Canada/Belgium, June 26, 2006
It has been a while I know but with the way I have been feeling of late, the past two months to be exact, the motivation to write has been low. Plus, I am sure you good readers do not want to log onto Cyclingnews to read Cameron's diary and see that he is sick, creeping, crashing etc. Suffice to say, things seem to be on the improve - touch wood.
I left Belgium on Saturday after a very big feed with Isabelle at her place in Tienen on Friday night. I was well and truly stuffed thankyou. After a long trip to Montreal and a longer trip in the car to St Georges we rolled into our hotel at two am. The next two days were filled with training, sleeping, eating and a little look around the town before the tour was the start on Tuesday. I also had time to catch up with Chady and young gun Miles Olman, who are both here racing for there respective teams. Three boys from Rockhampton racing in Canada.
First Stage, Lac Etchemin - Lac Etchemin
The first stage was a tough one. I knew the roads well from the year before as it was here that I attacked twenty kilometres from home and was caught three kilometres out. The weather was fine, as opposed to last year, and we were all ready to go. The race was pretty active from the start and it was not long before the riders aiming for overall started to show their colours, in particular Navigators. We were getting into breaks but were all finding our legs to be pretty heavy after our travel to get here. Soon it became clear that our main job was to get to the finish line in the best possible way and not lose too much time.
With 40 kilometres to go Sergei Lagutin and Vlareijy Kobzarenko were up the road with a few others hanging on. A few teams started to chase but we were not in any shape to help. Over the last couple of hills before the finish in Lac Etchmin the group was still two minutes clear and I had to let go on the hill that caused my demise last year and rolled in with a few other 40 seconds down on the peloton. Bernie, Kane and Dag got into the first group and finished safely in the bunch. It was a tough day for a lot of riders with a handful of riders missing time cut.
Second Stage, St Joseph - St Joseph
The longest stage of the tour, at a tick over 180 kilometres, and loaded full of steep Beauce hills. My aim again was to be active from the start and make the moves and with everybody feeling better than the previous day we were hoping to do that. After 20 kilometres, however, the team suffered a blow when a piece of metal made its way into Jeremy's front wheel and chopped his forks in two and sent him face first into the road. Fortunately it was not as serious as it looked and Jeremy suffered 'only' a deep cut to his chin requiring two stitches. It could have been much worse and in true Dag style he was up and laughing about it later that night.
Just after this happened Harro had a stint off the front alone and was hoping for a bit of company. The bunch did not let him go when he got caught we missed the counter attacks. We fell asleep a bit with Dave up the road and was too far back. A group got away with a few dangerous riders and built a big lead, which stirred Navigators into action. Over the next 130 kilometres Chady, Mark Walters and Grajales from Navigators ploughed away and chipped away at the break. Approaching the tough finish circuits, half the break was caught leaving six riders two minutes up the road. With ten kilometres to go, over two laps, with a sharp hill the Navigators work was done and I followed the moves on the climb and was feeling good. The whole team was still there with a lap to go and last lap up the hill with Navigators attacking I made the front split with the yellow jersey and finished eighteenth on the stage, two minutes behind the leaders. The other guys all finished in the next group a couple of seconds back. The team was faring better although we did lose the in-form Jeremy today.
Third Stage, St Georges - Mont Megantic
Up and up we go today as we headed out of St Georges and for the highest paved road in Quebec called Mt Megantic, only a stone's throw away from the US border. A 10-kilometre climb with the last five kilometres being the toughest with ramps of 18 percent. Not much happened in the bunch for the stage as it was being controlled at a good pace by the German Spakasse team. At 60 kilometres, however, a strong bold attack took off with Glen and the old yellow jersey wearer Valerij Kobzarenko. It was a bid to regain the yellow and it almost paid off for them but the German team and later TIAA-Cref pulled the break back to one minute with five Kilometres to go.
I was near the front at this stage but when it ramped to 18 percent and with a strong head wind I was travelling backwards. A couple of groups passed by but I continued in my rhythm and got to the top a few minutes down on the winner with Bernie and Wes Sulzberger in 27th place. The 'Sulzbzerger Cup' was on for young and all. There was no jersey for this classification but long term bragging rights were up for grabs back in 'Launy'. Russ rode well and placed 14th powering up the steep pinches. The German team was still in yellow heading into the TT.
Fourth and fifth Stages, St Jean-de-la-lande and St Georges
Time trial in the morning. I felt like a waste of time as we were lining up for the time trial with no time trial equipment. The bikes still hadn't arrived but we dealt with the circumstances and got on with it the best we could. Rode the TT within myself and did enough to get around. Lost two and a bit minutes to the flying Danny Pate. Russ had a strong ride and placed 16th.
Crit in the afternoon in the centre of the tour's hometown of St George. With new UCI rules in place the criterium did not count towards overall classification only towards the points jersey and of course prize money on the stage. The aim was to get into breaks and go for the win and hope the bunch would let a group ride away as there was no threat to GC. At the half-way mark Fonzy jumped across to the group that was forming and we patrolled the front of the bunch with a few Navigators' riders and Team Skippy. Fonzy, however, missed out today and was eighth across the line, losing out in the final lap attacks. The rest of us finished safely in the bunch.
