Break­ing Away in Que­bec and Mon­treal

Que­bec's one-day races not only bring the best in the world to Canada they raise Cana­dian rid­ers to new lev­els

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Matthew Pioro

Que­bec’s one-day races not only bring the best in the world to Canada, they raise Cana­dian rid­ers to new lev­els Ni­co­las Mas­bourian, Ben­jamin Perry and Mat­teo Dal-cin dis­cuss how they es­caped with the pros

Peter Sagan, Greg Van Aver­maet, Chris Froome, Thomas Voeck­ler, Philippe Gil­bert – the Grands Prix Cy­clistes de Québec and Mon­tréal have been at­tract­ing the world’s top cy­clists since 2010. But each year, among the World­tour and pro con­ti­nen­tal teams, there’s al­ways a group of Cana­di­ans in na­tional team kit. Usu­ally, World­tour events are only open to first- and sec­ond­di­vi­sion squads. Since the cre­ation of the Que­bec races, how­ever, or­ga­niz­ers have al­ways had spe­cial per­mis­sion to in­clude a na­tional team. “Our mis­sion is to bring the best in the world here to Canada, to Que­bec, for the races and also to have the op­por­tu­nity for young, promis­ing rid­ers to go el­bow to el­bow with the top rid­ers and to show­case the lo­cal tal­ent here,” said Mar­cel Le­blanc, ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of the races. The events not only have a role in show­cas­ing Cana­dian tal­ent, but they seem to play a part in build­ing it. François Parisien, Hugo Houle, David Veilleux and An­toine Duch­esne all rode on the na­tional squad be­fore later mov­ing on to pro con­ti­nen­tal or World­tour teams.

In 2016, the Cana­dian squad was ac­tive in both races. Ni­co­las Mas­bourian of Mon­treal was in the break­away in Que­bec City. Two days later, Ben­jamin Perry of St. Catharines, Ont., and Mat­teo Dal-cin of Ot­tawa were part of a group of es­capees in Mon­treal. Al­most a year later, rid­ers, all for­mer team­mates on Sil­ber Pro Cy­cling, re­flected on how those per­for­mances played out and what the Que­bec races mean to them.


I was pretty ner­vous. Que­bec and Mon­treal are bike races that I’d seen a lot, but never raced. Young Que­bec rid­ers watch the races and want to be in them. I was one of those young rid­ers a cou­ple of years ago. At first they look im­pos­si­ble. Then you start know­ing peo­ple on the na­tional team who’ve done them. You think, “Well, maybe one year it could be me.”


The first year, I re­mem­ber think­ing it was go­ing to be re­ally hard, but it was harder than I ex­pected. You can watch the races on TV and think, “Oh yeah, I ride my bike hard, too. I can go as fast as these guys.” But then you do it and ac­tu­ally see the strug­gle. It’s com­fort­ing to hear from guys like Guillaume Boivin and other World­tour rid­ers about how Que­bec and Mon­treal are se­ri­ous and hard World­tour races. You might think that they are just two one-day races that over­lap with the Vuelta. Maybe there are World­tour races that are more se­ri­ous than those? But it’s com­pet­i­tive at each race.


They were dif­fi­cult when I did them first in 2014. I didn’t go for the breaks. That was for some of the more se­nior rid­ers. I just stayed in the pack, did the best I could and tried to help out the guys like Ryan An­der­son and Mike Woods, whose goals were more re­sults-ori­ented. It was more of a sur­vival type thing for me.

Last year, