Posted by Editoress on 06/17/04
Charles Dionne (Canadian National) finally has the result he has been dreaming about for years - a stage win at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Beauce. Dionne was one of the most dominant riders all day in the 180 kilometre stage that began and finished in the small town of Lac Etchemin, helping to initiate the day-long break, and then attacking repeatedly in the last 30 kilometres to finally engineer a solo win. Tomasz Brozyna (Action ATI), the overall leader, rode comfortably in the pack all day, as his team set tempo at the front.
With three ranked climbs (two Cat. 2 and one Cat. 3), plus the inevitable constant rolling terrain that Beauce is famous for, there were thoughts that the riders might take it a little easier, after having covered 300 kilometres in the previous two stages, and with the notorious Mont Megantic stage looming on Friday. That wish was immediately dispelled, when attacks started as soon as the neutralized section ended. Within 10 kilometres a group of 12 had formed off the front, and were rolling away without hindrance from Action ATI. Of course, the fact that all the riders in the break had missed the split the day before, and were over 17 minutes down might have had something to do with it...
Dionne, his Team Canada team mate Eric Wohlberg and Navigator's Mark Walters were all particularly active in the early going, but once the group was formed and everyone started working, it quickly went four minutes clear, stalled a bit and then went to nine minutes, which was acceptable to Brozyna's squad.
Besides Dionne, Wohlberg and Walters, the group also contained Gord Fraser (Health Net), Jaroslaw Zarebski and Plamen Stoyanov (both Hoop CCC), Aaron Olson (Colavita-Bolla), Kairat Baigudinov (Capec), Dan Bowman (TIAA-Cref), Joe Giuliano and Chris Issac (both Ital Pasta) and Will Routley (Symmetrics).
The group kept rolling through steadily until approximately 30 kilometres to go, when Dionne began to feel that some of the impetus was going out of the break, and it was time to reduce the odds.
"I knew the guys were getting tired, and I knew where to attack - I have studied this course. I went with everything I had."
Three riders managed to stay with him - Fraser, Baigudinov and Stoyanov. Giuliano and Olson tried to bridge, but even when Wohlberg came up and drove the group, they couldn't get across. The trio did get to within 15 seconds, with Wohlberg doing 90% of the work, but into a headwind, against the four committed riders in front, it wasn't enough. It caused some temporary ill will after the stage between Wohlberg and Dionne.
"Team mates aren't supposed to drive big moves up the road when you are so close." said Wohlberg afterwards. "Perhaps he (Dionne) didn't know - our team radios aren't working - but he could have looked back and seen us. I'm just disappointed to get that close, and he didn't wait. We could have played it out differently."
Dionne was adamant that he did not know Wohlberg was on the way. "There was nothing, no information until the officials said that it was one minute. I wasn't looking back, I was just worried about winning. Of course, if I had known Eric was that close I would not have worked."
Dionne was clearly the strongest rider in the front group, taking long pulls and looking good. He decided to bring the odds down even further, so he wouldn't have to rely on outsprinting Fraser, and attacked on the final climb, with just over three kilometres to go. Stoyanov and Fraser came off immediately, and Baigundinov had to chase over the top of the climb to get back on. Dionne jumped again with 600 metres to go, and rolled in a few seconds clear, grinning from ear to ear.
"I attacked at the end because I knew I had to get rid of Gord; I couldn't let it come to a sprint. I went with everything I had, and it was enough. I've been wanting so long to win a stage at Beauce. Finally I have won, and I am so happy. This is what I have been dreaming about for years."
With his win, Dionne also took the Points Jersey.
- Fraser, Stoyanov and some other remnants of the break were diverted off course into the vehicle deviation.
"The guy was waving the flag, for the vehicles it turns out, but this is a new finish for Etchemin, so we weren't too sure." explained Fraser. "It was a good attack by Charles. I was cramping, and couldn't respond on the climb. I think we were coming back to him at the end, but then we got diverted off course in the last few hundred metres. I don't know if we could have caught him, but that killed any chance."
Wohlberg's trio made it through okay, but the next group (sprinting for eighth) were diverted. They were all given the same time, but in the confusion, Routley was not awarded the Young Riders jersey in the awards ceremony (it was accidentally given to Bowman instead).
- Tomorrow the riders face the toughest climb of the race - the finish at the top of Mont Megantic. The final 3 kilometres averages over 10%, with sections of over 15%.
Megantic: Course Map
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