May 18, 2013 (Gatineau, QC) –In absolutely perfect conditions, the 122.16km Grand Prix Cycliste de Gatineau road race rolled out this morning with 74 riders on the start line. The early laps on the 10.18-kilometer circuit, were done at a moderate pace with a few futile solo riders trying to make a break for it.
Set for 12 laps with parts of the course in Gatineau Park, the action on the moderately challenging and technical loop, did not really heat up until about the half way point when Steph Roorda (Can) GSD gestion Kallisto Specialized p/b Mazda decided to attack and soon had a 19-second gap. This prompted Lex Albrecht (Team Canada) to jump as well and she quickly bridged to Roorda and the two worked together building up almost a minute lead.
A sizeable crash took out a number of riders out on Lap 7 at about the 70km mark as the peloton soldiered on now wary of the break and trying to reel it in lead by Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies and Tibco to the Top, who drove the front of the peloton for a full lap.
During a lull in the action former Canadian road champ, Veronique Fortin (Team Canada) decided to try and bridge to the leaders and work with her teammate Albrecht. As the gap was coming down Fortin joined the two escapees and the three forged ahead working well together for another two laps.
But the big teams were not going to let them go easily as Optum, Tibco and Colivita Fine Cooking kept the pace up and closed the gap down as riders were shed off the back and the pack was slowly whittled down to a final group of about 30 riders.
On penultimate lap the gap was down to only 9 seconds and the group came together for the final lap as Rooda, Albrecht and Fortin were caught and a sprint finish was now the most likely outcome but who still had horsepower remaining from the strongest teams and their top sprinters?
With many contenders still in the mix the final lap was a cat and mouse affair as riders eyed each other as the finishline approached. Optum’s Joelle Numainville the 2010 Gatineau winner, who was on the podium several times looked like things were setting up well for her again.
With 5km to go there was a massive acceleration as the big teams really started to drill the pace, and set up lead-outs for their designated sprinters. As the 180 round-about turn 300m from the finish approached – a turn that proved to be decisive last year, with a crash that took some favourites out – riders knew that getting through it in good shape, was key.
In the end it was a drag race down the final 200m to the line with American Shelly Olds (Tibco to The Top) taking the win over Numainville in second with world track champ Katazyna Pawlowska (GSD Geston Kallisto) from Poland in third, for a truly international podium.