August 05, 2017 (Vallee Bras-du-Nord, Que.) – Today’s Stage 6 had riders up bright and early for a 90-minute bus ride to the stage start. This was the longest transfer of the race so the organizing team had prepared a snack for each rider to enjoy on the bus. There had been a lot of talk about this the trails of Vallee-Bras-du-Nord-Shannahan and the Quebec Singletrack Experience team had billed it as a single stage that could justify participation in the event.
Riders underway with neutral start © Bear Cieri
The venue for the start was on the lakeshore of Lac-Gouat surrounded by mountains and granite cliffs you could not help but have the feeling you were on the West Coast. I spoke to Tommy Paquet, one of the local trail builders and organizers of this stage. Tommy had spent some time riding with Greg Day of the Rocky Factory XC team in Squamish. “You are going to love the timed descent,” he said. “It’s going to remind you a lot of the trails in Squamish” This was music to my ears as I was hanging on to 2nd place in the M50-59 timed descent GC by 0.1s.
Riders © Philippe Ruel
The stage began with a neutral roll out for 1.5km before making a turn onto a loose technical double track climb. I’m sure the elite riders at the front of the field attacked the climb, however, the mid-pack and slower riders were in for a few hundred meters of hike-a-bike. The folk at QSE were kind enough to place a young man playing an accordion part way up the initial climb to entertain the riders as they passed. The timed descent was on a trail called Neilson Est and as per Tommy’s description, it delivered in true West Coast fashion.
Bridge… © Philippe Ruel
A steep downhill with perfect berms punctuated with granite roll-downs and a few rocky and rooty sections to keep you on your toes. This led us to the signature trails of this area along the Neilson River. The combination of natural granite slabs and bridge work was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The imagination and artistry that went into the making of this trail made it one of the most impressive trails I have ever ridden. This was followed up with the Aurore timed climb and even more thrilling single track descending. The fun continued all the way to the finish with rolling single track and a thrilling roller coaster like pump track at the finish that seemed to go on for kilometers.
Paul Craig..amazing © Bear Cieri
Today’s highlight was truly the trail system of Vallee Bras-du-Nord-Shannahan. As someone who has spent time volunteering on trail crews doing maintenance and trail building on Vancouver’s North Shore, you get to gain an appreciation for the effort that goes into building a world-class trail network. After the stage, I heard many riders talking about the spectacular river, waterfalls, and cliffs along the trail. I must say I missed it all. I was too busy admiring the work of the men and women that built the amazing piece of art that we had the privilege of riding today. To the trail builders of Vallee Bras-du-Nord-Shannahan and all the builders from every stage that shared their hard work and passion with us a sincere Merci Beaucoup.
Follow the leader © Philippe Ruel
There was a huge shake-up in the Men’s GC today with two of the top riders Greg Day and Aroussen Laflamme suffering mechanicals. Greg was unable to complete the stage and Aroussen lost significant time dropping him to 4th place. This cleared the way for Gino Ricci to take over the top step. On the Women’s side, Sarah Kaufmann has a commanding lead and shows no signs of letting up going into tomorrow’s final stage.
Group fun… © Bear Cieri
The final stage of the Quebec Singletrack Experience will be raced on the trails of Lac-Delage. Located minutes from the city they are developing a 100Km singletrack trail system for riders of all abilities. A relatively short stage of 18.7 Km with 729m of climbing however it could feel a little longer as there is rain in the forecast.
Fans along the way... © Bear Cieri