Yesterday our nation’s capital hosted the 2016 Global Relay Canadian Road Championships. The team executed well and had two riders in the winning move of four. As Matteo Dal-Cin powered into the final corner 300m from the line, his front wheel slid out and he crashed, taking down both Will Routley (Rally) and teammate Ben Perry. The fourth rider in the break, Bruno Langlois (Garneau), would go on to win a well-deserved title. There’s a video of the crash circulating in the Twittersphere if you’re curious.
Yes, Ben would get up and ride across the line for second. A great achievement and most of the 140+ riders in the peloton would be thrilled with a podium finish at Nats. And yes, Matteo too would get up eventually, finish 10th and head to the hospital. All x-rays were negative. Great, but let’s not downplay the disappointment and take stock of the implications.
Ben won the U23 title for a third time, but he and Matteo were racing for the overall–the Elite men’s title. That crash hurt more than just their bodies. Having a national title on your palmares is a serious asset, as is the visibility of being a young rider wearing the national champ jersey at every road race for a year. Matteo and Ben know this. They train hard and got themselves in a position to win. The team provided resources to give them as much support as possible. All our riders, staff and management are proud to be Canadian and value being an all-Canadian team. We want that jersey on the squad. Let’s be clear: we are a development team and it is our job to help riders get to the next level. We know the multi-layered value of that jersey for the athlete and for the team. This hurts.
So what can we take away from this? Beyond the results, race reports, video of the crash, here are 3 things I noticed that happened in the aftermath of the crash and note, I was in the race car so Gord, Doug and I were at the scene within seconds.
- Ben Perry is extremely intelligent and a strategic thinker. When he got up from the crash, I saw him pick up his bike and quickly scan the situation. He MUST have had an impulse to get on his bike and ensure he finished second. I saw him hesitate, and then turn away from his bike out of concern for Matteo. He prioritized his teammate in what was a conflicted, high-stakes situation. And remember, Ben was devastated as everything was in place for him to win. It was only after I yelled at him to finish the race, that Ben left the area. Canada, your 3-time U23 Canadian champ is a ferocious talent and a class act. I think it’s obvious from the pic below that his family has something to do with Ben’s character!
- Matteo Dal-Cin was in tremendous pain from a hard crash, and at one moment had salt in his eyes. Perhaps it was the amazingly quick medical attention he received onsite, but I was struck by how calm and polite he remained throughout, even as the disappointment was sinking in. This continued at the hospital later. Don’t get me wrong: Matteo is ambitious and won’t get pushed around in the peloton, but he’s genuine and does the work required to gain the respect from teammates and other riders. And he notices the work of others both on and off the bike. Like Ben, Matteo is aware of the big picture and is not a narrow-minded athlete. He’s a great ambassador for the team, the sport and the country. He too comes from a great family. And fyi, we called Matteo’s dad from the car to ask him to hunt down ice… it arrived in the feed zone before the lap next lap was done!
- Nicolas Masbourian’s ride was noticed by all his teammates, but it might have slipped off the radar due to the crash. Nicolas finished 3rd amongst the U23, was 7th overall, and after a great ride in Saguenay, he must be considered one of the top U23 riders in the country. After the race, he wasn’t in a position to celebrate, considering what had happened to his teammates. And he didn’t. Ben of course hugged and congratulated him; and Matteo sung his praises while at the hospital. But here’s the third thing I noticed after the crash. Once the podium ceremony was over, “Masbou” was following the other riders off the staging area then took a few steps out of his way to quietly make eye contact and give the flowers to his mom, before darting back into the line of people leaving the area.
We may not have the privilege of wearing the Canadian Road champ’s jersey for another year, but we have great guys and a great team culture. Riders, staff, supporters and family are all disappointed today, but there’s a lot to be thankful for. Cycling is a great sport. It’s ups and downs come with the terrain. It’s who you share them with that makes all the difference.