Pier-André Côté (Human Powered Health) outsprinted defending men's champion Guillaume Boivin to win the first Canadian road title of his career on Sunday, in Edmonton. Former under-23 national champion Benjamin Perry (WiV Sungod) took third, with Carson Miles (Premier Tech U23) successfully defending his Under-23 title by finishing fourth.
The 14.6 kilometre circuit took the riders through the streets of downtown Edmonton as well as criss-crossing the river valley of the North Saskatchewan River that bisects the city. Riders faced three climbs per lap, but it was the final steep one of 300 metres that proved to be decisive, levelling out just 200 metres before the finish line. The men rode 11 laps for a total of 160.6 kilometres.
A flurry of attacks in the opening laps resulted in two riders going clear by Lap 2 - Alexander Cowan (L39ion of LA) and Laurent Gervais (Cannondale Echelon p/b 4iiii). The duo couldn't manage to gain more than 30 seconds, but managed to stay away until Lap 5 before being reabsorbed by the peloton.
At that point, dark clouds on the horizon, thunder and distant flashes of lightning looked like they might cause a race stoppage. A short bout of hail led to a brief downpour for a lap before the rain backed off to a drizzle. A new group of four, including Miles, escaped the bunch during the rain, before being joined by Cote, Boivin and Perry. The original break - with the exception of Miles - was dropped, leaving the final four at the front.
By the start of Lap 9 - three laps to go - the gap was out to nearly a minute, with Boivin and Perry doing much of the pacemaking. The rain had also tampered off and the sun came out, with the roads quickly drying. As they began the final lap, the four leaders had 45 seconds on three chasers, with the peloton a further 20 seconds back. However, with five kilometres to go, the leaders started to slow as they maneuvered for position leading into the last climb and the bunch grew closer.
Miles went to the front to protect his Under-23 title, and the other three followed until the last climb, with Perry leading up the climb before the other two jumped by him at the crest. Cote accelerated off of Boivin's wheel in the final 200 metres to win his first national title.
"I was glad it started raining because I was overheating a little bit," explained Cote. "I do pretty good in the rain and when the conditions are a little rough, so that was perfect for me. It's so special to become the national champion; I've been dreaming of this ever since I started racing. When the break was formed, we just rode as hard as we could; we never got more than a minute. No one could have gone alone because the gap was so tight."
"It was quite stressful at the base of the climb. Carson was leading, and Ben was staring over his shoulder at me, and I was staring over my shoulder at Guillaume, because none of us wanted to get caught out by an attack. Ben led up the climb and I managed to hold onto him, and then Guillaume went by me on my right as we crested the top. I got on his wheel for a fraction of a second and then went by on his left."
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