Wednesday the 19th of June marked stage 1 of the 2019 Tour de Beauce. Things kicked off with a hot one, also the longest stage of the week, 177km. We started in St. Georges riding 40km along some classic Quebec roads, undulating and with plenty of potholes. It was full gas for that first hour all the way out to the circuit.
Things settled down once a group got up the road, but it was still a grind with plenty of steep, rolling hills. We would make three laps of this circuit before returning along the same road we rolled out on; the last few kilometers being mostly downhill and finishing on a short little ramp. Perfect for a sprint finish, and one that I would have hoped to contest. Unfortunately, that’s not how it played out.
I was having a bad day and got popped over the KOM going into the final lap of the circuits and finished with a few others who had a similar day. That certainly wasn’t the day I was hoping for, but I can’t be too disappointed because there’s plenty to take away from a race as hard as this. I also have the fortune of racing along side some of BC’s up and coming riders, as well one of the best to guide us. Tomorrow we take on Mont Mégantic and the queen stage.
Stage 2 began in the town of Lac Mégantic. It would be a wild 170km day with thunder showers in the forecast, a mountain top finish, and no shortage of hills along the way. It’s a day for the climbers and anybody with GC aspirations. For myself, it was a day of keeping our top guys fed and comfy, and when things got tough just staying as close to the front as possible.
Fortunately, the legs came around since the day before and were climbing much better. A bit of rain always works in my favor, of which there was plenty. Late in the race I found myself in the second group on the road over the last KOM within sight of the front group. Despite our best efforts we were unable to close the gap before the terrain picked up again. The gap started to widen, and the front group disappeared over rolling hills under the dark clouds. Our group rode steady to the finish, though steady is the wrong word for that final climb as you grind your easiest gear up the 10% grades while slowly freezing as your climb up into the storm clouds. Fortunately the suffering wasn’t all for nothing as one of our riders was placed just outside of the top 10.
Another day another stage, starting with a time trial serving as part one of a double day of racing. A straightforward 20km out and back course, about as straight as they come, taking you over more of those wonderful, rolling Quebec hills. I would also learn, about halfway through my ride, that there was a pretty severe head wind once you turn around at the 10km mark. With a tougher than expected course, and an average ride, I still managed to finish within the top 40 of about 100 riders which is always nice after a bit of a slow start to the week.
After stage 3a, the GC was starting to unfold. Cycling BC had a rider just a few seconds out of top 10, and the boys had a plan in place for stage 3b. It was a short stage, only 77km featuring the gnarliest roads I’ve ever seen in a bike race, and a short climb at the finish. With the race being so short it was full gas and chaotic from the start. With the number of cracks and holes in the road, I wasn’t surprised to see a constant stream of riders dropping off the back with either flats or mechanicals. I was lucky enough hit one of those massive cracks with my rear wheel. Bottles went flying and most of the air from my tire was lost. I got a wheel change and as I got going again, the DC Bank car was coming full speed with one of their riders.
As they flew by me, the car guided its rider directly over a massive pot hole and destroyed his real wheel. I’m usually pretty comfortable behind the car, but after what I just saw, I was a little uneasy as we chased back on at upwards of 80kph. Fortunately, I made it back on with plenty of time to spare before the final. The plan was to keep Ben as close to the front as possible all the way to the base of the climb. With about 5km to go things started to get hairy and Jordan made a strong move to bring our train right to the front. It was just Ben and myself at this point, but I was able to surf wheels and keep him close to the front just before the last turn onto the climb. That was some of the most fun I’ve had racing, rubbing shoulders and fighting for wheels with some of the fastest guys in North America.
After some much-needed extra sleep, we prepared ourselves for a lengthy 95-minute crit around the streets of Quebec City. At 2km in length with four corners, one long downhill drag, and one long uphill to the finish, it’s a larger, slightly less awesome version of Awesome GP. The boys raced well with Jordan lapping the field and finishing second. I wasn’t having much fun with the uphill straight and wasn’t able to move up towards the end when things really picked up towards the end.
Time just seemed to fly this week, and just like that we made it to the 5th and final stage of this year's Tour de Beauce. The race would complete 12 laps of North America's toughest circuit. 10km through the rolling residential streets of Saint Georges, with steep climbs and technical descents, it wouldn’t be a race without a few potholes. The final stage started out full gas, with riders being dropped almost immediately, one rider even calling it a day after 100 meters.
I was just hanging on over the climbs and saving the legs on the descents. Surviving the day would be an accomplishment. After the first lap mayhem things settled down for a bit. About five laps into the race one rider decided to take the apex of a corner on his butt collecting a few other riders in the process. I was stuck behind and had to chase back on. I caught the peloton at the base of the one long climb and made it around one more lap when they hit up the feature climb, then I got popped.
From this point on it was just a matter of not giving up, which is easier said than done when you’re catching riders who’ve been dropped and they’re looking for someone to chat with. I rode the last five laps solo. With two laps to go I was trying stay focused, but as I hit the base of the climb, I could hear the police sirens. From there it was pretty much a time trial to the start/finish, and I made it with maybe 10 seconds to spare and would be the last finisher on the day. Had I been lapped I would have gotten a DNF. That last lap took forever but I was pleasantly surprised with the welcome I got from the crowd when I did finally finish. I might as well have won the damn thing.
I think it’s safe to say we finished the week off on a high note, with all but one making it through the last stage and Ben moving into 10th place overall. I had a blast racing Tour de Beauce, and I hope I get the chance to race it again. A big thanks goes out to Cycling BC, Tag cycling, and Lesley Tomlinson for putting together a wonderful project and letting me be a part of it.