Race Report: Stevens women make strides on international stage

Catherine Dessureault leads the peloton during the Grand Prix Cycliste de Gatineau. Photo by Bernie Bernard.
Catherine Dessureault leads the peloton during the Grand Prix Cycliste de Gatineau. Photo by Bernie Bernard.

For the Stevens Racing presented by the Cyclery Women’s team this weekend was a big, big home game.

The Grand Prix Cycliste de Gatineau road race and the Chrono Gatineau time trial are the only UCI-sanctioned events on the road for women in Canada, and two of just three international ranking points-scoring opportunities this year in North America.

When we planned out the season the first part of the year was focused on having the team gel as a unit and learning how to win as a team at regional races.  By and large the girls accomplished this mixing it up for the win in just about every race they have done this year, save perhaps Battenkill.

Phase two began this weekend, and will continue at Philly, nationals and BC Superweek — all races that will stretch the girls abilities and fitness, and introduce them to the a higher tier of racing than they get at home.

Thankfully the Gatineau weekend affords the riders the exposure to international racing in a relatively low-stress environment at home, and with all of the resources that the Cyclery provides for our team: mechanics, tents, and materials.  I am happy to report that this year the girls made the most of it, seizing the opportunity and jumping in with both feet.

Grand Prix Cycliste de Gatineau
Saturday, May 18

The girls all lined up at the front ready for a long, hard 122 km on the open and fast road course, which is punctuated by a few short climbs at the base of the Gatineau Park.  Evelyne Gagnon animated the day from the gun, launching a solo attack that saw her quickly gain a 20 second advantage.  Unfortunately for Gagnon no one else was able, or daring enough to come across to her and she was left to soldier on off the front solo coming through the crowds at the start finish with an 18 second advantage. After just under two laps off the front Evie was reabsorbed into the field.

At nearly the half-way point a large crash took out Audrey Bernard.  Unfortunately a bent derailleur hanger meant that Audrey was unable to continue — a frustrating turn of events for our young field sprinter.  Happily though, while Bernard was banged up and sore, she was largely OK and should be back in action for next weekend’s Canada Games qualifier.

The second half of the race saw the pace heat up as track world cup winner Stephanie Roorda (GSD-Kallisto-Specialized) pushed the pace and was ultimately joined by Lex Albrecht and former national champion Veronique Fortin (both Canadian National Team).  In this period Evie began to pay the price for her earlier aggression as she lost contact with the field but was able to fight back on through the caravan.  Amazingly Evie did this not just once, but on three consecutive laps — a tenacious performance by any standard.  Hélène Pilote-Fortin, riding in her first UCI event, also lost contact at one point but was able the adeptly use the caravan to make contact with the field, and then used a lull to get back to the front of the field for the next two laps.  It is worth noting that these two riders were some of the only athletes in the field that were able to make use of the caravan to get back on — a skill that will serve them well down the road in their international careers.

At the end of the day both Catherine Dessureault and Adriane Provost had great rides to finish with the main field, Dessureault in particular riding near the front for much of the day.  Both riders had competed in the event last year and failed to finish, so the day was just another positive step forwards in their developments. (Click here for full results)

Chrono Gatineau
Sunday, May 20

After a day off, the racing resumed with an 18-km individual time trial. Stevens Racing p/b The Cyclery was represented by Catherine, Adriane and Annie Foreman-Mackey in this event.

Both Catherine and Adriane had ridden this event the year before and were looking to improve on their performances, while for Annie this would be one of the only time trials she has done, in a sophomore road season full of firsts.

The weather held out and it was a great sunny and warm day for bike racing.  This event had been a focus for Catherine who had been working hard at dialing the fit on her Stevens Chrono bike, and she converted on the day, finishing a strong 13th — just one place out of the UCI points and the only amateur rider on the first page of the results.

Both Adri and Annie also had great rides in their own right to finish in 22nd and 23rd spots.  Provost posted a time more than forty seconds quicker than she had gone the year before. (Click here for full results)

Wrap Up

At the end of the day it was a great weekend — barring the misfortune of Bernie’s crash, everyone rode the hardest they could, and everyone learned something that they will take with them into the rest of the season.

Perhaps the most rewarding moment for the management was when other directors come up to us in the manager meeting for the time trial to tell us how impressed they were with how the team had ridden in the road race, and how gritty they had been to battle back to the field through the caravan.

Next week will see the U23 Quebec girls race in the Canada Games selection stage race in St Raymond, while Annie and Cath will take the start in the eQuinelle Grand Prix.  eQuinelle will also see the return of Carrie Cartmill who has gotten the green light to return to racing after fracturing her pelvis earlier this year.