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Clara Hughes and Svein Tuft tops in Canadian time trial championship

The 2011 Canadian road championships kicked off Thursday in the Greater Toronto Area, and the country’s fastest cyclists did not disappoint in the time trial races for the Under-23 and Elite categories.

The 99 riders rode in unpredictable weather conditions, sometimes fighting strong winds and torrential rain. But ultimately, Canada’s two favorites to win did not disappoint cycling fans gathered in Belfountain, winning the races in their respective categories.

Svein Tuft of Team SpiderTech powered by C10, the favorite and defending champion won the race with a fastest time of 56:29, leading his closest competitor, Christian Meier (Sussex, NB) of United HealthCare by more than 56 seconds. David Veilleux (Cap Rouge, QC) of Team Europcar came third with a time 57:42.

Tuft, now a seven-time Canadian Champion in the time trials, conquered the 43km race with power, even after a recent brilliant performance at the Tour de Beauce, winning two of the six stages.

“Today was definitely a good one. I felt really good, and I thought that I’d be a bit tired after the Tour de Beauce. I am at point in my racing where I have done a bit of everything and I am at a time where I can pass that knowledge around to my younger teammates and help do the transitions to Europe racing, riding those more difficult races,” said Tuft, captain of Team SpiderTech and seven-time Canadian Champion in time trials.

“Coming into the second part of the season, and getting everyone together on the same page takes some time. It takes a little bit of time to merge together as a group when you bring a whole lot of guys together. We have been working hard and gelling at Turkey, California and Beauce,” added Tuft.

“We have a lot of horsepower and we’ll have to be smart on how we use that power throughout the race.”

Hughes wins women’s elite race

In her first Canadian Championships since her return to competitive cycling, Clara Hughes of Glen Sutton, QC, won the 21.6 kilometer women’s elite race with a time of 30:25, leading by 0:21.55 over Tara Whitten (Edmonton, AB) of Team TIBCO To-The-Top. Rhae-Christy Shaw, a convert from the sport of competitive triathlon, took third place in her first presence at a Canadian Road Championships.

“It was a good time trial, certainly not my best time trial,” Hughes said. “I crashed earlier this week training on the time trial course. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to race today, but I did a good job at conserving my energy.

“I didn’t think about it today, and I said to myself ‘just do everything that you can’. That’s the time trial, it’s you against the clock, there is no hiding about the results,” added Hughes. “It’s pretty nice to win. It was my first race at Canadian Championships since coming back to cycling, since 2003. Today is a pretty special day.”

The future looks good

In the U23 men’s category, SpiderTech powered by C10 won their second title of the day as Hugo Houle took the win. Houle stopped the clock at 58:01, successfully defending his title from 2010. Remi Pelletier-Roy placed second, his first podium at a Canadian Road Championships. Matteo Dalcin placed third.

Denise Ramsden of Yellowknife, NT of Team Juvéderm-Specialized, Canada’s only professional cycling team, took the U23 women’s time trial title, winning with a time of 31:47. Manitoba’s Leah Kirchmann took the second place, while Quebec’s Virginie Gauthier placed third.

The event was held in the hamlet of Belfountain, ON, about one hour outside of downtown Toronto. Businesses and residents of Belfountain embraced the event, cheering on Canada’s top cyclists racing in the beautiful valleys of Southern Ontario.

The event continues in Burlington on Friday with the women’s road race, starting at 6pm and on Saturday with the marquee men’s elite road race and Sunday with the criterium.

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