The Preston Street Criterium is as prestigious as it gets in Ottawa bike racing. This event has 41 years of history and it’s always hotly contested.
Last year, Kenneth Ng stole the win for Toronto, so Stevens Racing p/b The Cyclery was determined to take it back for Ottawa. The team lined up Sunday with two former winners on the roster — Matteo Dal-Cin (2011) and Derrick St. John (2009) — backed by the potent wrecking crew of JS Perron, Braydon Bourne, Stephen Keeping, Conor O’Brien, Marc Boudreau and Steve Proulx.
With Ng and his RealDeal/Gears p/b Fieldgate team back for 2013, and 2008 winner Osmond Bakker heading the OCCTO/Cervelo squad — not to mention strong entries from Jetfuel Coffee-Norco Bicycles and Ride With Rendall — the Stevens boys had their work cut out for them.
“The plan was just have the guys go to the front and jam,” St. John said. So that’s what they did.
In cool conditions and heavy rain, the race started off fast and the Stevens boys were in the mix from the start, keeping the pace steady and high.
After a series of early attacks, 18-year-old Travis Samuel (Jet Fuel Coffee/Norco Bicycles) found himself alone off the front of the race, and St. John quickly bridged across. The pair found a good rhythm and the gap to the main field slowly grew to 30 seconds. None of the other teams was able to organize a strong case as Jet Fuel and Stevens patrolled the front of the pack.
It looked briefly as though the momentum might shift as a surge in the peloton brought the gap down to 15 seconds, but St. John and Samuel still had enough in the tank to fight back, extending the lead to 30 seconds going into the final laps and leaving St. John to decide whether to wait for the sprint or go it alone. He opted to go solo.
“I attacked with two laps to go and tried to hold 50 km/h,” he said. Samuel tried to claw his way back, but had to settle for second as St. John showboated across the line.
“I put in all my celebrations from last week,” he said, making reference to his 11th hour win in the Mississippi Mills Grand Prix.
Just 17 seconds after St. John, Perron crossed the line in third place after a last-lap attack, and Keeping made it three Stevens riders in the top four by winning the bunch sprint ahead of Simon Lambert-Lemay (Garneau-Quebecor).
Next up for the Stevens boys is the Canadian national road championships in Ville-St-Georges, Quebec, next weekend.