June 29/09 10:20 am - Road Nationals - Men's RR Report & PHOTOS
Posted by Editoress on 06/29/09
Photos from yesterday's U23 and Elite men's Road Race
"It was a weird race"
That was the comment from David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit Strategies) minutes after the men's road race finished at the Canadian Road Nationals.
The race synopsis was, in one sense, very simple: a group of nine riders - seven Espoirs and two Elites - broke away in the first lap of the four lap, 180 kilometre race. They took the gap up to over ten minutes, and the peloton did too little, too late, to catch them. Guillaume Boivin (VW-Specialized) is first across the line and takes the Espoir title, while Aaron Fillion (Ride with Rendall) is fourth to win the Elite title. End of story.
However, as usual, there is a lot more to the story.
The race began with a little drizzle, which would back off, but the day remained overcast and the wind gradually picked up, creating some significant crosswinds that discouraged chase efforts.
The action got underway immediately, with an attack by Giovanni Traina (Marinoni-Cadence) on the first section of the opening climb, he was joined fairly quickly by Charlie Bryer (Volharding) and Osmond Bakker (EMD-Serono-Specialized). 15 kilometres into the lap and it had been reshuffled, with Bryer still out in front, joined by Marc Allard (VW-Specialized) and Jean-Michel Lachance (ProBikePool-Kuota). Allard faded on a longer climb into a crosswind, leaving just Bryer and Lachance some 50 seconds ahead of the peloton.
Over the next five kilometres the final composition of the lead group took shape, as riders went across from the disinterested peloton. Planet Energy was 'under the gun' to make sure nobody important got away, since they had 12 riders in the race.
When the dust had settled, there were nine riders up front - Boivin, Bryer, Fillion, Bakker, Lachance, Jamie Riggs (Team Ontario), André Tremblay (Équipe du Québec), Spencer Smitheman (Team Alberta) and Andrew Hunt to keep an eye on things for Planet Energy.
Right away, Fillion knew this was a good break. "I was shocked at the speed. The speed that we were maintaining I would almost have described as astronomical; we were just motoring along so fast that I knew we were going to be a serious threat to the pack."
The gap started going up in leaps and bounds - four minutes, five minutes, six ... eventually hitting nine minutes by the halfway point of the second lap (68 kilometres into the race). There were a couple of attempts to organize a chase, but none made much headway against the wind and the speed of the front group, which was rolling through a double pace line smoothly.
Defending champion Christian Meier (Garmin-Slipstream) tried to get something going 80 kilometres into the race, and was joined by Zach Bell (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Charly Vives (Planet Energy), Keven Lacombe (Planet Energy), Derrek Ivey (Team MCOR), and Jamie Sparling (Trek Red Truck p/b Mosaic Homes).
There was an immediate reaction to this move, with three danger men in the chase - Meier, Bell and Lacombe - which increased the speed of the peloton and saw the gap start to shrink. However, the group was dysfunctional, with only Meier and Sparling committed to the effort. The two Planet Energy riders were skipping pulls, and Bell was also hesitant to put a full effort in.
The group was making some headway on the leaders, bringing back three minutes before the end of the lap, but the peloton was now ten minutes behind the leaders. A committed effort by the chase could have changed the race significantly.
Meanwhile, the peloton was finally reacting as they started the third lap, with Andrew Pinfold (OUCH-Maxxis) at the front on the climb. The acceleration of pace split the bunch, and an elite group of about 15 riders rolled off the front of the pack ten kilometres into the lap (80 kilometres to go). In the group were Svein Tuft (Garmin-Slipstream), Cam Evans (OUCH-Maxxis), Will Routley (Jelly Belly), Ryan Roth and Frank Parisien (Planet Energy), David Veilleux and Ryan Anderson (Kelly Benefit Strategies).
This really galvanized the remainder of the peloton, and we saw the scenario develop of the peloton chasing down the second chase group, who were in turn catching the Meier group. The three groups all came together with 54 kilometre remaining in the race.
Their efforts had cut into the lead of the front nine, but by only three minutes, leaving the frontrunners still seven minutes up the road. Planet Energy now put their whole team up front, turning the peloton into a death march as they battled a crosswind. Planet Energy was spread across the road in an echelon, with everyone else single file, up against the lefthand edge of the road.
