June 29, 2014 (Lac Megantic, QC) – Few would dare such a move and even fewer would succeed, but Svein Tuft from Langley, B.C. (Orica-GreenEdge), solidified himself as the top Canadian male rider with a gutsy move going solo for about 120km to claim the Elite men’s national road title on Saturday, in Lac-Megantic.
The tough and hilly 179km course in warm conditions (30 degrees) featured a strong field of 129 riders with no less than five former national road champs, as Benjamin Perry (ON) NCCH p/b DEC Express finished eighth overall to secure the U23 Men’s title.
A moment of silence before the start of the race in downtown Lac Mégantic, host of the 2014 Global Relay Canadian Road Cycling Championships, honoured the community that suffered a train derailment almost a year ago which ravaged the downtown core.
Following a neutral start the attacks came early on the flat 20km out-and-back section before the real test would come with 9 x 15km up Mount Morne featuring an 11% grade before heading back to town for the finish. Things were already strung out when they hit the first climb as the pros and top teams including Optum, SmartStop, Silber Procycling, Garneau-Quebecor, 5 Hour Energy p/b Kenda kept the pace high.
The first strategic selection of 20+ riders with all of the heavy hitters began to form. All five former champs were in there including defending champ SmartStop’s Zach Bell (2013), Silber’s Ryan Roth (2012), Orica’s Svein Tuft (2011), Optum’s Will Routley (2010) and Christian Meier (2008) also with Orica-GreenEdge.
Tuft tested his legs and others early on as Bruno Langlois (QC) 5hr and Perry bridged to the strong break-away group. By the third time up Morne Tuft decided it was time to go and soon had 40s on the break, a gap which he eventually stretched out to a maximum of 3:05.
“I was definitely questioning myself going that early. The thing is Christian and I were in the group, but that group was all the strongest guys in the race,” said Tuft. “We couldn’t ride together and let it be decided in the last few climbs. We had to keep attacking, to shake up the race. If you come down with the strongest guys in the race, you wouldn’t have your work done yet.”
The attrition had started further back as many riders were dropped while the lead group of chasers scrambled and was also feeling the strain of Tuft’s assault. Routley, Bell, Langlois, Pierrick Naud (QC) Garneau-Quebecor, Ryan Anderson (AB) Optum, Kristofer Dahl (AB) Team SmartStop and others were not able to keep pace as a small group of chasers was left to deal with Tuft’s brutal attack.
Later we would learn that of the 129 starters only 39 finished with 89 DNFs.
The task of taking on Tuft came down to a group of seven riders including Roth, Michael Woods (ON) 5 HOUR Energy, Guillaume Boivin (QC) Cannondale Pro Cycling, Antoine Duchesne (QC) Team Europcar, Hugo Houle (QC) AG2R La Mondiale and Perry while Meier sat on getting a free ride with his teammate up ahead.
Tuft had just won the TT title, his 9th, only days before and had earned his first road race title back in 2011 while racing for SpiderTech under Steve Bauer who commented, “Good for Svein… the best way to win is to force other riders to catch you.”
With two laps to go up Morne, Woods attacked leading the charge as only Meier could respond while Roth dangled behind as the others formed a second chase group behind. Roth was able to bridge and it would be these three who would decide the final spots on the podium.
The gap between Tuft and the three-man chase slowly melted in the final 20km stretch as Roth and Meier dropped Woods. But Meier was wary of not getting too close to his teammate and Tuft soloed across the finish line with a time of 4:27:51.
“Coming down the stretch, I was hurting for sure,” continued Tuft. “Eventually, you have a whole bunch of guys chasing, you’re going to hit the wall. With the heat, the wind… It all takes its toll. I was suffering. I knew my limit and stayed as close as I could to come home as strong as I could, which wasn’t very strong at all.”
Roth took second a full minute behind Tuft, edging out Meier in the final sprint to the line with Woods fourth at 18s and Boivin, Duchesne, Houle and Perry coming in at 4:11. Perry claimed the U23 jersey for his efforts while Dahl of Smartstop was second and Jay Lamoureux (QC) NCCH-DEC Express took the final spot on the U23 Men’s podium.
Comparing this title to his 2011 victory Tuft added, “This one I am more proud of the road title. In 2011, we had some good odds with SpiderTech. We had numbers, and we could take control of the race.
“Today, with two guys, we had to ride the perfect race. Right from the beginning, Christian and I were always in the moves, and making sure that we wouldn’t be racing from behind. I’d have to say I am proud of this one.”