Stephen Keeping and JS Perron flew the Stevens Racing p/b The Cyclery flag at the GP Charlevoix stage race east of Quebec City over the weekend. Keeping sent in this report from the race.
The GP Charlevox this past weekend started with a short and fast criterium on Friday night followed by a 15-km time trial on Saturday morning and a gruelling hill climb with grades as steep as 24%, later that day. The 120-km “Queen stage” was the final stage on Sunday, a tough course that follows the coast and traverses many of the region’s steep climbs.
At the crit JS and I followed the game plan as usual and followed as many moves as possible hoping to get away on the new course. After jamming hard and then blowing to the moon, I found myself at the back, tail-gunning it. Cross-eyed and panting, all I could do was hope JS had thing under contro -l- which he did. Unfortunately nothing got away and it looked like it would come down to a field sprint. JS went with two laps to go but was never given much space. I moved up in the final laps and barged through Team Medique’s lead out train to try and take them by surprise. Unfortunately the line came 10 meters too late and I was just caught on the line for second place.
The time trial the following day was a chilly, windy affair that was tailored to the specialists. JS managed to pull off a great top 10 using just his road bike and “last minute aero bars” as I like to call them (some people actually put these on the day before and practice with them). I opted to save my powder for the hill climb later that day and rode conservatively.
The hill climb was a mass start event with a 4-km run through the valley before the 3.5-km climb. Of course this turned into bumper cars as everyone wanted good position at the bottom of the climb. JS had the legs and our recon of the climb earlier that day paid off. With his fingers in his nose (it’s an expression) he rocketed up the climb with the leaders through the fog. At the top our vision was only 50 m ahead at best. With no markers on the road it was difficult to tell where the finish was. JS started his sprint and was just beaten on the line by a powerful Garneau rider.
With JS placed in the top 5 on GC and having won this race before, we had a good feeling we could do well on the final stage and hold his overall placing. However, mother nature had different plans. With a forecast of 16C and rain, everyone dressed warm but no one had planned for the temperature to plummet to less than 7C (and much lower on the coast). More than 6 mm of freeing cold rain came down forcing several riders to abandon. Riding hard early in the race may have been lucky for me because I was able to stay warm. As a result, 120 km later, after several failed breakaways and many more attempts, I made it over the last of the big climbs. Unfortunately JS felt the effects of hypothermia and had to stop along with Garneau’s highest placed rider. Unable to feel my hands, I did my best to hit the finishing climb with the leaders and held on for fourth place on the day.
It was an epic weekend in the beautiful Charlevoix region and we hope to be back again.