Mike Woods of the Stevens Racing p/b The Cyclery men’s team is racing in the Tour de Beauce with Canadian National Team. The Tour de Beauce is a six-stage stage race that attracts some of the top professional riders in North America. Mike has provided us with a report from Stage 5 of the race – a twisty and challenging course in the heart of Quebec City.
First off, I’m going to say this because I know everybody has been thinking the same thing; why did Nik Wallenda not ditch his harness. In my search for some stage 5 inspiration, both Casey Roth (my roommate) and I watched the 1.5 hour countdown to, and the actual, Nik Wallenda tight rope walk across Niagara Falls. This event occupied 2 hours of my life that I will never get back, but fortunately Wallenda’s inability to man-up and ditch his harness did not negatively impact my racing on day 5.
Taking place through the streets of Quebec City, stage 5 was wild. The race was a 10 lap 125k course, that featured a significant climb through the heart of Quebec city. With over 90 men remaining in the field, two-thirds of which already on the rivet from the previous 4 stages, and with a major hill, random obstacles, and some tight corners, to put it gently, this was a dicey course. Like on stage 1, I also didn’t make the race any easier for myself. Pulling my most rookie mistake of the race thus far, at the very start, I missed my first 2 attempts at clipping into my pedals, and found myself in the very last position of the peloton; exactly where I was told to never be. Tasked with the job of navigating a strung-out field, that saw guys abandoning the race within the first 5k, I was forced to jump a number of gaps, and fire a couple of bullets, in order to get myself to the front. Once I arrived there, I was overwhelmed with relief, anticipating that I would be able to just tuck in for the following few laps, and get a little recovery in, before I started having to cover any attacks. This did not happen. With several narrow stretches leading into the hill, each lap I was forced, along with the rest of the field, to fight for a good position. About 3k before this climb, if you were not located on the outside of the peloton, you would begin to feel like you were on the wrong end of a conveyor belt. Each passing meter, a few guys would scramble up the sides, and within a few hundred meters, you would fall from the front of the pack, to the back. The only way to truly avoid this slide, I found, was to get to the outside, and stay to the outside, which meant missing the cozy draft inside the peloton.
Surprisingly, I do not think there was a single crash this race. After doing a neutral warm-up lap of the course, I thought that a death in this race was far more likely than the Wallenda walk, but the only incidents I witnessed, were two guys smashing into giant pylon (they both stayed up though) and a motorcycle crash, that wound up on the race course, and almost took out half the field. In retrospect this was a pretty fun course to ride, and I imagine an even better one if you were in the breakaway. Although I missed my attempts to slip into a breakaway, teammate Nic Hamilton, who has been mixing it up in several breakaways this week, caught the winning ticket. In getting into the winning breakaway Nic rode brilliantly, and out sprinted everybody for the king of the mountain points dispersed throughout the race. Because of his herculean effort, Nic was awarded the polka-dot jersey (king of the mountain jersey), the team’s first of the tour.
The other big highlight of this day’s stage was the family support. Both my parents, Elly, and Elly’s mom, all came down to watch me race, which was pretty sweet. It being father’s day today, I also want to give a big shout out to my dad. Were it not for him, I obviously would not be in this race this week. My dad has played a massive role in me getting into cycling. From teaching me to ride when I was a little guy, to buying me my first road bike. I am very fortunate to have such a loving, and supportive dad in my life.