June 26, 2009 (Beauce, QC) – The atmosphere had to be a little different this morning in St-Georges-de-Beauce before the start of the 2009 Canadian ITT Road Championships. The various modern weather prediction devices, along with the farmers, were calling for a bit of everything. The rise and shine routine is always a bit different when a time trial is on the daily schedule; the focus can be seen in the eyes of the best at the breakfast table.
The championships were lucky this year, although not the other riders, for on this special occasion, one could count on the presence of silver ITT world medalist Svein Tuft (Garmin-Slipstream) who was back from Europe to defend his title. On the women’s side, cycling’s new sensation Tara Whitten from Alberta was also on site to answer many questions, and prove her strength.
The under 23 year-old women were the first out of the start gate at one minute intervals on the challenging out-and-back 20km course. The favourites would not disappoint. Alberta’s Julie Beveridge (Team Tibco) took the top spot on the podium with a time of 29:59, followed by Ontario’s Denise Ramsden (30:49) and Quebec’s JoÃ«lle Numainville (31:01). These three young riders demonstrated once again their talent by covering the distance as fast as the elite women. In fact, by UCI regulations, U23 winner Beveridge, officially finished in second place in the Elite women’s competition as well.
While the U23 women were celebrating, the elite women were battling the course in less than ideal weather conditions. “In some areas of the course, the rain was coming down so hard we could barely see where we were heading,” commented Vancouver’s Moriah Jo MacGregor at the conclusion of the event. At the half way mark, veteran Ann Samplonius (QC) Lip Smacker was in the lead by only three seconds over Whitten. It was time to get down to business for the recent winner of the Tour de PEI. Inch by inch, stroke by pedal stroke, the Track Worlds Omnium silver medalist, pulled away from Samplonius, the defending ITT champ.
Samplonius was giving her all and not prepared to let her title get away easily. But in the final few kilometres something went wrong with her brakes and she could not take the fastest corner on the course and was forced to stop herself with her shoe and then get back on course. “The road was wet and when I grabbed my brakes I did not even slow down and had no choice but to go straight through and not attempt the corner as at over 50km/h I would not have made it,” said Samplonius.
In the end, Whitten finished on top with a time of 29:29, at 45 seconds faster then her rival. “I was confident I could take it, but I have a lot of respect for these girls I never raced before. They have a lot more experience than I do and I must admit I was not 100% sure of my climbing abilities on this hard course,” said the newly crowned champion. British Columbia’s Laura Brown completed the podium with at time of 30:30.
On the men’s side, cycling fans were awaiting none other than BC’s Tuft. The sun even came out to watch! Since Tuft was last seen in Beauce, he’s accumulated huge success with a 7th place at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, and an incredible 2nd place later on at the Road World Championships. Planet Energy’s venerable director, Steve Bauer simply put it, “No one can touch him in this event in Canada.” – and he was right. He relegated his closest rival to almost a minute. In fact, the big surprise of the day was probably Tuft’s Garmin-Chipotle team mate, second-placed Christian Meier. “It feels good to be time trialing so well once again. It feels like the good old days when I used to dominate this event,” the New Brunswick rider commented after the awards ceremonies. The Yukons’s Zach Bell, with a time of 53:41, completed the prestigious trio on the podium.
Quebec’s David Veilleux, in the Espoir category, also did not disappoint his supporters. Accustomed to wearing the national champion’s jersey, he collected yet another one today. He recorded an impressive time of 54:18, which was the 5th fastest time of the day, not bad for a 21-year-old! Ryan Anderson (55:32) and Cody Campbell (55:57) completed the podium.
On Saturday the focus will now turn to the road races. The women’s peloton will hit the 45-kilometre circuit three times for a total of 135 clicks. While it’s certainly another day in the saddle where anything can happen, some of the favourites have already shown their colors. Many of the team meetings will undoubtedly involve two words: Tara and Whitten.