May 19, 2012 (Gatineau, QC) – The Specialized-lululemon team put on a show in today’s ITT at the Grand Prix Cycliste Gatineau taking all three podium steps, with Clara Hughes defending her title nailing the best time in the 18.4km Elite Women’s ITT.
The race was held in perfect conditions with a bright and clear sky, little wind, and good pavement to contest the event. Five waves were set up, with one hour intervals between each start. One team member was entered into each wave and all of the teams were able to learn about the course and conditions from previous waves as the race went on.
The expanded field for the 2012 event featured teams from around the world including Italy, Germany, Taiwan, Australia, Canada, the U.S.A along with other countries present that saw nearly 50 racers contest the time trial. Canada was well represented and ultimately put five riders in the top fifteen.
The early fastest time to beat was set by Marty Shea (Destination Cycling) at 25:44.82 on the undulating 18.4km course. In the second wave it was topped only by Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Specialized-lululemon) at 24:38.43. Her time stood up until teammate Evelyn Stevens took over 30 seconds off it in the third wave.
The last two waves contained each team’s strongest riders however the early best times were hard to beat. Canadians Rhae Shaw (Canadian National Team) and Tara Whitten (Tibco – To The Top) came close, adding their names to the top 10 list with Whitten sitting second for some time. The fireworks were just getting lit though as the final riders in wave 5 were setting best times at the half-way mark on the course.
Hughes had her minute-woman Nicole Cooke of Faren Honda Team in her sights already. Remembering her crash in the same corner in 2011, Hughes commented after the race that she reminded herself that taking the corner a bit slower and more safely would only cost her a second.
Still she rode it fast and hard, ignoring her own advice scraping a pedal along the way in the same corner. It was just right balance between her desire to do her best with just enough caution as she made it through accelerating to close the gap on Cooke.
The crowd was thrilled to see Hughes heading toward the finish and made sure she could hear their support. Even with her great time she made sure to throw her bike to line, perhaps to make up for that bit of time her caution in the corner may have cost her.
In the end she was 7.8 seconds ahead of teammate Stevens and three places ahead of Whitten, her nearest Canadian rival. For all of the top Canadians, and Olympic hopefuls from all nations, the UCI points earned here are invaluable.
Ukraine National Team rider Olena Sharha was the only racer to succumb to a “Hughes corner” crash.
Two Canadian riders missed the finishing turn, taking the first lap route and lost precious seconds in the process.
Full results HERE.