Esprit Worlds Qualifier in Montreal Highlights Final Weekend of Canadian Duathlon Calendar

Everyone’s favourite Formula One drag rac—I mean duathlon went down this past weekend in Montreal. For the weekend, multisport athletes took over the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve on Île Notre Dame in the St. Lawrence River. This year’s festivities essentially included a full afternoon of duathlon races, as following Saturday morning’s Demi-Esprit were the standard distance duathlon, a non-drafting sprint distance race and a draft legal sprint distance race. We’ll focus on the qualifier races (the standard and the draft legal sprint) here. Special thanks to Zoom Photo and Laurence St-Cyr for the photos!

This race is a fun one to compete in, simply because of the venue. The highlight is the bike course, where you complete 4 (sprint) or 9 (standard) laps of the fastest pavement in North America. Sandwiched on either side is a deceptively tough run, starting off with a long 2km stretch of gravel and finishing with the longest straightaway you will even run in a duathlon, over a mile of running towards a red speck in the distance that is the finishing arch. Complicating matters this year was a strong wind gusting from the west, making the outward portions of the run and the bike a tad more difficult that originally thought.

Cameron Mitchell Esprit
Cameron Mitchell killing the bike
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This one was interesting. Francois Marceau (last year’s sprint distance winner) was in the field, and he paced the first run 10km run. However, he had rookie Cameron Mitchell of Ontario for company as the two of them led the way into T1. However, there was a strong group coming from behind led by Mathieu Paquet and also including Scott Johnson and Serge LaForge.

Marceau would take the lead on the bike with the 3rd-fastest bike split as the race shuffled, and the order entering T2 would be Marceau, Johnson (who moved up big on the bike), Paquet, Mitchell, LaForge. It has been a long road back for Marceau, however, and he faded to 8th on the second 5km run as Johnson took charge of the race and held off a late charge from Mitchell to take a 10 second win. LaForge ran through Paquet to grab the final podium spot.

  1. Scott Johnson – 2:00:43
  2. Cameron Mitchell – 2:00:53
  3. Serge LaForge – 2:01:50

Scott Johnson Esprit
Esprit Champion Scott Johnson
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This race was a bit more of a runaway than the men’s race. Defending champion and top 10 finisher (overall) at Worlds, Lynda Gingras, took the race by the scruff of the neck on the first run (40:40) and didn’t really look back. Her run splits were tops in the race and her bike split was second only to eventual runner-up Angela Goran, who took back time on the bike but not nearly enough to overhaul Gingras. Her 2:10:14 is unofficially the best women’s performance in Canada this year, in a year of many excellent ones.

Lynda Gingras Esprit Bike
Lynda Gingras exntending her lead on the bike
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Behind Lynda the race stayed pretty much status quo most of the way, as Goran and eventual 3rd place finisher Josiane Daigneault were the first 3 into T1, T2 and across the line. Edith Bessette made a late bid for the podium, but came up just a touch short and ended up 35 seconds back in 4th.

  1. Lynda Gingras – 2:10:14
  2. Angela Goran – 2:15:11
  3. Josiane Daigneault – 2:23:30

Lynda Gingras Esprit
Nice win Lynda!
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Just 6 days after 70 athletes raced a draft legal showdown at the National Championships, Canada’s eastern athletes descended on Esprit to claim their qualifying spots for the draft legal sprint Worlds in Penticton next year. Runner-up in Edmonton Jesse Bauer defaulted into the lead into a steady headwind on the first run, and slowly opened up a small gap (22 seconds) into T1 on a group of pursuers led by Alexandre Badeau and Mathieu Despatie. The group quickly became those two who set off after the sole leader.

Draft Legal Race Start
And they are off for some draft legal action!
Photo: Laurence St-Cyr

Badeau and Despatie slowly closed that gap over the 4 laps and slightly more than 18km of bike course, working well together to make the catch at the very end of the very last headwind section of the bike before initiating a series of attacks designed to dislodge the apparently stronger runner from the group. Bauer held tough, moved past Despatie before the mount line and moved into the lead on the way out of T2. From there it was more of a formality at the end of a long Coupe du Quebec season for the other two, as the gap just grew until the end the race. Bauer wound up with the win by 1:38 over Despatie, with Badeau rounding out the podium.

