Abitibi was one of the big races this year that I was really looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. With about 150 starters and a week-long stage race, not many guys have done anything comparable. The one thing that made Abitibi even more amazing was that I was racing with the national team, which was my goal at the start of the season. Being able to represent my country at an international event was a dream come true.
The travel to get to Amos was an adventure in itself. Since I just finished racing BC Superweek, flying across the country wasn’t the greatest, followed by an eight hour bus ride. Once I got there the hype was real, especially after getting the team kit. I had to make sure that my legs were ready because the next day was the sprint challenge, which I chose to do. Having done the sprint challenge last year I knew what it was like and that I had to ride smart if I wanted to win.
Before that we had the team presentations, so right after that was done it was onto the rollers to warm up. The first heat was probably the closest as there were three of us that came across the line all within one bike length of each other. As close as it was I had it under control, only using enough energy to move to the next heat. The next couple of heats after that I was able to win fairly handily which was quite the confidence booster going into the finals. Then it was the finals, the last race for the podium positions. I was nervous because I knew I could win but I could also miscalculate and not podium.
We lined up and my heart was racing, the start gun went off and the finals began. I sat second wheel going into the turn around, everyone was closely watching each other. Through the turn around and I was first wheel, not ideal. I kept calm and with about 200m to go I saw the other riders looking at each other. I saw my opportunity and jumped, didn’t look back to see if they came with me, just gave it all I had. Once I got to the line I realized that I had it, I had won! It was the most incredible feeling. Now I had to start preparing myself for the next week of racing.
Starting the first road stage, I felt really good with my fitness and especially with my sprint. The goal of the stage was to cover breaks and watch the other riders to get a sense of who the stronger teams are. A few small breaks tried to go but none were successful in distancing themselves from the pack. Just a little past half way through the race one of my teammates finished covering an attack, then right after another rider attacked. I didn’t see anyone else cover it so I sprinted up to it. It was a group of two USA riders, a Mexican rider and myself. After a little while of rotating and working together I looked back and saw that there was a workable gap, this could be the break that sticks. After a couple more kilometers of rotating, one USA and the Mexican rider are getting dropped from our breakaway. We waited for them a bit but after a while I knew that we would get caught if we kept waiting for them, so off I went with the other Team USA rider. With 20km left in the race we were made aware that a group of 4 riders were bridging to us, and one of my teammates was in amongst the group. Once we entered the circuit it wasn’t quite as organized as before as everyone was thinking of the finish. On the last lap, my teammate Guillaume went to the front with me on his wheel and drilled it in the last kilometer. As we rounded the last corner he pulled out and I went full gas in the sprint, and when I looked back no one was there. We did it, another gold medal for Team Canada! I couldn’t believe it, but we now had the orange jersey for sprint points and the brown jersey for general classification. Getting to do an interview and going to doping control makes you feel pretty good because it means you’re doing something right. After doping control, it was off to eat and sleep to get ready for tomorrow.
Second stage, and first stage getting to wear the brown jersey. The majority of the race was fairly quiet but later on a break got away that was dangerous, so the whole Team Canada squad got to the front and pulled it back, myself included. That wasn’t ideal for me being in the leader’s jersey but we did what we had to. Then it was pretty quiet until we got to the finishing circuits where my race got really hard. First couple corners of the circuit someone veered off their line and bumped me mid-corner, which threw me off balance. I ended up ping-ponging my way out of the pack and then laid the bike down. This was a disaster, broken spoke on my front wheel, a bent derailleur hanger, and a lot of chasing. I had to weave through the caravan going as hard as I could through the corners and along the straights. I ended up having to chase for the last 10km of the race, but luckily once I finally reached the pack on the last lap my teammate Vivien was at the back and pulled me up to the middle of the pack. At this point I was just trying to limit time loss. What a rough second stage, and I maintained the leader’s jersey by 2 seconds. I was very tired from how hard I had to go in the tail end of the stage and I felt a bit of a sore throat, not good.
Stage 3, the time trial, which I wasn’t super excited for. About 30 minutes before my start I was warming up and I didn’t feel great, legs weren’t where I wanted them to be, but I had to do my best. I came in 40 seconds down from what I wanted to do, which wasn’t very uplifting as that meant I lost the brown jersey for general classification. There was the stage after the time trial on the same day that was only 50km long, however, due to rain it was delayed half an hour. Once we finally started going it was a little sketchy as the road was still wet. My legs started to come around and in the last 10km I was feeling pretty good. Within the last 3km I was top 30 and just starting to move up before we took the round-about into 1km to go. A crash happened directly beside me as I watched 3 Mexican riders crash and I got a little held up, so I had to chase back on. Being at the back of the front split was concerning and as we entered the roundabout another crash happened, but this time it was someone in the top 10 wheels. At this point I was disappointed because I knew I couldn’t podium on the stage and I might even lose more time if I didn’t get around the crash. I ended up finishing in group and didn’t lose any time. After the race was over though, my nose clogged up on the drive back and I knew I was now sick.
Being sick is the worst, and it kind of killed my hopes of a podium for the GC. The rest of the week was fairly lack lustre for myself, but my teammate Charles got 3rd on stage six. I managed to hold onto 7th place in the general classification which was still very respectable. Even though I got sick half way through Abitibi it was still an awesome experience, and I had a great start to the week. I didn’t talk about the other stages because for me I was just sitting in and trying to keep position and I’d rather go into more detail about the earlier stages. All the Team Canada guys raced exceptionally and I was glad to get to know them I am so grateful for everyone that supported me through out the week, the sponsors, the organizers, and the Team Canada staff who helped us out, thank you!