sherstobitoff. Also there were Walters, Perras, Rollin, Veilleux, Greg Reain (Stevens racing), Buck Miller (Fiordifratta) and Jean-Sebastien Maheu. But this group had too many Symmetrics riders, with no one wanting to work, so a reshuffling saw the group reduced to eight over the next couple of laps, with the final composition being Wohlberg, Tuft and Cam Evans for Symmetrics, Walters, Perras, Miller, Rollin and Ryan Roth (Team R.A.C.E.).
"It didn't work to good with 13 of of us" commented Perras. "Symmetrics had the numbers, and everyone else didn't like it; Svein wasn't working but the other (Symmetrics riders) were. When it got trimmed to 8 it was better, but Svein was still sitting on while (Evans and Wohlberg) worked."
Tuft didn't see it the same way. "It was one of those things - if I wasn't rolling, it (the break) stopped working, even though we had two to three other guys working, so I had to keep working."
Rollin flatted during this lap, but after a quick wheel change was able to rejoin the leaders. This group seemed to satisfy everyone except Hesjedal and the Garneau Optiks team. Hesjedal was a marked man, with Symmetrics riders on him every time he moved, and Veilleux's team was concerned about Evans - the only Espoir rider in the break. Between them, Hesjedal and Garneau Optiks kept the break to less than a 90 second advantage, and it dropped to 30 seconds on the tenth lap.
Perras attacked the front group on the climb after receiving this news, splitting it up. Walters and Miller blew, unable to maintain the pace. The rest of the break reassembled, while Veilleux made an impressive effort along the top of the course - into the headwind - to join them. The gap immediately went up to a minute, after Garneau Optiks stopped chasing, now that their man was up front, and Hesjedal was left to do the work on his own. Within a lap Hesjedal abandoned, a victim of his reputation from the start of the race.
Veilleux admitted to being worried about Evans in the break: "For the first half of the race I was scared that Cam Evans would stay at the front of the race, but then I heard he was getting dropped. My team went to the front of the peloton and the gap went to 30 seconds. That was the closest it was going to get, so when Czeslaw (Lukaszewicz - Sleemans Clear) attacked I went with him, and then kept going over the climb. I was worried about going alone into the headwind, but unbelievably I made it up to them."
Perras again attacked on the climb in the 12th lap, with only Tuft and Rollin able to answer his challenge. Rollin revealed that he and Perras had been attacking Tuft, to force the Symmetrics rider to work. "Dom (Perras) attacked and Svein got on his wheel. I went across and saw we had a gap, so I gave it my all to get away from Wohlberg. Dom and I were attacking Svein, because we weren't sure if he would work. He told us he would, so we started working together."
Wohlberg, Veilleux and Roth chased, but were falling back, and Cam Evans had to stop because of leg cramps, leaving Veilleux the only Espoir at the front. The peloton had disintegrated to small groups, with Meier trying to bridge up to Veilleux, to give Symmetrics a chance at the Espoir title.
Perras attacked once again on the climb, but Rollin countered and then Perras was seized with leg cramps, and could only watch as Rollin and Tuft rode away over the top of the climb to begin the final lap. The 2003 national champion recovered over the top and chased to within 12 seconds by the base of the last climb, but cramps once again forced him to soft pedal the climb.
The front pair rode the climb side by side until the top, when Rollin attacked, quickly gaining 30 meters. Tuft managed to chase back up to the Quebec rider in the final two kilometers, but did not have the strength to answer Rollin's final attack in the last 300 meters of the race, finishing half a wheel back.
Tuft agreed that the constant attacks had an effect. "I would have loved to do something on the final climb, but Dom (Rollin) and Perras kept attacking me, and I paid a price for that. He (Rollin) got a good jump on the false flat at the top of the climb and it took me a while to get back to him. By that point my legs were pretty loaded. He led it out - it was tricky with the downhill. I tried to come around, but I was spun out in my 12."
Rollin was feeling confident once it was down to he and Tuft. "After we had dropped Dominique Perras, my main concern was to make sure that it was just two of us to battle for the victory instead of three. So, we rode together to keep our gap until the top of the final climb, when I did a little attack and got 30 meters. Tuft managed to come back to me, so I knew that I had to start the sprint early before he came around me. Along with my stage win at the Tour de Beauce, this has to rank as one of the best results of my career."
- Only 51 riders out of 162 starters finished.
- Rollin credits his racing in Europe with Cyrille Guimard's Roubaix team for his strength. "I am doing races of 180 kilometres or more all season, usually UCI 1.2 category, so I was well prepared for this. At Beauce two weeks ago I was tired after a lot of travelling, so I was not able to do much, but I had a good rest before this race, so I knew I was ready."
- Large crowds came out to watch, particularly along the finishing straight which was one of the main restaurant boulevards in Quebec - the Grand Allee. Spectators were able to sit in sidewalk cafes and sip wine or beer while watching the race.