Posted by Editor on 07/8/09
Dominique Rollin is one of only five Canadians making a living in the peleton of Europe’s ProTour, after signing with Swiss-based Cervelo TestTeam, a squad that includes defending Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre and seven-time Tour stage winner Thor Hushovd.
While the rest of his team prepared to defend Sastre’s Yellow Jersey, however, Rollin was back in North America after contracting mononucleosis in late April. Now Rollin is ready to return to Europe, where he still has hopes of racing in this year’s final Grand Tour, la Vuelta a Espana, from the end of August through the third week of September. But first he’s coming to race at the Tour de Delta this weekend.
“BC Superweek is my first competitive cycling since the virus, and it’s a good way to step back into racing, rather than jumping straight into a ProTour race in Europe,” said Rollin. “I always wanted to come to BC Superweek but never had the opportunity because you are bound to what your team wants you to do. I think I’ll have some good fun this weekend and it will help me to get ready for the next big races in Europe.”
BC Superweek starts with races at the $25,000 Tour de Delta this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and continues with the 30th Tour de White Rock next weekend, July 17-19.
Rollin’s resume includes six Canadian championships (five as a junior and the 2006 Elite Road title) and a huge stage win ahead of Tour de France veteran George Hinacapie at last year’s Tour of California while riding for Toyota United. All of which gave the 26-year-old Quebec native a chance to ride with some of the world’s best cyclists this year with Cervelo, a new team sponsored by the high-end Toronto-based bike manufacturer.
As a ProTour rookie, Rollin finished fifth in a Netherlands race, and was on the podium at the Grand Prix de l'Escaut, a prestigious Belgian race, just before the Mono struck.
Even though Rollin spent several years as a junior training in France at the famed V.C. Roubaix Lille Metropole, returning to Europe as a ProTour rider hasn’t been easy. It’s been a steep learning curve, one where Rollin’s first job is usually to help higher-profile Cervelo teammates while adjusting to a much tougher style of racing in Europe.
“Last year my hardest and longest race was Tour of California, and I started this year with same race but instead of being the most difficult race I do all year it would be just a normal race for the rest of the season,” said Rollin. “So it set the bar a bit higher.”
The added pressure of his first ProTour season didn’t make the transition any easier.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself,” said Rollin of his Cervelo debut. “We had such a strong team on paper, and a lot of success early in the season with winning a stage in Qatar and a stage in California, so it made things fun on the bike but a but more stressful for me wanting to perform well and show the team they made a good move signing me.”
Rollin was starting to prove himself with the fifth-place finish in Netherlands, and podium at Grote Scheldeprijs, a Belgian semi classic, before Mono took its toll.
“I was surprised,” he said of his quick adjustment. “I was aiming for a longer stretch of adaptation and coming into the first classics I’d never done such a one-day race where you have to be focused and put on a hard effort for six hours. Just the intensity is something of its own. I could compare it to one of the most technical criteriums you could find in North America, but it’s six hours long. It makes it hard physically but also mentally, and that was the main adjustment I had to make, just getting ready to paying attention and racing for six hours and at a faster pace on a harder surface.”
Rollin said it wasn’t easy being forced out of action just as he was getting comfortable.
“Coming towards end of the classics period my fitness was coming along, I was finally showing off good form, and showed after a month of my first year over there I could adapt quite fast,” Rollin said. “I wasn’t aiming for something like that in my first year. I was there at first just to learn and that actually set me a little behind. Instead of going with a full-on attitude that I wanted to prove myself and show myself, I kind of stepped back and watched a bit too much. But right before the Mono struck I was getting more comfortable in the field and used to those races and showed it with a podium. And then unfortunately that little bit of fun time and good feeling got shortened by the virus.”
Rollin spent his first couple of week after the diagnosis recovering in Switzerland, then went home to Montreal for a couple of weeks before going to Philadelphia to train with Walton. He said it hasn’t been hard to watch his Cervelo teammates at the Tour de France because he knew that race was never part of his schedule as a ProTour rookie on such a big, strong team. Rather than worry about missing the middle of his season, he’s using the unexpected rest as a positive as he tries and make the team named for Spain.
“It’s still reachable and the Mono, while unfortunate, gave me a good rest in the middle of the season to do preparation for like a new season,” Rollin said. “So I’m taking the next month and a half to get back into the speed and get ready for the Vuelta – that’s our main goal with Brian. And Brian has the experience of doing those races, he’s done the Giro de Italia before, so he knows what it takes to get ready, he knows what I’m capable of, and we’re quite confident that I can get over there and do well. It’s just a matter of being focused, not being bummed down by the sickness, and use this as a fresh start. I’ll get back to Europe after Tour de Delta and I think my next race with the team will be Tour de Denmark, which is a good start because it’s flat so I’ll get good miles in.”
Rollin’s ties to BC Superweek come through coach Brian Walton, a three-time Canadian Olympian and 1996 Olympic Silver medalist who now runs and coaches out of Cadence Cycling in Philadelphia. After being diagnosed with Mono, Rollin returned from Cervelo headquarters in Lucerne to rest at home in Montreal, and then to train with Walton.
Walton is also a founder of the Tour de Delta, which kicks off near his boyhood home on Friday, and returns every summer. This year he’s proud to bring along a prized pupil.
“Since the creation of this race nine years ago I haven’t had a personal athlete in the race so I’m really excited to have Dominique coming to Tour de Delta,” said Walton, a 10-time Canadian champion and six-time winner of the Tour de White Rock. “This is a stepping stone to getting him back to Europe, and BC Superweek will serve as his first stop on the road to his end-of-the-season goal of racing la Vuelta a Espana. The Mono wiped out middle of season but knowing how strong Dom is, he will bounce back.”
Not that it will easy at the Tour de Delta, not with a field that includes riders from North America’s top professional teams, including three-time US National champion Kirk O’Bee (Bissell Pro Cycling), Canadian Olympian Zach Bell (Kelly Benefits Pro Cycling), and locals like Will Routley (Jelly Belly Pro Cycling) and Andrew Pinfold (OUCH), who won four races at last year’s BC Superweek and returns this year with Ouch Pro Cycling teammates Roman Kilun and fellow ex-Symmetrics rider Cam Evans.
Rollin also has to face fast-rising Vancouver-based team Trek Red Truck, which opened eyes with a pair of stage wins at Mt. Hood earlier this year, and boasts another student of Brian Walton in Nathan MacDonald, an under-23 rider with a promising future.
“Nathan has been under my wing less than a year but has made great progress and he’s going to be gunning for some of these pros,” said Walton.
BC Superweek starts with the $25,000 Tour de Delta running July 10 to 12, kicking off with the MK Delta Prologue, continuing with the Brenco Criterium Saturday, and the gruelling White Spot Road Race on Sunday. Superweek wraps up with the 30th Tour de White Rock July 17-19, a challenging three-event weekend that starts with the Homelife Realty Hillclimb Friday night and Maximum Collision Criterium Saturday, before wrapping up with the scenic and storied Peace Arch News Road Race on Sunday.
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