Canadian rider Dominique Rollin (Cervélo Test Team) is looking forward to the rare opportunity of competing at the highest level of cycling in his own backyard at the two Canadian ProTour races taking place in Québec City on Friday and Montréal on Sunday.
The Boucherville native will use the pair of events as an opportunity to mingle with the on-hand ProTour, Professional Continental and North American domestic teams in search of a new contract for 2011.
"It's an honour to be racing in these races here," Rollin told Cyclingnews. "There is an exciting cycling history in Montréal. There haven't been many races in years but to be able to do this in my backyard now, after all the training over the years, is incredible. It is an opportunity of a life time. I have butterflies in my stomach starting these races."
Rollin will be competing under the Canadian National Team banner, directed by countryman Steve Bauer, who wore the yellow jersey at the Tour de France on 14 occasions between 1988 and 1990. Other members of the team include Canadian national champion Will Routley, Charles Dionne, David Boily, Guillaume Boivin, Bruno Langlois, François Parisien, Ryan Anderson, Rob Britton and David Veilleux.
"I think we have a great team, especially with the distances being shorter than the classics," said Rollin. "I think we have the chance to do something if we work together as a unit. I think everyone that has been selected can race 190km. A couple of the riders have been racing in Europe for the last three weeks and have shown that they have done their homework and they are ready for these races."
Rollin has a strong history with the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec City's course where he won the Canadian national championships on a similar version of it in 2006. Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal is arguably the most historic location for a bike race - it was used as the world championship road race course in 1974 (won by Belgian Eddy Merckx), the Olympic Games road race in 1976 (won by Sweden's Bernt Johansson) and a men's and women's World Cup.
Following a series of strong seasons in North America, Rollin was noticed as a classics-style rider and signed a two-year contract with Professional Continental outfit Cervélo Test Team that began in 2009. Rollin believes both ProTour courses offer a Classics flavour that suits his ability as a rider.
"Québec City is similar to the Tour of Flanders but shorter and Montréal is similar to Fleche Wallonne or the Ardennes Classics," Rollin explained. "Both races are very hard and they both have their technicalities. Québec City suits me more than Montréal. The distances are not a problem but the speed of the races with be high so we will see how things turn out."
Time to find a team
Cervélo Test Team announced it would stop at the end of the year with the title and bike sponsor forming a partnership with Garmin-Transitions. Rollin is currently without a team for 2011 and although he would like to continue to compete at the highest level offered in Europe, he admits to being open to discussing contractual agreements with North American teams as well.
"I wasn't surprised but I am disappointed with how they made their decision," Rollin said. "They had a secured budget for four years and when they couldn't achieve the goals they wanted, instead of making sacrifices and working hard to get there, they just gave up.
"It's disappointing from the point of view of the people on the team because they kept us waiting for a month and half.
"I'm looking at any options at the moment so I am certainly not closed to speaking with the North American teams that are turning Pro Continental," he added "I think by being in North America at the moment I can use this time to get in touch with those teams."
Rollin arrives to the late-season races in top form, having recently placed second at the Tour de Poitou-Charentes in France. He is hoping to showcase strong performances in each event to help in his search for a new team.
"It is very difficult to find a team at the moment because we are quite late in the season for transfers," Rollin said.
"At the moment I'm struggling to find a team interested in me. I knew Garmin wouldn't be interested because they weren't going to sign many guys who are Classic-style riders. They already have a strong unit for the Classics. With more than ten guys on the market it was impossible for me to think that I would go there."