words by Matteo Dal-Cin
On the first day of the Tour de Beauce I was asked by an interviewer about my hopes for the race this year. I laughed, then joked that it wouldn’t take much after my performance last year where I completely froze and ended up walking up part of Megantic.
It turned out this year was going to be different… and then not so different… and then my luck would change again. This time on Megantic, I found myself crashing 3km from the base of the climb. I was feeling better, and can say this year absolutely would have been different. Unfortunately, that’s bike racing. First you’re flying, and the next thing you know you’re going down hard on the pavement and all your dreams are shattered.
Regardless, I was okay to go on, bandages and all. I didn’t know what to expect. Before smacking the pavement I started to have high expectations. Now I had to play in the moment by moment.
The next morning was the TT. This is actually a great way to see how you feel, especially after a crash. It also lets you keep your confidence, since you won’t have to do any pack negotiations, or big efforts, where you’re seeing cross-eyed. Plus, since I lost 15 minutes the day before, there was no pressure. All I had to do was make time-cut. So I rode. And I rode pretty well. I was happy with the effort and knew all that was left was surviving 20-laps of the 40-lap criterium the next day. The rule with the criterium at Beauce was that you had to make it until halfway in order to be recorded as “finishing”, which allows you to begin the next day. If I could just do that safely, then I could make it to the races I was really excited for — the two challenging circuits in Quebec City and Saint-Georges.
In the criterium I started at the front — but after three laps I could feel I was a bit more nervous than usual. I covered a move that had just slipped away with Guillaum Boivin and Jack Bobridge. I bridged up to the gap on the little climb on the course and we floated about 10-20seconds ahead of the pack. At this moment I thought, “If we could just keep doing this until we hit the 20-lap minimum, I’d be safe and able to eventually rest and start the following day.”
But then a couple laps later Angus Morton from Jelly Belly bridged up to our group and we pulled out a bit more of a leash on the pack. I got word from Gord on the sidelines that it looked like Hincapie was going to let this break stick. All I could think was “uh oh what have a got myself into”. I switched my mindset from make it halfway to we may be out here for quite a bit longer than I anticipated. Then hindsight struck. My game plan was only to race half the race. I didn’t have enough water, or food.
Our break worked really well together with no one trying to shirk their share of the work. We sustained our gap of around 35 seconds for most of the remainder of the race. In the closing laps Gord called to me to think about how I would play the finish. And to be honest I was a little lost for ideas. I didn’t plan on finishing. Guillaum is a super fast sprinter and Canadian so I knew he would be next to impossible to beat in the sprint for me and I hadn’t raced Bobridge or Morton before but knew both were very good riders so I was a little stumped as to how I could come out ahead in this scenario.
We worked perfectly until the last lap when I dropped to the back to try what I saw as the only play for a non sprinter in a break of fast guys. I backed off the group going into the climb so I could hit it with speed and really sling shot up it. I got some separation but about a quarter way down the back straight everyone was back and it was certain we would be sprinting for the stage. I got on Guillaum’s wheel and followed it the best I could to a 3rd place on the day.
Not bad, since my plan was to just survive. I was pretty happy and to top it off, my parents had come down to see the last three days of racing so they saw it all unfold.