Draft Legal Dynamics
Draft legal dynamics feat. Alexandre Badeau (right) and Mathieu Despatie (left)
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  1. Jesse Bauer – 1:07:23
  2. Mathieu Despatie – 1:09:01
  3. Alexandre Badeau – 1:10:08

Jesse Bauer Esprit
Overall draft legal winner, Jesse Bauer
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On the women’s side, the race played out similarly to the race in Edmonton. There were some smaller draft packs further back in the field, mostly between athletes who had some draft legal racing (we’ll explore this in a separate post next week), but hopefully the largely solo runs at the front of the race will phase out as registration numbers increase. This was a race between a super-runner (Sabrina St-Gelais) and an uber-biker (Rachel Quirion-Arguin).

St-Gelais took off with the men on the first run, opening up a gap of over a minute on the rest of the women. Quirion-Arguin led the charge and then sling-shotted her way to the front of the race (and more), leaving T2 with a 1:28 lead on St-Gelais. This set up a thrilling footrace, with St-Gelais’ collegiate running chops eventually paying off with a 6 second win at the finish line. While it was an exciting race, one wonders how it would have been different with a few more athletes of similar abilities to athletes who ended up going solo.

  1. Sabrina St-Gelais – 1:16:01
  2. Rachel Quirion-Arguin – 1:16:07
  3. Nathalie Larin – 1:21:20

Sabrina St-Gelais Esprit
Women’s champ Sabrina St-Gelais
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There was some exciting racing on the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve this weekend, though one wonders how different it would have been if there had not been a trio of popular races in Ontario on the same weekend. Aside from the races for the overall titles there were some intriguing battles within the age groups at Esprit, as well as an interesting F40-44 age group in Edmonton. We will be devoting a separate post to these age group battles later this week. With Esprit in the rear-view mirror and all the automatic qualifying opportunities going with it, our attention now turns to the roll-down selections for Penticton 2017. Keep an eye on this page for more!

Until next time…keep Du’ing it!


Draft Legal Duathlon Racing Emerges in Canada – Canadian Draft Legal Sprint Duathlon Championships Recap

This past weekend (and only 10 days after the standard distance championships in Penticton) was the Canadian Sprint Duathlon Championships as part of the Edmonton World Triathlon weekend on Labour Day weekend. Admittedly, this isn’t the first draft legal duathlon on Canadian soil since the ITU announced the move to draft legal racing at the Worlds for the sprint distance. But since the combined number of competitors at TriLobster in PEI and Triple Threat in Manitoba was less than 10, this really represents the first real opportunity for the 73 Canadian duathletes registered to experience age group draft legal racing.

We previewed the course for this a few days before the race. It is not an easy course, with each 10km lap taking in one shot but steep hill and another longer but more gradual hill. The run was flat, though the turnaround placements led to the first running measuring closer to 4.2km, and the second run closer to 2.6km. Another important factor in the race is the weather, as Edmonton in September is not often overly warm. This proved true on race day, as athletes bundled up for a 7:15am race start with an air temperature of 6 degrees and threatening rain. In fact, the air was cold enough that the sprint triathletes had their swim cancelled and did a duathlon themselves!

Bike Turnaround
Hawrelak Park

Another intriguing factor was the heat split. Previous age group draft legal races were divided according to male/female waves, because of the ITU rule that men cannot draft off of women and vice versa. However, this race was essentially divided by age group, with both men and women under 39 going off in the first heat and the rest going off 3 minutes later in the second one. It is hard to tell the real effect of this, since the podiums of both races all ended up coming from the first heat with a decent gap to the top finisher of the second heat. However, this most definitely affected the number of people who could work together, because the reality was that the majority of the field ended up riding solo or in pairs.


