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Tour de PEI – Preview

June 7, 2008 (Summerside, PEI) – After a hard week of racing at the Tour du Grand Montreal and a long transfer by bus Friday; athletes welcomed the chance to take in a leisurely spin around the community of Summerside on Satuday. This week, 87 of the world’s best female cyclists have convened on Prince Edward Island for the second annual Tour de PEI from June 8-12.

Racing gets underway Sunday with a 100km circuit race around Summerside. Monday brings a 15km time trial across the famed Confederation Bridge that links PEI to New Brunswick. Stage 3 is a 120km affair from Kensington to North Rustico in which the peloton will take in, to quote one of the organizers, “just about every hill we have in this province”. Stage 4 is another 120 km road race, this time starting in beautiful Dalvay by the Sea and ending in Stratford. Stage 5 is the final criterium in downtown Charlottletown.

Last year’s inaugural event drew heaps of praise from both the athletes and the community and as such, was awarded the Canadian Cycling Association Road Event of the year. It was therefore, no surprise that many of the teams who came last year, are here again for a second time.

Two notable teams returning after great races last year are Menikini-Selle Italia Masters Color and Seleccion Nacional de CUBA. Menikini-Selle Italia Masters Color took the overall team win last year on the strength of Olivia Gollan’s second place in the GC. This year they bring a squad boasting Commonwealth Games gold medal winner Natalie Bates and renowned sprinter Rochelle Gilmore. Gilmore podiumed several times last year on the strength of her finishing sprint – watch for her to display her speed in first stage through Summerside and again at the Crit in Charlottetown. Seleccion Nacional de CUBA is back again this year and brings the Cuban National Road Race champion Yoanka Gonzalez and the Cuban National Time Trial champion Dalila Rodriguez. Both riders will no doubt turn in fine performances throughout the week.

The Tour de PEI also boasts a selection of top squads from Switzerland, France, China, Ukraine, Austria and the USA who will be eyeing both stage wins and high GC placings. Canada is back again in a big way this year with no less then six squads competing.

Specialized Carrefour Multisport Mazda GSD (Canada) is returns and counts Espoir standouts Audrey Lemieux and Karol-Ann Canuel amongst their riders. Look for these two to be active throughout the week. Équipe Cascades (Canada) has returned again this year and Joanie Caron and Raphaelle Chretien will be looking to impress.

AtlanticCyclingCentre.com scored a sixth place in the GC last year after a strong time trial performance by Moriah Jo MacGregor. She’ll have westerners Alison Testroete and Jenny Trew to help her out and perhaps sneak a little glory themselves if it comes down to a sprint. The Ontario Provincial Cycling Team earned themselves a selection and will be looking to score as well. They can count on team leader and National criterium champ Merrill Collins for great results. A lot of riders from outside the Ontario and Quebec do not know Collins, but they will by the end of the week. Look for strong showings by Collins at the stage 2 time trial across Confederation Bridge and at the crit in Charlottetown.

It seems fitting that two teams from Ottawa round out the Canadian entries with EMD Serono Stevens and Ultralink making the trip from Canada’s capital city out to the birthplace of confederation. Julia Bradley rode at the inaugural Tour de PEI and she’ll be looking for a good result for EMD Serono Stevens. Fresh off a top-10 placing in the GC at the Joe Martin Stage Race, junior phenom and Ultralink rider Denise Ramsden is in PEI and excited about her prospects. Ramsden commented that she was “excited to race in PEI as everyone has told me what a great event it is and how nice everyone treats the cyclists when they’re here. I’m hoping I can put in a good ride and dial in my form before nationals.”

The Tour de PEI. once again will feature dramatic racing set against a backdrop of stunning scenery that only Prince Edward Island can provide.

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