As the summer turns to fall, the duathlon season continues in Canada. The races are starting to be more and more spaced out, but they’re still delivering a punch when they are being held!
This weekend, I travelled to Boucherville, Quebec to take in my first “triple whammy”: Triathlon Canada qualifying race for the 2018 World Championships in Fyn, Denmark, the 1200 point finale of the Coupe du Quebec series, and the Triathlon Quebec provincial championships for the sprint distance (draft legal). The course was a suburban one that lent itself well to draft legal racing. It was a narrow one, so the cap on athletes at 52 was probably a good thing…even solo riders were finding themselves caught up behind groups of the course’s 4 corners and one 180 degree turnaround on the narrow city streets.
It was flat and fast, with a quaint circuit around a small lake done twice on the first run and once in the final leg. The bike was 4 laps of a long, flat out and back section, with a small technical city block section near transition that served to break groups up and put athletes on the limit. The run loop was a little short of 2.5km, even with an out and back at the top of the loop added to increase the distance. Despite that, the loop was quiet and the choice of course helped to minimize the effect of a long day of racing on the local neighbourhood.
I had the opportunity to watch closely from the front, and what I saw was super exciting. What was the best part about the race in Boucherville? Seeing 51 people starting to get the hang of this draft legal thing. There were several groups working together on the road, and very few solo riders not really taking an interest in getting themselves in a group. It’s been a hard adjustment for athletes to learn the inner workings of a draft legal race, but the progress sure was exciting this weekend. Let’s recap!
Let’s start here, and we’re going to focus on the provincial championship portion of the race (and ignore the Albertan making an appearance in the results). This race was without National Champion and Coupe du Quebec leader Mathieu Paquet, but did feature #2 (Serge LaForge) and #3 (Mathieu Despatie) in the standings. It also featured the newly crowned Valleyfield sprint duathlon champion (Dorian Baysset) and two tough masters competitors (Jean-Luc Mejane and Mauricio Gomez).
The early pace went out hot, but the 5 above chose to let the early leader go and maintain a steady pace in a tight group of 5. They would finish the run slightly strung out (an 8 second spread) led by Baysset and Despatie. Behind, some distinct groups had formed. Strong riding Guillaume Simoneau paired up with Donald Lebeau 1 minute in arrears, just ahead of Antoine Simard and Victor and Bruno Marchand. Another 10 seconds back out of T1 was a group of 5, with a 6th just losing contact in transition and unable to get back on terms with the group.
The group of 4 up front worked well together on the first lap, keeping the pace high and shelling Baysset right away after he allowed 12 seconds to open up in transition. After a strong first lap where they solidified their lead on the chase behind, the games began in the technical section with athletes throwing attacks at each other out of every corner before regrouping on the straightaway. Simoneau worked hard to get back onto terms, riding through Baysset but taking a heavy blow when groupmate Lebeau removed himself from the race. The group behind shelled two athletes but picked up the Marchand’s and Baysset to swell to a group of 7. They brought some quick runners back into the race and Simoneau (now riding solo) to within 11 seconds.
The decisive move in the front group came with 2km to go, on the downside of the overpass. Despatie pulled off the front and LaForge pulled through hard, opening a gap to the rest of the group. Despatie sprinted to get back on terms, and the pair opened a small lead heading into transition. LaForge came in having sustained a calf injury earlier in the week, and needed the gap to solidify his spot in the standings. Despatie’s alertness allowed him to stay on terms and put himself in position to win.
The four arrived strung out, and Despatie’s race best 31 second T2 gave him the lead onto the second run. LaForge held 6 seconds on Mejane, a gap that Jean-Luc was not able to close, with Gomez another 6 seconds in arrears that left him in 4th, on the outside looking in. Despatie extended his lead with a race 2nd best 7:36 second run to take the crown as provincial champion. Baysset ran himself past Simoneau to secure a very solid 6th place finish with a 3rd best 7:37 second run.
- Mathieu DESPATIE – 57:01 (R1 15:17 B 33:05 R2 7:36)
- Serge LAFORGE – 57:21 (R1 15:23 B 32:55 R2 7:49)
- Jean-Luc MEJANE – 57:24 (R1 15:21 B 32:56 R2 7:48)
In the Master’s classification, making the front group did the trick, and breakthrough efforts from Mejane and Gomez (58:18 – R1 15:21/B 33:04/R2 8:35) got them into a group whose lead swelled enough to dispatch competitors behind, and allow them to join LaForge on the Masters Men podium.
While the men’s race followed a script that’s generally accepted to be normal in draft legal racing (one small group breaking away off the front, one larger chase group swelling in size trying to catch the break), the women’s race was actually more fascinating from the perspective of the development of draft legal racing in Canada…with lots of lessons learned (hopefully) by athletes.
The start went much the same as in the men’s race, with an athlete known for her running prowess (Sabrina St-Gelais) jetting to the front. However, this time she was joined by Sandrine Veillette, whose ability has been mentioned in this space several times over. A group of 4 gathered 30 seconds in arrears including Beatrice Gilbert and Catherine Vaillancourt, as well as Clara Emond and Mathilde St-Maurice. From here, Veillette would dispatch St-Gelais in transition, drop the 13th fastest bike split and 6th fastest second run split (overall, including the men) to cruise to the win in 59:52.
Behind Veillette, teammates Gilbert and Vaillancourt cut the gap to St-Gelais from ~40 seconds off the run to ~15 seconds coming out of T1. They quickly caught and dispatched the star runner and rode together as a pair for the rest of the bike. They arrived in T2 together, transitioned together and headed out onto the run course to duke it out. Vaillancourt’s 8:34 second run got the best of Gilbert, and they rounded out the podium 20 seconds apart.
- Sandrine VEILLETTE – 59:52 (R1 16:13 B 34:36 R2 – 8:01)
- Catherine VAILLANCOURT – 1:03:26 (R1 16:48 B 36:56 R2 8:34)
- Beatrice GILBERT – 1:03:47 (R1 16:44 B 37:01 R2 8:54)
Behind the overall podium T1 played a pivotal part of the rest of the race, including the masters women’s race. The second chase absorbed Katherine Patry and opened 20 seconds on Karri Beck, before Patry linked up with Natalie Wright and stomped on the gas. The pair left the group behind, rode through Joanna Szymczyk and picked Frederique Perusse out of no-woman’s land. They would put 2 minutes into the next group on the road in the process, riding through Emond and St-Gelais. That ride put the two strong runners in chase mode, and sewed up finishes of 4th (Patry), 6th (Perusse) and 8th (Wright) for the members of the group.
Behind, there was a general regrouping, as a group of three who were about one minute off the pace out of T1 picked up three solo riders up the road and swelled their numbers to 6. However, the group was not able to get any closer. Genevieve Beliveau benefited from the strength of the group to finish 2nd masters while Beck held on for 3rd, but Wright was rewarded for her heads up racing to catch the train and take the top prize.
- Natalie WRIGHT – 1:06:47 (R1 18:47 B 36:37 R2 9:37)
- Genevieve BELIVEAU – 1:07:55 (R1 20:02 B 36:53, R2 9:07)
- Karri BECK – 1:08:19 (R1 18:39 B 38:00 R2 9:32)
Boucherville was fun, we look forward to more of the same come October 28 at the Overdrive Race!
Until next time…keep Du’ing it!