Race reports: Podium sweep and O-Cup win for Stevens women

This past weekend was a momentous one for our young squad.  The team took home two wins in two provinces.  Catherine Dessureault led home a 1-2-3 podium sweep for the girls at the venerable GP Brossard Criterium while at the far end of the province next door Annie Forman-Mackey flew solo to take home her first ever win at the Ontario Cup.

Helene Pilote-Fortin, Audrey Bernard, Catherine Dessureault, Ariane Provost and Evelyne Gagnon. Photo by Bernie Bernard.
Hélène Pilote-Fortin, Audrey Bernard, Catherine Dessureault, Ariane Provost and Evelyne Gagnon. Photo by Bernie Bernard.

Grand Prix Cycliste de Brossard
Brossard, QC, Sunday, May 5
By Catherine Dessureault

On the Sunday morning, the girls all showed up in Brossard and we got ready to warm up and have our team meeting for the race. I was super pumped and feeling really good. That was probably due to the fact that we had a lot of teammates there, and I had still in mind that I did a fairly good time trial in Ottawa a few days before.

As we were warming up all together, we were chatting together to see who had the legs to win this race and surprisingly, everybody was feeling good and ready to race hard, so anybody could win this. The tactic then was quite simple!  Plus we were the only team with more than three members so we had to take control of the race. Everybody agreed with this plan.

So we lined up at the start line, all ready to rip others legs off. Our sprinter Audrey Bernard was feeling very good as she now had fully recovered from her 14-hour drive the weekend before and she was ready to prove the field she is one of the best. My other teammates were all very excited and as they blew the whistle, Evelyne Gagnon, our Quebec criterium champion, went from the gun. She stayed away on her own for about three laps and, as we were going to catch her back, I attacked and got away. After two laps of a solo effort, I had a 22-second lead on the field. As I know I can maintain a good effort, my decision was to stay off of the front as long as I could, in the hope that I could stay out at least for the first intermediate sprint. After 30 minutes, the field was closing up on me, but it was OK, I got the prime.

The girls didn’t hesitate and Audrey Bernard, Adriane Provost, Evelyne Gagnon and Hélène Pilote-Fortin were totally controlling the peloton, attacking constantly and covering every other move. Evelyne Gagnon even won the second intermediate sprint.

We were now gruppo compacto, and the race was coming to its end soon. I knew that Audrey was feeling good and that she could win if the race came down to a bunch sprint finish and we had three other teammates to lead her out. As we crossed the line with three laps to go, I noticed the speed had slowed down a bit and even with my early race effort, I was still feeling like gold. Knowing that there were other options for the team, I attacked the field again. Once again I was solo. In the first lap, I took out an eight-second advantage and after the second lap I was at 20 seconds. I crossed the line alone for my first win of the season very happy with myself!

When I looked behind, I saw the girls coming for the sprint. Evelyne Gagnon was leading it out for Audrey to take second place and Adriane Provost followed closely in third.

We swept the podium!

What an incredible feeling to know that you can count on your teammates and get the job done.

I’m proud to say that with the hard work of all of the girls, our teammate Audrey Bernard is now the leader for the Tour de la Montérégie. I can assure you that we will work really hard to make sure she sticks there!

HUGE congrats to the girls for their help and hard work. It’s awesome to have such a good cohesion as a team after only 3-4 races this season together. I’m really stoked and looking forward for the rest of the season as it will only get better.

Next step is now the Granby TT, so pumped!

Annie Foreman-Mackey
Annie Foreman-Mackey

Springbank Ontario Cup
London, ON, Sunday, May 5
— By Annie Forman-Mackey

This past weekend was my first time at the Springbank O-Cup. With a small field, my goals going into the race were simple: try things out, namely bridging, attacking, and timing of my final sprint. Eighteen laps of a 2.2-km twisty loop around Springbank Park in London, I had heard that this was a “sprinter’s course”. Luckily, this year proved to be different!

On the third lap, Stephanie Skoreyko (Infinit Canada/Cyclepower) attacked followed by Stephanie Bester (Coachchris.ca/Ted Velikonja). The two sped quite easily away from the field. Realizing that this may be a deciding move, I exercised some patience before attacking on a slight uphill on the back stretch and was able to bridge to Steph S. (Steph B. had fallen off the pace). Steph S. and I often ride together in Hamilton, so the two of us were able to communicate well with each other and worked equally for the next 14 laps.

With random splits being shouted out by a random spectator (thank you), we kept the pace high (we really wanted to lap the field! haha). With one lap to go and again on the slight incline on the back stretch, Steph attacked but I was able to respond each time. I was in good position on Steph’s wheel coming around the final turns and was able to sprint away with 200m to go!

It’s my first win and even better news was hearing of the Stevens Women’s 1-2-3 at Brossard! Incroyables 🙂 Can’t wait for more great racing this summer!

Perhaps most exciting it that the girls aren’t just kicking-ass and taking names, they are doing it as a team – working together to maximize the results and all sharing in the success.  Teamwork like this was the whole point of the winter weekend camps and it is awesome to see it come to fruition.

Annie currently sits 2nd on the Ontario Cup with some hard road races coming up to help her move up, while Bernie is leading the Tour de la Montérégie.  A gaggle of other Stevens riders are right behind her in the standings and doubtless to move up after the Granby TT (some of these girls love their time trialing).

The next chunk of the season will challenge the riders — they have some tough racing coming up at UCI events in Gatineau, Philadelphia and at Nationals.  Development is a balancing game; between learning how to win races and doing races that push riders to their physical limit. Gatineau and Philly will certainly be the latter! But the girls will be going into these challenging events with high confidence and looking to stretch their abilities against some of the world’s best!