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Phil Gaimon Diary: Watching for moose and the GC at the Tour de Beauce

First of all, I know you just mispronounced it in your head, so I’ll explain that “Beauce” rhymes “dose.” It’s a region of Quebec, just north of the border (we actually flew in to Vermont to save a few bucks). I always knew that there was a place called Quebec, and they speak French there, but it was interesting to finally experience it first-hand. I guess I’d expected it to be like New England culturally, only with everything in French, but in fact, it was pretty much France: food, people, architecture, etc.

If you’re planning a trip to Paris, unless you really want to see the Eiffel Tower or the Mona Lisa (which everyone says is disappointing in person, anyway), save yourself a headache and drive up to Quebec City instead. I’d say the main difference between Quebec and France is that when you’re driving along the Riviera, you don’t have to watch out for moose. That said, I didn’t get to see any moose this week. I was pretty sure I saw a bear win stage 6, but it turned out to be Svein Tuft.

The first day was an odd start to the stage race. I bridged to an early break that didn’t look dangerous, but we only had one out of seven guys, so someone had to do it. Ten minutes later, I looked back, and all the big hitters in the race had arrived, including teammate Ben Day, which made three Kenda riders total. UHC and Team Type 1 chased for a bit because they didn’t have the numbers they wanted in the 20-man split, but there was too much horsepower up the road. Eventually the chase gave up, and our group took 22 minutes out of them over the 100 hilly miles, and the GC race was over for most of the field.

For the next few days, we endured a never-ending series of incredibly steep, short hills, on long, straight roads. Whoever made the roads here just put two points on a map, cut down all the trees in between, and put up a few “Watch for Moose” signs. Every time you’d get to the top, you could see the next kicker two miles away, and you’d hear a collective groan from the field.

Stage 2 was the only field sprint. This “flat” stage had 8,000 feet of climbing over 100 miles. Shawn Milne came through for us, as usual, and ended up second by a few inches. Stage 3 was the decisive mountaintop stage. The field split apart instantly, and I was in a small group of climbers. We all watched Mancebo, knowing he was going to drop us at some point, and then he dropped us, and we watched him (from a slight distance) win the stage and take yellow.

Stage 4 was a rolling out-and-back time trial, mostly downhill on the way out, and mostly uphill coming back. I used to be a good time trialist, but it’s been awhile since I had a reason to throw down in a TT that suited me (usually I’m softpedaling because I’m not in the GC and trying to save my legs, or it’s at altitude and I can’t breathe). Still, I shocked myself and everyone else by finishing fourth, putting time on everyone that was ahead of me on GC, and moving from 10th to fifth overall. I got a new bike, which probably helped, but I don’t exactly know how I did that, and I’m looking forward to the next big TT to see if I can do it again.

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