The effort was paying dividends, as the gap came down by another minute in less than ten kilometres, but Planet Energy was already wilting under the effort, and there wasn't much help being offered by other squads. Kelly Benefits, with four riders, would have been an obvious choice, but they were down in strength:
"We lost Jake [Erker] only a lap and a half into the race when he flatted, and couldn't get a wheel service quickly," explained Veilleux. "And Zach had just been in the break, so it was just Ryan and me."
Nevertheless, the duo did go to the front with the Planet Energy guys, and the gap continued to drop, albeit slowly. With 40 kilometres to go it was five and a half minutes, but then it stalled - Planet Energy was pretty much used up.
At the front, things had gotten a little disjointed late in the third lap, with riders starting to sit on, but Riggs ignited the group with an attack 15 kilometres into the last lap (30 kilometres to go). He only managed to gain a maximum of 20 seconds but, more importantly, the group picked up speed again, which probably saved them from getting caught by the final chase of the day.
"Svein and Christian attacked," explained Ryan Roth "and [Charles] Dionne [Fly V Australia] and I got on with them. Then Christian and I got away on our own. Christian was definitely stronger, and I was cramping with ten kilometres to go, but I did what I could. We really needed a another kilometre or two to make it."
The pair were indeed eating rapidly into the remaining lead, down to two minutes with 16 kilometres to go, 1:20 at 11 kilometres and, at the finish only 23 seconds back. But it wasn't enough.
At the front, attacks began happening in the rolling terrain of the final ten kilometres. oivin made a serious attempt to get away with five kilometres to go, but was brought back by the remaining six riders in the group - Tremblay, Hunt, Fillion, Bakker, Lachance and Riggs.
"I tried to attack, but it was too soon, and they came back to me," said Boivin. "I knew that I was probably the strongest one for the sprint, so I waited until the end, and was able to win there. This is for sure the biggest result of my career, it is something I have dreamed of after finishing second here as a Junior."
There was also the race within the race, between Fillion and Bakker for the Elite title. "I was certainly thinking about it," admitted Fillion "But I wasn't just trying to stay ahead of Osmond, that's not the way I wanted to race. But at the end I just didn't have the strength when [Boivin] attacked."
We have comments from a number of riders:
Christian Meier, who was the most aggressive rider in the chase, gave his own analysis of the day:
it was a very interesting day, Svein and I worked with what we had - being just the two of us here up against the likes of Planet Energy with 12, we tried to play off of Planet Energy a bit. But when we realized that may not be such a good idea we went on the offensive a bit more. We had a decent little chase group going at one point with Zach, a couple of Planet Energy guys and Jamie Sparling, but they just never really seemed to want to commit 100 percent, then they decided to wait for the pack.
I tried to convince them that if we waited for the group that was like 2 minutes back that we were going to be 7 minutes behind the break with 50km to go, but I guess they had their plan. So we waited and the Planet Energy guys tried to chase and they did what they could, I guess, but the gap wasn't really coming down.
So Svein and I talked it over and decided we just needed to go, and we attacked on the last climb into the cross wind. From there Ryan and I got away. We were bringing the gap down really well and I still believed we could catch them, we were really close but then Ryan decided not to pull for about the last 1.5-2km to go. It was just a bit frustrating; we just needed to really commit all the way to the line and I think we could have done it, and then battle it out mano a mano.
Sometimes they're just a bit quick to settle for 2nd or 3rd. I do take my hat off to Ryan, he is a great rider and was riding strong. Also the break, hats off, they went out there and raced, they put themselves out there and rode all day, not scared of racing or zany tactics. Svein too, he made some sacrifices out there for me today. Maybe next year.
Svein Tuft: It went pretty much as I expected, other than the break getting 9 minutes. Christian and I knew we would have to work hard and have some luck, and I think we played our cards as best we could. Our final move was our last ditch attempt. We had Charles and Roth with us. Roth sitting on and Dionne was too dangerous, so I took him out of the equation and I think Christian did an awesome job of nearly closing the gap.
David Veilleux: "It was a weird race. It was up to Planet Energy to do the chase, because they had so many riders, but they didn't do it until too late. We were unable to help much because we were down one guy pretty early in the race when Jake [Erker] got a flat and couldn't get a wheel service quick enough and had to abandon."
Cam Evans (via Twitter): That was a rubbish nationals.
Andrew Pinfold (via Twitter): Poker is best played on a table, with cards. Not on a bike.