The Canada Summer Games come around just once every four years and they are a major highlight in the career of young Canadian cyclists. Selection to the Games has been a big focus for the Stevens Racing p/b The Cyclery team this year as it provides the U23 athletes an amazing opportunity to represent their provinces in a major Games environment. It’s not just great racing, but also a great life experience. (Full disclosure- Director Sportive Jenny Trew and Assistant DS Chris Reid met at the 2001 Canada Games)
Five Stevens Racing p/b The Cyclery riders attended the Saint-Raymond stage race this past weekend that served as the selection event for riders wishing to make the Quebec Canada Games team on the road.
While we have exceptionally strong group of young, female athletes on the squad, the harsh reality is that Quebec is also home to the strongest cycling tribe in Canada. The numbers at this event told much of the underlying story with nearly 70 men vying for selection and more than 25 women. The girls would be facing stiff competition in the form of two riders on the professional GSD-Mazda-Specialized UCI team and Hélène Pilote-Fortin’s twin sister Gabrielle who rides for the American Kenda outfit.
GP St-Raymond – St-Raymond, Que. (May 25-26)
By Chris Reid
Stage 1 Road Race
However the girls all came mentally ready to race hard, fight for results and impress the selectors. And this is exactly what they did — throughout a cold and overcast road race the pink Stevens jerseys were constantly on the attack, with Hélène, Évelyne Gagnon, Ariane Bonhomme and Adriane Provost all making significant moves – unfortunately all their efforts ended up being solo efforts. In the end they were caught out when a long breakaway by Adriane was counterattacked by GSD rider Alizée Brien who took with her Gabrielle and Elizabeth Albert (Rocky Mountain).
The girls quickly responded to organize themselves on the front and chase as hard as they could for the final lap. Sadly the breakaway stayed away, powered by the impressive Brien who was pipped on the line by Albert.
Évelyne had been super aggressive early on in the road race, was able to recover from her earlier efforts to attack with another rider to grab fifth and the last GC points available. As she has all year, Adriane coordinated an excellent leadout with Ariane to take sprinter Audrey Bernard to the line for sixth, seventh and eighth. The result was particularly impressive from Audrey who was racing with a minor shoulder separation from her crash in Gatineau. If anything less than Canada Games had been on the line there is no way we would have let her start this weekend.
Stage 2 Time Trial
As mentioned in past race reports, these girls like to time trial. Evie in particular was on a mission to back up her placing in the road race before, while for former junior national champion Adri this seemed her best chance to qualify for the team.
In weather that continued to be cold and wet the girls threw down some impressive times finishing in a run of third-fourth-fifth-sixth, led home by Evie who placed third on the day behind Alizée and Gabrielle. It was a close-fought affair between Évelyne and Gabrielle, with less than two seconds separating the two riders. Adriane was fourth, with junior Ariane showing she will be the rider to watch at this summer’s junior nationals, and sixth place demonstrated that Audrey is becoming more than just a pocket sprinter. Super climber Hélène was pleased with her progress in the flat, windy, non-climber-friendly course, which sometimes is just as important as the result.
Stage 3 Criterium
Heading into Stage 3 the chips were down. The only rider with a confirmed spot was now Alizée for her convincing win in the TT. The winner of the points race-format criterium would also win an automatic berth, while the next two spots would roll down to GC positions. After these automatic spots would come the tough calls — the last spot on the team and both alternates spots would be coach’s choice positions. Évelyne was in good position having scored points in both the RR and TT, while Adri had scored in the TT. Audrey had twice come painfully shy of the GC points with two sixth-place finishes. While Audrey’s sprint would normally have made her a serious favourite for the win her shoulder was a big question mark — it was serious enough that DS Jenny Trew had told her to put off any decisions on starting the criterium until the last minute.
Elizabeth Albert has won the road race, but then finished a distant 17th in the TT, while Alizée’s teammate Anne-Marie Morin had been outside the top 10 to date. Morin was not a rider to be discounted however as she was hot off a 12th placed finish at the Gatineau GP the weekend before.
Held under the constant threat of rain on a fairly straightforward box course, the race’s tempo was hot right from the start with Évelyne making the first attacks of the day. As Brien wound up the race leading into the first points sprint the field lined out and began to splinter. The front group stayed on the gas after the sprint (won by Morin) and the day’s breakaway quickly formed with the usual suspects present – Gabrielle, both GSD girls and Albert, as well as a couple others hanging on for dear life. Adri proved attentive and made a monster move to bridge across to the break, while behind her Gagnon was attempting the same thing. While Provost was able to make the junction Évelyne dangled on her own for several laps before being swallowed up by the field.
