Posted by Editoress on 01/16/12
The internet forums have been buzzing for the past few days with the news that the Montreal-Quebec Classique road race will not take place this year. First run in 1931, it has long been called the longest bicycle race in North America, at 250+ kilometres.
This famous race, which stopped in 2000 before being revived in 2002 by Louis Garneau, was organized for the first time in 1931 by Louis Quillicot, who kept it going until 1954. As the years went by, others took over - René Paquin from 1954 to 1972, Federico Cornelli from 1988 to 1997 and, in 1999, the Impact Group organized the last race which was won by Charles Dionne. Garneau took over in 2002, naming the race the Montreal-Quebec Louis-Garneau Classic. In 2011, Brett Tivers (Garneau Club Chaussures) won in a time of 6:08:59. One hundred and thirty started and 99 finished.
However, when the UCI continental calendar came out for 2012, the race was missing, and rumours began to leak out that it was being replaced by a Gran Fondo (which Garneau ran for the first time last year). We spoke with Louis Garneau himself today, and he confirmed that the Montreal-Quebec Louis-Garneau Classic is gone - at least for this year.
"We want to try a new formula," explained Garneau. "Right now, we are putting a lot of energy into the Gran Fondo Garneau. So, we are going to take a break, maybe come back in a year, but we can't do both."
The Gran Fondo will run from Trois Rivières to Quebec, roughly half the distance of the Montreal-Quebec event. There will also be a sanctioned race run over the same course, beginning before the mass start ride.
"We ran [Montreal-Quebec] for  years, and it is not a question of economics; we just want to try something different. The Gran Fondo will have 2000 people, and is a charity ride to help people."
In response to the argument that the increasing number of Gran Fondos are impacting traditional road racing, Garneau agrees that some might see it that way, but "I think it is the best thing. I don't want to quit racing, it is my background, but the Gran Fondo is a great thing for more cyclists, so why not do everything together?"
"It is not official yet, but we want to have a race, a criterium, downtown in Trois Rivières with the Tour de Beauce [organization], and then the race the next morning ahead of the Fondo, maybe 30 minutes before. The prize list will be the same for the pros and they will now get two races."
Garneau also pointed out that the traditional Montreal-Quebec race got "maybe 150 riders, half of them Masters. If we do this race we'll probably get more guys racing. The Montreal-Quebec race never gets too many spectators at the finish and this way, with the Gran Fondo, I think we will get a lot more. I think this is the new formula."
"I don't forget about the race, and we don't cancel Montreal-Quebec forever, but this year I want to try something new."
The Gran Fondo and new race will take place August 12th.
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