A few weeks ago, four Ascent elite riders (Adam, Geoff, Matt, and Jeremy) went out to Quebec for the Grand Prix Charlevoix, a 3-day, 4-stage race with some of Quebec and Ontario’s strongest riders in attendance. After a year and a half of no head-to-head racing, the boys were keen to pin numbers on and test themselves against this quality field. Here, Jeremy gives us a bit of a recap for each stage.
Friday, August 6th
Stage 1: Criterium
Average Speed: 46.3km/h.
Number of Riders: 109
Recap: Each of us had a few different goals for this one. Matt and Adam were looking to mix it up and see if they could get into some moves. Geoff and I were just going to play it safe and get through the stage. I had some ambitions in future stages, and had no GC aspirations, so I didn’t really feel the need to press at all in the crit. Adam and Matt were buzzing around the front for a while, but this race never really broke apart as the speed was so consistently high-speed. Raphael Auclair from Pivot Cycling took the win, and Matt was our best finisher in 17th.
Saturday, August 7th
Stage 2: Time-Trial
Recap: None of us came with TT bikes, so we basically sand-bagged it. Matt, Geoff, and I made an agreement to ride 300w and see who would get the fastest time. Geoff cheated and did 337w, but I still got him by 5 seconds. Matt also cheated at 313w, but worked on his “riding on the tops' ' position so he came in about 1min slower. Adam was the real winner here, deciding to go after the Lanterne Rouge position, and he was almost successful (100th/106 starters).
Stage 3: Mass-Start Uphill Finish
Average Speed: 36.2km/h
Recap: This was the stage I had been eyeing all along, and felt really nervous heading into it. The parcours was 7km along the flat valley road, then a right turn onto a very steep climb (1km @10% with pitches up to to around 20%. For those familiar, similar to a Rattlesnake effort). After that, it was still 4km to the finish, with an average gradient of 4.5%. My plan going into it was to move my way up the group on the steep pitches, be at the front of the group as we got over the top, and then to do a long-range attack around 2km before the finish. Here’s what ended up happening: I took a caffeine pill for the first time in two years, and man are those things effective. Geoff led me into the bottom of the hill perfectly, dragged me halfway up the berg, and then flicked me through. I got to the front much faster than I thought, adrenaline got the best of me, and I attacked as hard as I could. I didn’t look back until I had crested the hill, but when I did, I was kind of hoping to see that I had dragged a few others along with me. Instead I looked back and saw nobody. Eventually, when I hit a longer, straighter section, I looked back and saw that I had about 30 seconds, but it was a really big chase group. This was also when it started to set in exactly how hard I had gone on the hill, as I was unable to do much more than 350w. The meters ticked by in slow-motion, and the group took forever to reel me in. Finally, inside 1km to go, Ethan Sittlington flew by, followed by the rest of the group with 400m to go. I stood to sprint but had nothing. I ended up 24th, gutted. Consolation prize was setting a new 5-min power best, and blasting through all my peak HR numbers. Pivot Cycling took another win on this stage. I really think I could have gotten this one had I played my cards better. There’s no video replay, but this link will give you a pretty good idea of what happened: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCdreJx2pM8&ab_channel=GlobalCyclingNetwork
Sunday, August 8th
Stage 4: Road race
Average Speed: 39.3km/h.
Recap: We knew this one was going to be really hard. The profile was just up and down all day, with a major climb at 100km. It was also really hot out, and the previous stages were adding fatigue. Adam and Matt wanted to get into the days’ break, and they did a damn good job at buzzing at the front for the first 40km. Unfortunately, nothing really stuck until after a pretty punchy climb at 55km which really tore the field apart. Matt and I made the front group, which basically stayed together until the foot of the big climb at 100km. A break of 5 had been up the road with some of the races’ strongest guys, but Pivot and Hustle had guys in our group with GC ambitions, so they were forced to chase, which was good for me. I got over the big climb relatively comfortably, and the group was now reduced to about 15. I got a bit overly confident at this point, and skipped the feed zone with 20km to go. Two guys attacked the group and I bridged to them with about 15km remaining. Only me and the Desjardins rider were taking consistent pulls, while the third sat on. At the time I didn’t care. I felt really good, they seemed fatigued, and a few kms later, the Desjardins kid said he wouldn’t sprint at the end if I would continue riding (if he could get to the finish before the group chasing us, he would win the GC). With 5km remaining, all the climbing was done, and it was all downhill to the finish. As we crested the final little hill, both my legs completely cramped up. I almost fell off my bike, had to double unclip, and stretch my hamstring. I watched the other two guys ride away. It then became a total death march to the line. I was moving slower than some of the grand fondo riders who were also on the course, pedalling when I could, but mostly, just coasting and hoping I could get to the line. I ended up losing a 2 minute lead over 4km to the chasing group, but fortunately held them off for 3rd place. It was disappointing to not make it to the line for the sprint, but holding onto third was a good consolation prize. Matt ended up 26th on the day, and Adam finished up with the main group.
All in all, it was a great weekend. We would have loved to do GMSR again this year, but with border restrictions and quarantine rules, we couldn’t swing it. The Charlevoix weekend kind of worked to scratch that stage race itch. Some of us will continue racing, others are focusing on some gravel and CX events this fall. Most of us will appear at a Midweek crit or two in the coming weeks. Dylan is over in Europe doing his thing. Carson is also preparing for the track, and is rounding into really good shape. It’s really exciting to see racing happening, and I look forward to a more normal 2022 with a full racing calendar.