Posted by Editoress on 06/23/11
Experience proved to be the key factor at National Cycling Championships in the Elite Time Trial races on Thursday, when Svein Tuft (SpiderTech) took his seventh men's title and Olympic speedskater Clara Hughes (Equipe Quebec), in her return to cycling, took the women's title. Hugo Houle (SpiderTech) repeated as the Under-23 men's champion.
The rolling and windy 21.67 kilometre circuit proved to be more difficult than many riders expected, but Tuft and Hughes dominated their respect races. The course was different from many time trial circuits, in that it was a loop rather than an out-and-back. From the center of the village of Belfountain the riders almost immediately hit the main climb of the circuit. After that, they hit an almost continuous set of rolling climbs. The women had strong gusts of wind, which calmed before the men raced in the afternoon, however, the men had to contend with rolling thunder showers which periodically drenched the course.
Hughes, who returned to cycling this year, was fastest at every intermediate split, and beat former national champion Tara Whitten of Edmonton by 22 seconds, with newcomer (and former triathlete) Rhae Shaw, who lives in Seattle, third. Hughes was also racing after a bad crash while training on the time trial course two days earlier.
"I'm so happy to win here, in my first national championships since 2003," explained Hughes. "The time trial is my focus to prepare for the world championships, and this is another step in my return."
Denise Ramsden (Juvederm-Specialized) was the top U23 woman, followed by Jasmin Glaesser (Cycling BC) - who was not eligible to be on the podium, since she is currently a Canadian resident, not a citizen.
Tuft was expected to face a significant challenge from David Veilleux, who has been competing on the European professional circuit this season with the pro continental Europcar squad. At the halfway point, Tuft was only 12 seconds ahead of Veilleux, with Christian Meier (United Healthcare) a further two second in arrears. However, the veteran rider stepped up the pace in the second half of the race while his rivals faded, to finish one minute in front of Meier, with Veilleux a further 13 seconds back.
"I wasn't too worried about the first half of the race," revealed Tuft. "A lot of guys go out too hard, and have nothing left for the second half. I took it a little easier at the start, and was able to really punch it for the last part of the race."