May 21, 2012 (Gatineau, QC) – It was a hot spring weekend in Gatineau with blue skies and temperatures reaching the low 30s. Saturday’s times trial had seen pre-race favourite Clara Hughes (Specialized-lululemon) take the honours and Sunday had been a day for the amateurs to ride part of the pro’s course with a Gran Fondo up into the Gatineau Hills.
On Sunday, a national holiday, crowds were pleased to have the opportunity to watch more serious bike racing under some seriously blue skies.
For its third year, the GP Cycliste Gatineau brought many changes to the road race course. It was lengthened to 134km, with 13 loops around a 10.18 km circuit that included a long false flat, a few sharp hills and some crit-like technical sections.
The lead up to the London Olympics meant that many riders were looking for precious UCI points and competition would be fierce at this year’s GP Cycliste Gatineau. Big names were at the start, including Hughes, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, Amber Neben, Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon), Nicole Cooke, Rochelle Gilmore, Fabiana Luperini (Faren Honda), Joëlle Numainville (Optum Kelly Benefits), Tara Whitten (Tibco to the Top), Shara Gillow (GreenEdge AIS) and Karol Ann Canuel (Team Canada). With such an international peloton, today was looking like a dressed rehearsal for the Games in August.
Just a few kilometers after the start, three-time world track champion Whitten (Tibco) made a solo move and quickly built up a lead of over a minute. With no concerted chase behind, Whitten’s lead steadily climbed to 1:49 after 40 km of racing, but that changed when GreenEdge and Specialized-lululemon massed at the front of the pack to pick up the speed. Whitten bravely resisted, but was brought back her back on lap 6, having been on her own at the front for over 50km.
Then a series of attacks were launched that never got more than a handful of seconds, including some serious-looking moves by Faren Hondo’s Gilmore and Luperini, Teutenberg, Stevens, Neben , Alona Andruk (Ukraine), Rhae Shaw (Canadian national team), Melissa Hoskins (GreenEdge-AIS) – and a strong solo attack by the crowd’s favourite Hughes. It seemed like the Specialized-lululemon Team wanted to be in every break.
With two laps to go it was all together again and the speed was high as the field was being reduced by attrition as riders were shed off the back. At a hairpin turn, Shaw crashed and Hughes couldn’t avoid her, hitting her back on her saddle, but she was able to remount and chase back on.
With 7km to go, a strong group of 12 got away, containing Neben, Stevens, Teutenberg, Numainville, Megan Guarnier (Tibco), Ukraine’s Andruk, Lex Albrecht, Melissa Hoskins, Shara Gillow (GreenEdge Orica), Canuel (Team Canada) and Gilmore (Faren Honda).
But the main field never allowed them more than 10 seconds and it was right on the breakaway’s heels as they hit the final roundabout – but the leaders were able to keep their advantage. Over the last 300m, the sprint was a real drag race with Teutenberg, Gilmore and Numainville rushing for the line. Teutenberg was the strongest and took the honours over Gilmore with Andruk grabbing 3rd ahead of Numainville in fourth.
Hughes fought back to finish 8th despite having hurt her back in the fall. After the race, she was taken to the hospital to make sure everything was alright. We all wish her a speedy recovery and best of luck for the coming Olympics.
Once again, the Specialized-lululemon Team showed it’s one of the best teams in the world, having been at the front for most of the second half of the race. They were in all the breaks and ultimately had the fastest finisher with Teutenberg.
Race winner Ina-Yoko Teutenberg:
This was a fast rolling course, so it was hard to get away. A lot of people tried after the first 50 km but it never stuck. The girls from the team went into breaks and they knew they had me in the back in case of a sprint. Sadly we lost Clara after she crashed in the final lap, but I had three girls with me at the end so it worked out very well.
Ronny Lauke, Team Manager for Specialized-lululemon:
The race unfolded as we had planned. We didn’t want to wait for the final sprint as we knew the other teams would expect us to. We tried to be open, and make the race interesting by going in the breakaways and making the other teams work. We’re very happy with how things unfolded having won both races here in Gatineau.
Erik Lyman, Race Director for the GPCG:
This was the ideal scenario. The field was very strong and the second half of the race saw some very aggressive riding and lots of attacking. In the end, a late break made it to the finish with some of the strongest riders. This is exactly the type of racing we were hoping for when the course was redesigned.
Full results HERE.