Sixth Stage, Quebec City
The Quebec city circuit race today was right in the guts of this beautiful city. It was billed as the tour's queen stage, being held in front of the biggest crowd etc. but things did not turn out according to plan for the race organisers. Being a big city with traffic concerns, the race was allowed a certain amount of road and this was further divided into south and north bound lanes by countless witches hats and wooden barriers. Never in my life have I seen so many. This caused problems for the bunch dodging these hats but also dispensed some amount of confusion to the motorists of Quebec who may not have known what was going on. Some 40 kilometres into the race a group was just 30 seconds up the road when a car decided to pull out of an IGA supermarket and pulled straight into the bunch. It was heading for my old mate Glen Chadwick who had to hit the brakes and swerve causing his team-mate Mark Walters to crash and hit the back of the car. The race rolled to a stop and under the influence of the yellow jersey and some other riders the race stopped for an hour and a half as riders, directors and race directors tried to come up with a compromise that would give the people of Quebec a race and ensure the safety of the riders. An agreement was reached with the majority of witches hats disappearing, the race being shortened by one lap and the break getting a 40 second start on the bunch at the restart. Mark Walters was also able to restart and battled through with a sore back.
The break hovered at 40 seconds for the remainder of the course until a lap and a bit to go. The bunch was down to about 30 riders, including Dave, Fonzy and myself. The group was caught on last time up the hill on the circuit and with two kilometres to go Dave and Fonzy were looking good. I was feeling a little shabby today and was content to act as a sweeper at the back of the bunch while Fonz and Dave sorted it out at the front. With 500 metres to go at the crest of the hill and with only 300 metres of downhill to the line Fonzy took off and gapped the bunch. He sprinted flat out to the line and held of the bunch by a bike length. Good job mate. Dave was ninth and I was 18th. Things were looking up for the team at last.
Seventh Stage, St Georges
The last stage and arguably the toughest. A 135-kilometre stage around St. Georges containing a tough 1.5-kilometre climb, to be scaled 12 times. I had a good result on this stage last year with a second place, so was hoping for another decent showing.
From the gun, Navigators controlled the race and a group of four got up the road who were not a threat to the overall. On the second lap, with no real chase starting, I attacked with a group and after a lap or so of chasing we made it across to the break which now contained 10 or so riders, none of whom were a real threat to overall. So we were given some rope.
At about the halfway point a few riders were not contributing, so a few riders attacked to shake things up and this shook a few riders out the back. I was still feeling okay by this stage and made the group again but there were still a few riders not willing to work. There was only one team now up the front with two riders and that was the Symmetrics team. One rider was working but the other was content to sit on. On a couple of occasions I would try to get him to work and sit on him but he would hit the brakes firmly and remain at the back. On one occasion it almost caused my demise and came close to clipping his back wheel. This continued for the next few laps and was beginning to wonder what he was up to. Was he protecting a classement, best Canadian rider or was he stuffed from the heat.
With three laps to go two riders from TIAA-Cref joined us and it looked like the bunch was coming back, but our gap ballooned back out again as we entered the final two laps. I was still feeling okay but I was no match for the strong attack from the Symmetrics rider who had been sitting on all day. He later said on Cyclingnews that he had every right to sit on as his team-mate was there and that he sat on for most of the day. Bollocks to that. He had every right to roll over during the stage. Instead he decided to sit on, bludge and show everybody his real colours attacking with two laps to go. Anyway, the TIAA rider joined him and before we knew it they had 40 seconds and were never headed, with the Symmetrics rider winning. On the last lap another attack went taking two clear, which we almost caught on the line. I was fifth on the stage. I was a little unhappy to say the least but happy to have ridden through the tour well and hopefully will continue to until the end of the season, with my problems behind me. The other guys from the team finished safely in the bunch and all had a good week. Bernie, however, did come down with a cold and did not start the last day. Wes has bragging rights for the time being.
So after a rocky start, the DFL-Cyclingnews team came out of the Tour de Beauce okay with a stage win, some other strong stage placings, fourth in teams GC and a decent spot on the individual general classification with Russ in 15th and me 20th.
So, I had a well earned drink with Chady and Miles at the rock cafe after the tour and caught up on what was going on in Rockhampton. Miles was hanging around in Canada and the US for another couple of weeks, Glen was heading back to Jersey and DFL-Cyclingnews was heading back to Belgium where we had a 1.1 to greet us on Wednesday.
Arrived on Tuesday in Booischot at three pm greeted by the on-going road works outside our front door. After a quick unpack, ride and sleep I lined up at 12 pm on Wednesday for Halle-Ingooigem. I felt very ordinary to say the least and only made it to the feed zone after 100 kilometres and called it a day. All the guys who came back from Canada had a similar day to me, so was not a good day out for DFL-Cyclingnews and maybe a day we should have missed altogether.
A couple more days were spent getting over the travel. I had a few races and some good training and now it is off to china for the Tour of Qinghai Lake.
Thanks again to all the people back home who are helping me out this year financially or otherwise. In no particular order:
Ian Weigh Toyota
Quentin Lawrence and Wizard Home Loans
Grant Olman and CQ Crane Hire
Peter Reaburn and CQU
Dr Andrew Russel
and all the members of the Rockhampton cycling club
Til next time we meet