June 21/04 5:12 am - GP Beauce Stage 7 Wrap Up
Posted by Editor on 06/21/04
GP Cycliste de Beauce
Stage 7 Wrap up
Aaron Olson took the biggest win of his career in the final stage of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Beauce, giving Colavita-Bolla their third stage win of the race. Olson jumped off the front of a disintegrating breakaway to solo in, ahead of a fast closing peloton. Viktor Rapinski (Navigators) beat Andrew Pinfold (Symmetrics) in the field sprint for second, wrapping up the Points Jersey in the process. In the overall standings, Tomasz Brozyna (Action ATI) faced no serious threats to his hold on the overall lead, and retained his 41 second over Nathan O'Neill (Colavita-Bolla).
The final stage was shortened from 15 laps to 13, after numerous requests from teams and riders. Despite the shortened stage, only 51 riders completed it - a more than 30% dropout rate from the initial stage 73 starters (only 55% of the original field completed the entire race). While Mont Megantic - stage 4 - may have had the hardest climb in the race, many were pointing to the final stage as the hardest overall. "It is the hardest stage." said Navigators director Ed Beamon. "That climb every lap is going to get a lot of riders."
The circuit was simple in design - straight uphill from the start, a short traverse across the top, and then drop back down. Eleven kilometres per lap with roughly 30% climbing, for a total of 2522 metres of elevation gain during the race.
The two Polish teams - Action ATI and Hoop CCC - have been riding as one all week, only allowing breaks to go that are at least ten minutes down on GC. However, those breaks are allowed to stay away, drawing the fangs of represented teams that might otherwise put pressure on Brozyna.
The same scenario played out in the final stage, with a group of seven going clear. Team Canada's Ryan McKenzie and Alexandre Nadeau (VW-Trek) started the action on the first lap, and were joined on the second by five more riders - Charles Dionne (Team Canada), Gord Fraser (Health Net), Alexandre Lavallee (VW-Trek), David McKenzie (Navigators) and Olson. Dionne and the two VW-Trek riders were doing all the work, while the others, with one exception, only took occasional pulls. That exception was Fraser, who took no turns at the front.
"The original idea was I would sit on so we could spring one of our more dangerous guys up, like Mike (Jones)." explained Fraser. "But we couldn't, because the Poles were watching everything. Plus, on the second day (stage 3 break, which Dionne and Fraser were both in, and which Dionne won), look what happened - I worked and then Charles was able to drop me on the final climb, so I had to try something else. When I saw the way those guys were attacking, I knew I had no chance if I went to the front; I was on the ropes. It wasn't personal, I've been on the receiving end myself. I would have raced like that against anyone in a similar situation. I'd be mad too, but that's the way it goes."
It may not have been personal, but Dionne took it that way in the latter stages of the race.
"Fraser didn't pull through once. Even if he had done 10%, it would have been okay with me. The two VW guys were doing what they could, but I wished for a little bit of help. That guy (Fraser) asks for some respect, but a race like that will not earn respect."
Ryan McKenzie was dropped early, leaving six at the front. The gap grew to over four minutes, and it was looking good for the break to stay away with four laps to go. Dionne launched a strong attack on the climb this lap, with only David McKenzie and Fraser able to respond. Along the top of the course the trio opened up a sizable lead on the three chasers - 42 seconds.
The next time up the climb it was still Dionne at the front, but he was slowing, trying to force McKenzie and Fraser to take their turns pulling. McKenzie did a couple of turns, but Fraser continued to hold back. Finally, along the top, Dionne sat up, yelling and gesticulating at the other two. It probably didn't help matters when McKenzie immediately attacked, forcing Dionne to tow Fraser back up to him.
The slowing speed allowed the other three to get back on, until the climb, when McKenzie launched an attack that Fraser and Dionne responded to. Again, Dionne had to go the front, and again he finally backed off, so that Olson, Nadeau and Lavallee could regain contact. Meanwhile, Hoop CCC had upped the pace behind, and the gap was shrinking quickly.
This was the situation along the flat before the start of the last lap, when Olson launched his attack.
"I just kept with the VW guys." explained Olson. "I couldn't go with the surges every time on the climb, I had to go my own pace there. When we caught up to them again the final time before the Start-Finish, I knew my only chance was to attack, so that I could be there on the climb and maybe come over the top with them. I didn't expect to be on my own at that point."
Dionne, meanwhile, had had enough, and didn't immediately start to chase.
"When Olson went was smart. I sat there and looked at them - 'The rules have changed, I'm not pulling you to the finish.' I attacked again on the climb, it was me and McKenzie, and then Fraser, but it was too late."
Dionne's final effort was doomed, and the five riders were gobbled up as Navigators started their train to set up Rapinski for the field sprint.
Olson managed to hold on to win by 15 seconds, his first win of the year with a new team, and one that he calls "my biggest win ever. This was one of my goals for the season, to get a stage win at Beauce. Mostly I work for the GC guys, like Nathan, but today was a bit of a chance for myself."
- Both Dionne and Fraser deny that Olympic selection was own their minds, but Olson and others in the break saw it differently. "There was definitely something political going on between those two Canadians guys." remarked Olson.
- With the exception of Michael Barry (US Postal), there are no clear favourites for the other two spots on the Canadian men's road squad for Athens. Dionne certainly scored points with his strong riding at Beauce, but so did Fraser a week earlier in Philly. Wohlberg entered the race tired from Nature Valley the week before, and could only manage eighth in the time trial. However, Canada does not have a time trial spot for Athens (unless some country doesn't use their entire quota), and Wohlberg is acknowledged to be the ultimate team player. Walters and Perras are the other two possibles, but will have to turn in very strong performances at Nationals to move to the forefront. Both are former national champions, so don't count them out.
Gord Fraser offered one intriguing scenario - Barry, Dionne and Fraser - which would the top Canadian Euro-pro (Barry), a sprinter who can climb (Dionne), and a pure sprinter (Fraser). The speculation continues...