By Dede Demet Barry, T-Mobile professional cycling team
The Tour of Montréal is a three-day, four-stage race. It starts out with a 3km prologue in Lachine, the hometown of Geneviève Jeanson, the Machine from Lachine. We jet out and around a tiny peninsula on bike paths, making a few sharp turns along the wa, and winner and losers are separated by fractions of a second. This course is quick and suits a rider who corners well. Tina Mayolo-Pic, one of the best criterium sprinters in America, took top honors. She blazed the course and finished a half second ahead of me.
A few hours later, we headed to Little Italy, where we had an evening criterium. This course was lined with tasty-looking cafes, and I could hardly wait to finish, because we had a dinner reservation at the finish line. The crit flew by, as the course was flat and fast and there were money primes every couple of laps. It is a tough circuit to escape on, so the peloton stuck together and in the end, Petra Rossner blew past everyone and won the stage. I think she was quite pleased, as she has had a string of bad luck this past year with crashes and injuries and has had a harder time winning field sprints this season than in seasons past.
Day two was epic – 120km in driving rain and 50 degrees. I can’t say I was excited to start. I inched up to the start line after a heat-rub warm-up. My legs felt like blocks for the first 25km; it was not until we hit the first climbing sprint of the day that I warmed up to the point where it was comfortable to turn them. Every hill brought a smile to my face, as it was an opportunity to warm up, every descent brought shivers.
A breakaway went early in the race, containing Amy Moore, Alison Wright and a RONA rider. They had three minutes at one point, but in the final 30km, Alison and the RONA rider faded on one of the climbs, the pace picked up in the peloton and at the end, Nürnberger chased hard to catch Amy, who was not caught until 4km to go. We had a group of 30 riders sprinting up the final hill to the finish. Judith Arndt won the race and took over the race lead from her teammate Petra.
My former teammate and good friend, Clara Hughes, is now a Quebecoise and she came up to visit on the final day of the Tour. Clara is no longer racing her bike, but is concentrating on speed-skating, preparing for the 2006 Winter Olympics. Having already medaled in both the winter and summer Games, Clara is a legend in Canada. She was swarmed by people at the start, wanting to say hello, take a photo or ask for an autograph.
The final circuit race was a battle for time bonuses. With the top-10 riders separated by seconds on G.C., and many of them being fast sprinters, the battle was fierce. We did eight laps on a relatively flat circuit, sprinting every two laps for time bonuses.
Each lead in to the sprint was dicey. Petra was trying to win the midway sprints and take the seconds so that Judith would not have to waste energy. Anita Valen, Lyne Bessette, Tina Mayolo and I provided the biggest threat to Judith for the overall win. Anita is full of tricks and is not afraid to throw a hook or two in the sprints. Petra is a bit aggressive as well. Mari Holden was helping me maintain position in the sprints and we got taken into the barriers a few times. I was not having much luck getting the bonus seconds. Anita and Lyne moved ahead of me overall.
If Anita had won the final sprint, she would have taken the race win, but she threw a hook and nearly caused another accident in the final turn. Regina Schleicher won the stage ahead of Anita, and Judith won the tour. Several riders protested Anita’s actions at the finish, but the judges had not seen it and she maintained her placing.
It was disappointing to lose a couple of placings on G.C., but I was happy to walk away unscathed from the battle, as we have a big race coming up on Sunday in Philadelphia.