June 24, 2016 (Ottawa, ON/Gatineau, QC) – The 2016 Global Relay p/b Lexus Canadian Road National Championships are arguably the biggest domestic event of the year for most riders where annual bragging rights can be earned.
The lists of Canadian talent seem to be growing with every season as development squads across the country are producing more talented riders each season creating even larger pools of potential stars.
Here’s a look at the male contenders for the coveted national jerseys up for grabs and the icing on the cake – a berth to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as the teams will be announced on June 29 during the Criterium races at the Road Nationals.
Almost all of the key men are here to contend the events with two notable exceptions. Mike Woods, racing for Cannondale Pro Cycling and an Ottawa native, is recovering from a broken hand, the result of a bad crash at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. And Ryder Hesjedal (Trek-Segafredo) removed his hat from the Olympic ring to make room for younger riders.
While Woods remains a strong contender for Rio and will not be racing at these championships, the majority of current pros racing on WorldTour, Pro-Continental, and Continental teams, will be on the start line.
Elder statesman, Svein Tuft of Orica-GreenEDGE, is on hand to try and reclaim the TT title and proudly wear the Maple Leaf once again at a grand tour. At the other end of the spectrum is 22-year old Benjamin Perry, the reigning U23 defending champ, who races with Silber Pro Racing with solid results this season including a recent podium on Stage 4 at the Tour de Beauce.
Straight off his career-best 2nd overall at the Tour de Beauce, AG2R’s Hugo Houle is back to defend his 2015 TT jersey that followed a string of successes last year including Pan Am TT gold. He also completed his first Grand Tour at this year’s Giro so he’s road savvy as well.
Antoine Duschesne (Direct Energie), was Canada’s top rider in Virginia at last year’s Road Worlds, and showed himself to be a multi-talented rider winning the overall KOM jersey at Paris-Nice earlier this year. His teammate, Ryan Anderson at 28, is coming into the prime of his career and is definitely a rider in the pack to watch.
Strong wild cards on the men’s side include Rob Britton (Rally Cycling) who showed his strength when he won the 2015 Tour of the Gila and followed up with 3rd on GC this year, 11th at Amgen Tour of California as the top Canuck, and 7th overall at Beauce.
Defending champ Guillaume Boivin (Cycling Academny) is out with a broken collarbone from a crash at Saguenay meaning a new champion will be crowned on Sunday. Meanwhile can Perry be unseated as the U23 champ…? Only time can tell.
Road to Rio
It will be interesting to see if Cycling Canada goes for a younger team or looks for a mix of experienced riders and new talent. Canada qualified for three road race spots but only one in the time trial.
Tuft has done well in time trials at every level of the sport from Grand Tours to Olympics. Yet his steady domestic duties at OGE may have dampened his hunger to win road races, still he’s a reliable workhorse for any designated rider. By contrast Houle is a contender for a spot in both disciplines with a strong 2016 to date on the heels of his ITT national and Pan Am success last year.
Woods is strong and keen on participating and is likely on the short list. The question will be how his form is after a period not racing and how his nerves hold up in the select few races he has to get back up into top form. If Houle gets the nod for the TT he’s capable on the road as well, and his role in the road race will depend on the selections for the two remaining spots as all of the candidates are capable riders but the Olympic road race distance at 256km is daunting.
Duchesne and Dal-Cin also look to have a chance base on results to date. These championships may not change the current selection mindset on paper unless someone scores a major upset. Leveraging the teamwork built up in the Cycle Sport Management talent pool that manifests itself on the Silber squad suggests the road team might be able to pull some tactics together. Anything is possible on any given day at championship events.
Come the afternoon on June 29 and of the Rio 2016 selecion mysteries will all be answered.