June 26, 2016 (Ottawa, ON) – No one could have predicted the outcome but Bruno Langlois of Matane, Quebec, 37, finally won the 180km Elite Men’s national road race title in Ottawa on Sunday at the 2016 Global Relay Canadian Road Championships p/b Lexus, after years of coming close.
Local favourite Benjamin Perry (ON) Silber Pro Cycling from St. Catharines, ON, finished second and defended his U23 title in the process while the final podium spot went to BC’s Will Routley (Rally Cycling), a former road champ himself from 2010.
A fateful crash marred the finish of the four leaders as Matteo Dal-Cin (ON) Silber Pro Cycling, who was in front at time, went down in the final corner taking out Perry and Routley as well. Langlois, who was behind, was able to avoid the crash and soloed to victory – watch the crash here.
The four had broken away from a group of 10 leaders late in the race that had several surprises as there were only 18 finishers out of 141 starters, due to the heat and intense pace. In an unusual move the main field, including many heavy hitters, was pulled from the race on the 14th lap.
With Hugo Houle (AG2R), Svein Tuft (Orica GreenEdge), and a plethora of other high calibre riders in the field, it was set to be a grand showdown. After a 10-minute delay, under a scorching sun of 31 degrees, the 18-lap race began and the attacks came early.
Many favoured Silber for the win with Ryan Roth, a former national champ, Dal-Cin, recent winner of the Redlands Classic, and Perry, the defending U23 champ, supported by the largest team in the field. The Elite women’s Cyclery-Opus team had shown the previous day that the largest team in the field had an advantage on the tough circuit.
The first few laps started fast but manageable as a 7-rider break quickly formed on the first lap initiated by Silber, Garneau, and Rally, and opened up a respectable gap on the field. Going through the tight corners at Island Park and Tunney’s Pasture made it clear that the 140+ peloton would be challenged to stay together when the attacks started.
Despite the presence of Dal-Cin and Rob Britton (Rally) the pack didn’t seem eager to chase. The presence of Houle and Tuft on the front seemed to give the pack a sense of confidence believing these two WorldTour riders would not allow the break to do any serious damage.
As the break began to extend its lead, Tuft and Houle banded together in effort that would initially crush the peloton splitting it into several small packs. A group of 30 riders remained with them as they continued their relentless pursuit of the break with the rest of field straggling behind or dropping out entirely.
Perry and Olivier Brisebois (Garneau Quebecor) managed to get away from that chase group before it was swallowed up and join the break. Another attack came from Nicolas Masbourian (Silber), Routley and Langlois who would eventually bridge across and form the final 10 riders at the front from which the final selection would come.
In what was starting to look like a “Last Man Standing” race the break ramped up its pace. With the three laps remaining Vandale and Samuel were dropped as first Britton attacked followed by Langlois. The attrition was in the final stages as the rest of the 10-rider group was shed leaving Perry, Dal-Cin, Langlois, and Routley to battle it out.
The last lap saw Dal-Cin and Perry working hard together and in the stretch coming into the final turn Langlois was the fourth rider in the group with a gap that proved decisive as Dal-Cin slid out on the final corner and Routley and Perry were caught up as well, allowing Langlois to breeze by unscathed and take the win.
“At the end I think the other guys went too fast into the last corner and unfortunately they crashed, so I was able to come around,” commented Langlois who has seen many final corners in his day. The 6-rider break at last week’s Preston Street Crtierium suffered a similar fate.
“I think I’ve done all the top ten places except the win,” added Langlois. “Today I raced from the front, because on this course it was one where you had to gamble. I tried to attack at the end because I don’t have a good sprint, but the others guys were too strong. At the end I think the others guys went too fast into the last corner and unfortunately they crashed, so I was able to come around. Nationals is always a game of poker, especially on a course like this. It’s my best result; to be champion of your country. Everybody wants this, and I’ve been chasing it for a long time.”
Perry was the first to get back on the bike and crossed the line second taking silver in the Elite race and first in the U23 category. Routley in a test of courage that stole the show ran his bike down the 150m finishing stretch to the applause and cheers of the crowd to take the 3rd spot on the podium.
It was a somewhat sombre finish to a tough day that saw some daring and bold moves by some of the best riders in Canada. Langlois, who is in the twilight of his career, finally made it happen. “Everybody wants this, and I’ve been chasing it for a long time,” he concluded. If he decides to retire this season, as some have speculated, this will certainly be a great way to end a lucrative career.