Posted by Editoress on 06/17/12
The 2012 Tour de Beauce concluded with the traditional, very tough, circuit race through the streets of host town St-Georges. Canadian riders finished 1-2 on the 125 kilometre, 10 lap stage, with Bruno Langlois (Garneau-Quebecor-Norton Rose) out-kicking breakaway companion Marsh Cooper (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) at the line. Langlois and Cooper, with their break, moved up to 14th and 15th, respectively, in the final GC.
Bruno Langlois wins ahead of Marsh Cooper
There were no changes to overall standings among the top riders, with Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthCare) keeping the Yellow Jersey, and finishing 19 seconds ahead of Hugo Houle (SpiderTech p/b C10), with Christian Meier (Team Canada) third at 43 seconds. Houle also took the Red Jersey of Best Young Rider, and is the first Quebec rider on the final GC podium since 1996, when Fabien Bergeron was third.
Rory Sutherland wins overall
Canada had a very strong showing overall, with six of the top ten spots. In addition to Houle and Meier, Svein Tuft (Team Canada) was fourth, Ryan Roth (SpiderTech p/b C10) was eighth, Sebastien Salas (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) ninth and Rob Britton (H&R Block) tenth.
The final stage is a hard one, with many corners and a long, steep climb each lap. Add in the heat and the always high pace, and it was no wonder that the race started shedding riders almost immediately. Only 56 riders were in the final general classification, with 29 dropping out on the final stage.
A break of seven went clear halfway through the first lap and, with no one an immediate threat to the GC, it was allowed some leeway. In the initial break were Langlois, Cooper, Chad Beyer (Competitive Cyclist), Matthias Friedmann (Champion System), Jamie Sparling and Liam Holohan (Raleigh-GAC) and Ken Hanson (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies). While none were a threat to GC, Hanson was for the Climber's Jersey held by Nic Hamilton (Team Canada). Hanson, who took the jersey on stage one and lost it on stage three, won all three KoM sprints to move five points ahead of Hamilton and regain the jersey.
Everything was cruising along, with UnitedHealthCare setting tempo, and the break sitting about one minute in front, until Salas jumped across on lap three, and Britton on lap four. Suddenly, there were three Optum riders and two GC threats up the road. The gap went out to nearly two minutes, making Salas the virtual leader.
UnitedHealthCare was still riding strong tempo, but some of their riders were starting to struggle a bit. There were riders back in the bunch who sensed that there might be a vulnerability with Sutherland - specifically, Meier, Tuft and Francesco Mancebo (Competitive Cyclist).
Tuft put in a series of strong attacks, stretching the bunch out to a long thin line, and Mancebo started attacking hard on the climb each time. Sutherland proved his mettle by responding to each attack, usually assisted by team mate Marc de Maar on the climb. Once Tuft backed off, Meier started going, but again Sutherland responded. Houle, quietly and efficiently, was following each effort to make sure he didn't lose his second spot overall.
The vicious attacks were shredding the field, and bringing the lead of the break down to under 30 seconds. Sensing that it was now or never, Langlois went on the climb with two laps to go, taking Cooper with him. The gap went up from an initial 20 seconds to over 50, as the peloton regrouped; Sutherland's challengers recognizing that they could not drop him.
The peloton - down to 35 riders - managed to pull back some time on the two leaders in the final kilometres, but it wasn't enough. Langlois, clearly the stronger of the two, won the slight uphill sprint to take the stage win for his Quebec-based team. Matthias Friedemann (Champion System) took the field sprint to move to within one spot of Mancebo for the Points Jersey; not quite enough.
"This is my first victory in a Tour de Beauce stage, and a career best," said Langlois, who won in front of his family. "I have been participating in the Tour de Beauce for 14 years and this week I was patient. I did well in the Mont-Mégantic stage where I finished fifth. So I have been feeling good all week. I wasn’t thinking of the overall rankings because I am more of a stage-winning rider."
"I was the last to make the junction with the breakaway and the riding was tough. I saw that the guys were beginning to be short of breath and I attempted several attacks to test them. Then, I took advantage of a short climb and Marsh Cooper (Optum) followed me. I waited for him and we worked together. The team did a good job. This year I am the captain of the Garneau crew. Last year, I was a servant with Spidertech, it's very different."
The result was a breakthrough for Houle, proving that the 21 year old rider can compete against elite professionals, despite being classified in the Under-23 category. "I think I was a bit under the radar from the other teams," explained Houle. "They were more focussed on some of the other, more experienced riders on our team. But when I had a good ride on the climb at Mont Megantic [stage 3], and then was third in the time trial [stage 4], we started to believe that I could be on the podium."
"This last stage went according to plan. UnitedHealthCare did a lot of the work. There were a lot of attacks, especially from Svein Tuft and Francisco Mancebo. I told the guys to ride up ahead to calm United down. I am very happy with my second place finish. The guys helped me a lot."
For Meier, fresh from racing the Giro d'Italia and racing here with the national team, the Tour de Beauce was a chance to return to his cycling roots, and recharge his form for next week's National Road Championships. "This is where it all started, our first big race," he commented. "I had hoped to be on the podium [he was fourth three times], but I think we had some of the best results ever at Beauce for a national team, and I can definitely feel an improvement in my legs. Svein and I both put in good attacks, but Rory was too strong and able to cover everything."
- We have post-race interviews with Svein Tuft, Christian Meier, Hugo Houle and Rory Sutherland, which will be posted shortly.