1 July 2007

Tour of Montreal #1

With the stress of all the travelling to an from the airport, a complete quiver of bikes and parts, and with the World Cup race out of the way, a day off and, it was time to concentrate on the Tour of Montreal. All of the local US and Canadian teams that were at the World Cup race, and a few of the trade teams stuck around, (seems they were contracted to race this and the PEI tour as well if they wanted to race the World Cup) so should be some decent racing, at least. I hadn’t really had a chance to look through the race book at all, so I spent a night getting an idea of the racing we might be up against, the courses, transport times etc. From the look of the race book, it was looking like a pretty boring race, three criterium style races, a small TT, and a kind of hilly stage. Not the sort of stages we are used to, in the sense of a tour, but there seems to be a great deal more traffic to deal with, so closed circuits were needed by the sound of the race planners, and we were just happy to race. It seems to be a race that favoured the sprinter stye teams, not the sort of race that generally goes our way, but we were here to give it a crack, not to look at the scenery (we can do that while we race, anyway). The stages were all starting at the end of the day, unfortunately, makes for a very boring day, lots of sitting around waiting, and lots of things that you can find wrong on the bikes (generally breaking things as you check the bikes for the third time that day). A late stage start makes for a late finish, and that means extra hard work for the staff, and unsettled riders late in the evening, trying to sleep.

Our makeshift numbers for the tour.

First stage was in a small town, actually a very small town called Ch√Ęteauguay, and what a mess for the first race. I don’t think that a bike rider designed this course, as there was a few too many 90 degree turns and far too many obstacles in the lap to make it interesting or safe. From what I could count from the car, on the first lap there was 33 right angle turns, 6 long sweeping turns, and a couple of nasty ones, covered in potholes. With 11 laps, about 400 bad corners, 150ish starters, and with the race finishing in the dark, with rain looming in the distance, it was going to be interesting to say the least. The laps seemed to go on forever, with the small streets covered in parked cars, spectators, many potholes, big changes in the road surface seemed to make you concentrate even more than normal. Then we had the fortunate luck to get some rain, then things started to get interesting, crash after crash started happening. The girls must have all been near the front, and most of the action was in the last 10% of the peloton, with some of the not so experienced riders coming to grief. The stage finished as it started, with a bunch sprint into the looming darkness. We were lucky there was not more carnage, it could have been a recipe for many a disaster story. Even on the finish lap, it still looked very different, confusing most of those on the bikes, let alone in the car as to where the finish was (we are supposed to know those type of things).

Our makeshift numbers for the tour.

Stage two looked a bit like the day before, in an even smaller town of Granby, about an hour or so out of town (in the middle of nowhere). This again was a late start at 7.30 pm or something like that, but the bonus was there was only six corners per lap this time, 11 laps in total, so would not be so demanding on the senses or the blood pressure of the director/mechanic. Racing started on time, but the rain seemed to know we were on the bikes again, so it sent in the thunder and lightening just to see if we were awake. Not too soon after the first couple of laps, things started to get really dark, but at least with the lightening strikes you could get a bit of a look around the peloton. Then the thunder started to get really loud, the pack started slowing down a little, riders were getting raincoats from the cars, and then it came. Not just a little bit of rain, but a whole lot came down, things got real nasty, riders were everywhere. Punctures were happening, a crash or two, riders were scattered left right and centre, coming in from all directions. The rain kept on coming, thick heavy drops to the point of flooding in every corner, some of it under 250mm of water. What was a dangerous situation, with just the dark skies, got real bad with the field splitting into many parts, communication became very important, as you could almost not see anything in the caravan, with wipers and headlights on full blast didn’t help much at all. About the time that I thought they might be stopping, or shortening the stage, the rain just seemed to stop. An hour or so at full power, and then the clouds just seemed to be empty.

Hey it's Meshy Holt, a Kiwi icon in cycling.

Gang pose, to scare the opposition.

The eye of the storm had passed, and half an hour later, we had clear blue skies above us. It didn’t take too long for the water to drop past the level of the road, and just in time, from the looks on most of the mechanics faces. We had all been out of the cars a few times, with crashes and punctures, most of them out of the way now. The race continued, and finished with another bunch sprint. We were all out of danger, with only one flat, and no one in any crashes, I could stop sweating now. Halfway through the rain, I had Iris pulled the pin on the tour, seems she has not really recovered after the Tour de l’Aude, all the travel seems to have caught up with her. She was the reserve for this trip, so we are lucky to have her ride this long really. Another late night finish, and not wanting to wait around for the dinner which was about to be served at around 10.30pm, we grabbed some pizza’s and hit the road. A double stage for the next day, with stages at either end of the day, starting with a 3.5km individual TT first thing in the morning, and a criterium (1km laps for a change) of 50km in the evening. Cleaning all night in the rain, an early start, checking and oiling the bikes, off to the start about 8am, another great start to the day racing. One day soon, the organizers might have a little think about the riders and the staff’s recovery in stage races, we are not superhuman (although sometimes close).

Some of the loverly countryside, just before the rain started.

Here is a photo album some more of the Montreal stuff.

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