The biggest effect of this was seen in the women’s race. Jennifer Souter of Saskatchewan led the way on the 4.2km run, running a strong 15:15 (3:37/km). Quebec’s sensation Sandrine Veillette was second into T1 in 16:20 with Suzie Poirier rounding out the top 3. A few more ladies were close after T1, and another several were in the ballpark from heat 2, but this would be your podium. The gaps were too big between the 3, however, and they all ended up riding pretty much solo while passing groups of men up the road. Veillette took some time backnon the bike, but not quite enough to move into the lead and definitely not enough to outpace Souter’s 9:40 second run. Her strong overall performance across all three legs of the race was more than enough to crown Jennifer Souter as the Canadian Sprint Duathlon Champion, with Sandrine Veillette of Quebec and Suzie Poirier of Alberta rounding out the podium.

  1. Jennifer Souter – 1:05:03
  2. Sandrine Veillette – 1:06:20
  3. Suzie Poirier – 1:10:25

The Start
Race Start

A slightly different dynamic played out in the men’s race, which actually made for some quite intriguing racing. Unlike the women’s race, the men’s race did feature a medallist from the standard distance championships in Penticton, bronze medallist Alexandre Lavigne of Quebec City. As well, the race would feature the 4th place finisher from that race, Jesse Bauer racing on the very roads he trains on every day. Ivan Kagoro set the early pace but was quickly overhauled by Lavigne, with Bauer right on his shoulder and Ontario teenage sensation Brian Moore right on his. The trio stayed together for a stretch before Lavigne began to make his move off the front. He would lead the way into T1 with a 13:16 4.2km run, followed by Bauer in 13:33 and Moore in 14:00.

Mother Nature would have her say at this point, as Lavigne’s hard earned lead evaporated in T1 as he struggled to put on his helmet with cold hands. Bauer made the junction as they left the park, and it was a two man breakaway on the bike course. Moore left himself a little bit too much work to do and ended up riding solo on this lumpy course. Lavigne and Bauer worked well together and set themselves up for a battle on the second run. Bauer actually kicked off the festivities early, taking a dig at Lavigne on the last stretch of road before the dismount line and grabbing a handful of seconds. Lavigne’s superior running ability made short work of that, however, as he put 20 seconds between himself and Bauer on his way to his first Canadian championship. Moore would hold on for 3rd.

  1. Alexandre Lavigne – 55:40
  2. Jesse Bauer – 55:56
  3. Brian Moore – 58:40

Jesse and Alex Drafting
Duelling in the cold

The men’s race in Edmonton created some intrigue, and announced the official arrival of a new star in Canadian duathlon. Alex Lavigne completed his season that consisted of a clean sweep of the Coupe du Quebec series (missing only Gatineau), a bronze medal in the standard distance championships followed by his first Canadian title in Edmonton. This is simply a stellar season and establishes Alex (alongside Evan Bayer) as THE athlete to beat when he lines up.

We would be remiss not to mention another young athlete here. Jennifer Souter is an incredible athlete and pretty much became the overwhelming favourite as soon as she signed up for this race. But what we’re alluding to here is the continuing emergence of Sandrine Veillette. Another absolutely stellar performance to take the overall silver medal here. If it wasn’t for two of the top age group athletes in the country, she would be the undefeated National Champion.

Alex Lavigne
A Deserving Champion

One last word: for a first shot at a draft legal national championship, this was probably a success. A race in Edmonton on Labour Day weekend was never going to be an easy sell, especially in a sport that is slightly more popular in Eastern Canada than it is in the West. 70+ athletes is a pretty decent turnout for a duathlon based on past history, and with a slightly different heat split the racing could have been even more exciting. We saw two very diverse podiums, with medallists from 4 provinces. The men’s race featured an exciting duel, while the women’s race saw an emerging star try to take on one of the best in the sport, signalling great things for the future.

The drafting generally tended to take place between (a) competitors at the pointy end and (b) those who raced the draft legal event in Spain. As athletes become more familiar with the format, we’re confident that this will improve. Quick conversations with athletes after the race revealed just how apparent it became during the race that finding someone to draft off of is a HUGE advantage. The next big test will be next weekend’s Esprit draft legal duathlon, as Esprit is generally the best-attended duathlon of the year and this race is the qualifier for Worlds in Penticton next year. Jesse heads to Montreal for the race on Thursday, so keep an eye out for a report!

