May 30/98 8:30 am - Toyota Queen's Park Grand Prix
Posted by Editor on 05/30/98
Queen's Park Grand Prix by Mike Badyk
Perfect weather blessed the Toyota Queen's Park Grand Prix Road Criterium in downtown Toronto. The 2 km long course, which has been used many times in the past, laps around the Ontario Provincial Legislature Buildings. Curt Harnett, the event promoter, presented a great show that international field.
With only two large teams, Elita and Quebec Tour/Air Transat (QT/AT), and many independent riders, help in the pack was at a premium. The independents included top mountain bikers such as Chrissy Redden (Ritchey) and Sue Palmer (Haro). They were part of the field looking to grab the $10000 first prize, but in the end team tactics prevailed.
The early laps were marked by a number of attacks by such riders as Anne Samplonius (QT/AT), Kim Langton (Elita), and Heather Cole (QT/AT), but the biggest lead that anyone could attain was a mere 10 seconds. Every attack was reeled in within a lap.
This led to the inevitable bunch sprint with the field spread across the road coming into the finish.
Sue Palmer led out the break, with a flash down the centre coming from Germany's Petra Rossner (QT/AT) for the win. Laura Van Gilder (Navigator) closed in for second, just ahead of Powerbar's Brenda Brashears. Rossner was very appreciative of her team - "It was all team tactics. Someone on our team would cover the breaks all the time. No one would go after me if I went to the front so I stayed in the pack". She was not visible at all during the race, but her fine sprint showed that she is a rider that the North Americans will have to watch over the next couple of months at races in the Eastern U.S. and the Hewlett-Packard race in Idaho. This top European Pro will undoubtedly be a marked rider.
107 riders were on the line for 30 laps of the Queen's Park circuit. A great field was presented with past and current Canadian Champions, a large contingent of Americans, and notables such as Gord Singleton and Eon D'Ornellas on hand.
The first few laps were generally uneventful until the primes started. Prime winners were Czeslaw Lukaszewicz (Espoirs Laval), Eric Wohlberg (Shaklee), Yannick Cojan (Espoirs Laval), Robbie Ventura (Mercury) and Dave Bogue (Saeco).
Prime winners were always caught by the pack within a lap. The first serious attempt at a break was from Julian Dean (Mercury) with 14 laps to go, who managed to gain a 5 second lead for a couple of laps, but the speed of the pack pulled him in. Michael Barry (Radio Energie) tried an immediate attack of his own when Dean was caught, but the momentum of the pack pulled him in within a lap. Wohlberg (Shaklee) tried a break with 7 laps to go, but a crash involving 10 riders brought everyone back together. With 3 laps remaining, the Mercury team had most of their crew to the front of the pack, clearly ready to get down to business.
Coming into the final straight the pack spread right across the road to hammer in for the finish. Riding a perfect lead out, Gord Fraser (Mercury) powered past everyone for an arms in the air victory. Cojan followed in second, barely ahead of Ventura. Fraser was pleased. "It was really nice to win here. The circuit was great and the pack was excellent. Julian (Dean) led me out beautifully. He's done that a few times this year, but sometimes he's so fast that I have to settle for second." Fraser went on to say that he would love to see more races like this and he would definitely prefer to race in Canada.
A fine event all around and a tip of the hat to Curt Harnett for putting on a great day. Look for television coverage of the Toyota Queen's Park Grand Prix on The Outdoor Life Network later in June.
Full Results To Follow.