By Dede Barry, T-Mobile Cycling Team
The Tour de Montréal, a three-day, four-stage event, started in Lachine, the hometown of Geneviève Jeanson, with a short, windy prologue. As we all finished, we all received cheers, but the crowd was by far the loudest when she came through with the winning time. She smoked us all, but we were not too worried, as the time gaps were small.
After the prologue, the race moved to “Little Italy” in the evening, where we pedaled past the Madonna Della Defesa (Our Lady of Protection) cathedral. This church was built and named to commemorate a miracle said to have occurred in 1898 in Casacalenda, Italy. When I finished our sketchy 50km criterium, I felt as though a miracle had just occurred, as I had not crashed in spite of a bumpy road and some scary competitors who didn’t know how to ride a line through a turn. There are not many criteriums contested in Europe, and with the field half European, many riders lacked experience and skill in cornering. Gina Grain won the field sprint, and our team was happy to be safe and to have not expended too much energy, as the days ahead would be challenging.
The next day we raced through the maple forests northwest of Montréal, starting and finishing in the town of Rigaud. We covered some beautiful countryside, traveling up and down steep hills all day. The race was aggressive and fast from start to finish, which made it fun and exciting. Team Saturn began attacking early, and Manon Jutras, Jessica Phillips and Amy Moore all spent time off the front solo with Rona-Esker chasing hard from behind. Our team saved its attacks for later.
After passing over the steepest climb of the day, Kristin Armstrong sneaked away up the road, and soon after Amber Neben, Magali LaFloch and Lyne Bessette joined her. It was a perfect situation for our team, as we had two riders in the break, one to work hard and the other to follow and go for the stage win. The stage win did not materialize – Magali slipped by Amber in the finish – but we were still happy, as Amber took over the race lead. To go with her yellow jersey, the town of Rigaud presented Amber with a beautiful painting of cyclists riding through the Québec countryside.
After the stage, we all were treated to a special dinner at the local Sugar Shack, where we tasted the local specialties. Everything served was accompanied by locally harvested maple syrup. The meal included freshly baked bread, salad, omelettes, ham, sausages, maple baked beans and crepes for dessert. Yum. A nice touch after a tough race in the hills.
We were a little nervous heading into the final stage with the yellow jersey to defend, although everyone was feeling strong. The circuit race was mostly flat, passing through the town of Terrebonne eight times for a total of 80km. We knew we would have our work cut out for us, as only two seconds separated Amber from Lyne Bessette, who was in second overall. The racing would be aggressive. There would be three chances to gain bonus seconds, which meant we had to be very attentive and ready to sprint.
We took control early, riding tempo on the front of the peloton from the beginning. Kimberly, Stacey, Kim and Kristin set the pace, while Amber and I sat in their draft, resting up for the sprints and the hill each lap. There were attacks from start to finish, and the sprints were fiercely contested. It took all our strength to keep control of the race and Amber in yellow. In the end, we were elated with the win, as each person on the team played a huge role in making it happen.
We will now have a few days rest before our next objective, the Liberty Classic in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Dede Barry rides for the T-Mobile team. You can visit her web siteat www.dedebarry.com