Until next time…keep Du’ing it!

This kind of camaraderie is why we love this sport

Nationals Course Preview, Part 2 – Edmonton Triathlon Festival

After all of the excitement in Penticton last week, it’s hard to imagine that we are only 2 days away from another Canadian Duathlon Championship this year. This time, the sprint distance will be contested in the new draft legal format as part of the Edmonton Triathlon Festival at Hawrelak Park in Edmonton. The festivities go on all weekend, with a Youth/Junior Mixed Relay and Aquathlon to be contested on Friday, the standard distance events (including a duathlon) to run alongside the Junior Series race on Sautrday, and the Canadian Sprint Duathlon Championships to be one of the sprint distance events preceding the elite WTS races on Sunday. And just to make it more of an event, the Tour of Alberta rolls through after the elite races, with the Stage 4 12.1km time trial set to start at 5pm on Sunday. It truly is Race Week in Edmonton!


Held on Labour Day weekend in September, the weather at this race can often be a crapshoot. For the Grand Final in 2014, Mother Nature was kind. In 2015 the swims for many events had to be cancelled due to cold rain and freezing water temperatures. Rain is in the forecast for much of the weekend, including Saturday for the standard distance duathletes. That said, this is Alberta…forecasts mean nothing until you wake up in the morning.

And what about the race course, you ask? The Edmonton Triathlon is based in the North Saskatchewan river valley, and is anything but an easy course. There is a bit of something for everyone.

This run course is definitely a PB course. Flat and fast, the 1.5 lap run is done on the road inside the park and features a “back-and-out-and-back” format. Starting around the park from the race site, athletes will run to a turnaround just before transition, back to a second turnaround at the start line, and then straight back into transition running alongside the finish line blue carpet. The second run will exit transition the same way the first run entered and will go out to a different turnaround about 600m from the start line and back, finishing in front of the grandstand on the blue carpet. Spectators rejoice, because you can basically stand at one place in the middle of the park and see a lot of the run course.

ITU Edmonton Sprint
Sprint Distance First Run Course

Standard distance athletes will have a slightly different start line (closer to transition), but will complete 3.5 laps going back and forth from the start line to the turnaround just before transition 3 times before heading into transition halfway through the 4th lap. The second run is simply 2 laps of the sprint run #2 course. There is a timing mat at each turnaround that you must cross each time.

ITU Edmonton Standard
Standard distance run course

If you like fun bike courses with a bit of something for everyone, then you’ll love this one. If you like flat courses where you can tuck low on your bike and just turn off your brain…well, maybe you should check out a different race. The 10km lap start by going up Emily Murphy hill right off the bat, climbing ~400m at an average grade of around 8%. The climb ends with a tight hairpin onto Saskatchewan Drive, where the slight downhill false flat is a good place to get some speed back as you fly through the residential section. A right turn at the traffic take you to the Groat Road Bomb; our only piece of advice here is simply to “choose your line carefully”.

Emily Murphy
Emily Murphy Hill

Back into the valley, athletes will cruise under the Groat Road bridge before the climbing starts again, this time a 1.5km km grind of the twisting asphalt of Groat Road North. At the top, the grade kicks up as you take the off-ramp at 107th Ave, where athletes will turn around by crossing over to the on-ramp before bombing back down Groat Road to the bridge. Make sure you stay on Groat Road and go across the bridge before bearing slightly right back into Hawrelak Park. The turnaround in the park swings left around the median separating the main road from the parking lot and then back out onto the main road before passing the transition zone. Watch for athletes exiting transition as you head out on your next lap!

Bike Turnaround
Turn around this median at the end of each lap before heading out again!

An exciting course that is made only more exciting by the unpredictable September weather in Edmonton. The forecast seems to be changing daily, with the only constant being single digit temperatures and high winds. Adding another wrinkle is the fast that this will be the first draft legal national championships for AGers (heat sheets can be found here). Regardless of the outcomes, the atmosphere and environment of competing alongside the best in the world at WTS Edmonton is sure to light a fire under some people. It should be a ton of fun, rain or shine!

Until next time…keep Du’ing it!

Triathletes in Training