If you have been around cycling for a little while you may have heard of the Tour de l'Abitibi, you may have even competed in it. The race is renowned for its super fast stages and 150 junior rider fields which hit the deck more than Tire Touch Timmy.
I had the privilege to race on the Canadian national team for the event and, with a really strong roster, we were looking good for some results.
The first stage was 120km into a head cross wind and at 30km the race was shaping up to become a very different Abitibi from the past years. Attacks were flying while the French were trying to split the peloton in the farmland section of the course. It was all hands on deck covering moves and being attentive to dangerous breaks.
With 60km to go a split formed of 11 riders, two of whom were on the Canadian national team. Everyone seemed happy with the break and nobody cared to pull it back; the peloton lost nearly eight minutes, the biggest time gap ever. The first stage set the tone for the rest of the six stages. In a stage race renowned for bunch finishes and a lack of breakaways, this edition of Abitibi had them at every stage.
Stage 2 had a breakaway go 30km into the stage and stayed away right to the finish. We had no Canadians in it so we had to chase hard, but the gap was still three seconds at the finish.
Stage 3 is a two part stage and was a turning point for us this tour. In the morning we had the TT where Jacob Rubuliak, our GC rider smashed out a podium in the TT and moved himself up to 4th in GC, 20 seconds behind third. The afternoon was finally looking like a stage for me with a 52.5 km road race which we bet was going to end in a bunch kick. Nobody seemed to want it to end in a bunch sprint and it was the fastest 50km I’ve ever done. It was full gas from start to finish averaging 49.2km/h, in junior gears. The lead in is a technical two km with a pinch point into a roundabout and two 90 degree corners. It suited me really well, and with a good finishing kick out of the corner, I took the stage by over two seconds.
Stage 5 was the longest stage of the race with 150km of open plains and cross winds. Our team did a really good job staying safe in the echelons and despite quite a few crashes caused by guttered riders hitting parked cars, all of our riders stayed upright. We launched a guy in the breakaway with 70km to go, which ended up being the winning move while we covered stuff behind. Over the last KOM with 6km to go we dropped 3rd in GC but a small amount of hesitation over the top before riding the front hard let him make it back to the peloton. Jackson Kinniburgh, who we launched in the break got 2nd on the stage.
Team Canada missed the break of the day on stage six and spent 70km riding the front before bringing the gap down to only a handful of seconds at the finish, and with the rider up the road being solo, we finished the stage with a second place.
The final stage was an attempt to crack 3rd in GC and possibly take the stage. Unfortunately the legs weren’t there for the team and we couldn’t do enough damage on the circuits to distance ourselves from the GC threats. Another solo break prevented us from taking the stage with the gap being three seconds at the finish. I won the bunch kick for another second place stage finish.
All in all Team Canada came out with one stage win, three stage seconds, one stage third as well as a 4th in GC. A pretty successful week for us before a couple of my national teammates and I move onto Junior Track World Championships in mid-August.