The next 30 minutes became a tag-team brawl, with Audrey and Adri battling against the GSD duo. Albert, who had won the day before, seemed to hit the limits of her fitness from two full days of racing and never featured in the points after the first sprint. Morin was taking most of the sprints (thanks in large part to Brien’s motorcycle-like leadouts) but Audrey fought hard to keep hope alive winning the 4th and 5th sprints.
Meanwhile in the main field Hélène was patrolling the front of the bunch like a pint-sized enforcer, remaining unfazed when she flatted in the second half of the race. When the break lapped the field Hélène was in excellent position to help place her teammates, which was critical as the field split again on the next sprint (this time without Albert).
In the end Morin took the victory by a comfortable margin, but Audrey should be applauded for the fight she put up given everything she was fighting through this past weekend. Adriane finished fourth behind Gabrielle (who packed a surprising sprint for a diminutive climber) all the while riding consistently for her teammate.
To be blatantly honest this part was always going to be bittersweet.
The Sevens p/b The Cyclery women’s team is a fantastic group of talented young riders. And almost every weekend they have gone to events and raced to the best of their ability as a united front. And this weekend was no different. Every rider on the team contributed to the group’s success. And with five strong Quebec riders the team was always going to have someone selected to represent their province at the Games.
However as mentioned at the beginning of this report, Quebec’s status as the best development province also meant that inevitably some of our riders would be left out in the cold.
So it was with mixed emotions that the riders heard Adriane Provost named as the coach’s choice and Audrey Bernard and Évelyne Gagnon were the first and second alternates. Any one of the five riders representing Stevens this weekend would walk onto any other province’s team. It just wasn’t possible for them all to make the team.
Audrey and Évelyne put up amazing challenges this weekend, both riders performing a world away from where they were 12 months ago.
Évelyne proved that she is a game-day athlete and put forward her best results of the season when it mattered most. She deserves a round of applause because few athletes rise to that sort of pressure.
Audrey proved that she is genuinely tough. Not in a bravado filled way, but genuinely, to the core, get it done, tough. I very much doubt many riders would have raced through the adversity that she did this weekend, and fewer still would have races as well as she did this weekend. Being injured at Gatineau is a particularly bitter pill to swallow as it also ruled her out for the UCI event in Philly this weekend, and she will instead focusing on recuperating. Look out for this rider when the team hits BC Super Week in August.
Now to finish on a high note:
Every single person involved with the Stevens team is ecstatic for Adriane’s selection. She is a fantastic all-round racer that has this season shown she can do far more than just time trial, which for a long time has been her biggest strength.
But more than anything else Adriane is the consummate team-player and a great leader on the road. She has been the invaluable keystone in the leadout that delivered Audrey to the line to win St. Martine, the field-sprints at Brossard and this weekend. She has never hesitated to sacrifice her own results to help her team. On and off the bike Adriane has been an integral part of the Stevens team the last two seasons and one of the reasons that working with this team has been a pleasure.
Everyone at Stevens and the Cyclery wishes Adriane the best of luck at this Summer’s Canada Games in Sherbrooke.
eQuinelle Criterium, Kemptville, Ont. (Sunday, May 26)
By Annie Foreman-Mackey
While the rest of the Stevens crew was riding amazingly well up at the CSG qualifying races in St-Raymond, a lovely trio of Catherine Dessureault, Carrie Cartmill and I (Annie) made the journey to the eQuinelle crit in Kemptville. We joined a small but strong field including sprinting extraordinaires Laura Van Gilder and Joanie Caron, as well as the mighty Lex Albrecht, former eQuinelle champion Chloe Black, and a large Infinit Cycling contingent. The three of us realized that our best bet was to establish a break, and knew that we had our work cut out for us.
Cath and I were active at the front of the pack right from the start and the field quickly became diminished. About 30 minutes in, Cath made a decisive move that was followed by Laura and Joanie. The three quickly got some time on the group of five chasers as they were not getting organized. Cath made some valiant attempts to shake the sprinting duo in the final laps, but alas it was a third pace for a really strong ride!!
Ending up on the front (unfortunately) leading into the final laps and knowing that there were still some sprinters in the chase group, I attacked on the back stretch and was able to whittle the group down to just Sarah Rasmussen (Infinit Cycling) who came around me on the final straight for fifth.
This was Carrie’s first race back after her fateful training camp injury and we are excited to see more of her in the peloton the rest of the season!