August 10, 2004 – At 260K, this is the epic race of the year. For a race that I thought would be a little light on the number of experienced riders participating this year’s event, it was superb. With a slight tailwind the peloton ran off the course at a good speed, always a good thing on such a long day. Before I knew it we had already been through Trois-Rivieres at the half-way point.
Overall I think Jet Fuel had a good race, even if things went a little haywire in the closing kilometres. One of the exciting things about this race is that you never know what the legs are going to do; this is the only race of this length around.
From the beginning there were four guys from the team: Thorben Wieditz, Matt Hansen, Stig Somme and Ryan Roth were designated to cover attacks and control the race. They did a superb job, with Ryan infiltrating the only attack that got any time on the peloton, other than the moves in the finale. In last year’s edition the winning move went on the run in to Trois-Rivieres but this year, with the pace staying high all the way along, the peloton stayed largely together. There was lots of attacking, but other than the move Ryan was in, none ever gained any serious time. This attacking and counter-attacking, a seeming never say die attitude on the part of the peloton, was what made this year’s race so great.
At Trois-Rivieres, I experienced some problems with my bike that had me worried for a while. In trying to fix them I slipped almost completely to the back of the race caravan just as the pace was heating up for the intermediate $500 prime. Needless to say David Butler, our manager, was a little agitated on the race radios on seeing Matt, who had stayed to give me a hand getting back to the pack, and I so far back in the race. With the problem fixed, Matt and I used the caravan to our advantage and had soon made our way back to the safety of the peloton.
From Trois-Rivieres the race was full on with attacks coming in waves with several moments where it looked like a serious break was about to stick. Eventually thirteen riders got away, and we had two guys in there: Thorben and Jeff Hansen. Dominique Perras (Ofoto) was the only real dangerman in the move so it seemed like a good situation for us – that was until the break started to come apart under the pressure to stay away.
As the break split apart Perras went up the road with Steve Rover (Opus), one of Canada’s few riders to have ridden pro in Europe in the 90s. Jeff ended up coming back to the peloton with some riders, leaving Jet Fuel with just one rider ahead. Stig then bridged the gap with Darko Ficko, making it two for us again in the attack. The only problem was that Perras and Rover were taking time out of everyone.
I decided that it was time for the team to chase and bring everything back together. We could not afford to leave Perras and Rover in front gaining more time. Ryan, Matt and Buck put themselves to work setting tempo and slowly we brought back the chase that had Thorben and Stig in it. On catching them Thorben and Stig got into the rotation as well and we were soon bringing the gap down to Perras.
The neat thing about the race being run from Montreal to Quebec, instead of from Quebec to Montreal as it was in the past, is that the finish is much tougher. In the last forty kilometres there are several highway type rollers on the course, and in the last five kilometres there is a short, steep 15% climb followed by a long false flat. These may not me huge obstacles in a normal race but with 200km already in the legs they become significant.
It was on one of these first highway rollers, as we were chasing, that the race truly came to life. Darko launched an attack, in his little rung he says if you can believe it, which tore the field apart. Cresting the small climb the pack was stretched into one long line and attack after attack was being launched. The race was full on and super exciting to be a part of.
Unfortunately, this was where my day came to an end. I had been wondering, as this flurry of attacks was taking place, why it had been so hard on my legs. My back tire had become spongy, I had a slow leak. The team car with our wheels was nowhere to be seen, as they were caught behind the shattered remains of the peloton. I would have to get a wheel from neutral support. The neutral vehicle came up behind us but kept stopping twenty meters or so behind me, I wanted them right next to me. Finally, we got our stopping coordinated and the mechanic hopped out of the neutral support van. But he had no wheels in his hands. Running around to the back of the van he struggled to pull a wheel off one of the spare bikes that they had on a trunk rack. Watching this I knew that my day was done; there would be no getting back to the front after a wheel change this long. I chased for a while with Thorben and Ryan but with no success and I soon gave up and just rolled in.
Buck managed eight place in what sounded like a hard fought finish. Perras was the eventual winner, crossing the line solo. The team will be back next year for sure, as this race is always exciting and full of surprises, and can hopefully pull off a resounding win!