The eQuinelle Grand Prix in Kemptville is fast growing in reputation. It’s one of the few big-money criteriums in Ontario, and this year drew a great field of riders from across north-east North America.
Among that field was the Stevens Racing p/b The Cyclery team made up of Conor O’Brien, Braydon Bourne, Derrick St. John, Marc Boudreau, JS Perron, Stephen Keeping and Matteo Dal-Cin. The other big team on the line was Garneau-Quebecor, featuring the 1-2 punch of former Stevens riders Mike Woods and GP Cycliste de Gatineau winner Bruno Langlois.
The short and twisty course makes for a technical event — not a drag race like on bigger, more open courses. As an added bonus, it was windy on race day, making for a far tougher ride.
The 90-minutes-plus-five-laps race started hard from the gun and before long a break of eight riders formed with all the key teams represented: two riders each from Stevens (Perron and Dal-Cin), Garneau (Woods and Simon Lambert-Lemay) and Carbon Repair Predator (Jean-Michel Lachance and Dion Smith), along with one each from JetFuel (Travis Samuel) and Nine2FivePro.com (Doug Van Den Ham).
The break worked well together for the full race, with the gap to the peloton hovering between 20 and 45 seconds despite the 45 km/h average speed. With 10 minutes left to race, the attacks began. Lambert-Lemay is a great sprinter, so both Perron and Dal-Cin made repeated attempts to break away but each time their attacks were neutralized. The race came down to a sprint of eight, and New Zealander Smith surprised the group by winning ahead of Lambert-Lemay and Dal-Cin. Perron was fifth after Woods crashed in the final corner — though the Garneau rider picked himself up and ran across the line to finish in the money in eighth, just ahead of the charging peloton.
Though it didn’t pay off with a win, the Stevens guys were present in all the key moves and worked well together to net the team’s eighth podium of the season. With a little luck, good work like this will end in victory.