It appears that Jean-Francois Laroche is yet another Canadian mountain biker to find success on the road, finishing 11th today in the Under 23 men's road race. The race was won by Italian Francesco Chicchi in a sprint finish against Hans Dekkers of the Netherlands. Dekkers was later relegated to the back of the bunch, and 2nd place awarded to Spaniard Francisco Gutierrez.
The 13 lap, 166.4 kilometre race was held under cold, windy and overcast conditions, and the peloton did not warm up to the idea of racing for a good half of the race. While numerous small breaks formed, they did not get far, partially due to the difficulty of staying out in front into the wind, and partially due to the vigilance of teams such as the British, Italians and Dutch. The most notable feature of the race was the number of crashes that took place, with all three Canadian riders affected.
Dominique Rollin was taken down in a feedzone mishap with 3 laps to go - "the hanger broke on my derailleur after I went down when someone in front of me crashed. I had to use the spare team bike, but then I was too far back with the speed they were going."
Martin Gilbert didn't go down, but was caught behind a crash 4 kilometres into the last lap. "Our group tried to chase back up, but we finished just behind. It was hard, really fast, but I felt good during the race, and tried to get in a few moves."
Then there was Laroche, who was visible at the front for the entire race, which should have kept him out of harms way. Afterwards, though, he was sporting a contusion on his left thigh and his left brake lever was bent in. "a bike came flying in the air and hit me in the thigh and handlebar on the final climb before the finish. It was crazy out there with the crashes, like bombs were going off all race."
Despite that near miss, Laroche pulled off an impressive ride at the end of his first full season dedicated to road racing, a season in which he also won the national Under 23 title. "I was trying to be at the front all the time, and to avoid falling back. This is my first full year road racing, and I have learned a lot, especially at the Seine-et-Marne race a few weeks ago (where he finished third overall). I rode last year at the Worlds, but I was not competitive at all, I needed to learn how to road race, how to read a race and position myself in the peloton. I was too big for mountain biking, so switching to road was the best thing I could do."
- Laroche just started his third year of law school at McGill University. "I'm supposed to be a lawyer in 2005, but maybe that can wait now." He says that a couple of French teams have contacted him after his results in France and Belgium in the past month.
- Hans Dekkers of the Netherlands, was initially disqualified for irregular action in the sprint. Later re-enstated to the back of the main pack.
Jeanson Will Not Start Tomorrow
Canada's women's squad received a big blow today when Genevieve Jeanson had to be scratched from the start list. Jeanson could hardly walk when she got up this morning, according to team manager Luc Arsenault. "We took her to the UCI doctor and then to a hospital for further evaluation. It was determined that she had a serious injury to her achilles tendon, with fluid build up, and that she should immediately receive attention for this condition and stop racing." This means Canada will have only 3 women starters tomorrow - Lyne Bessette, Sue Palmer and Katy St-Laurent.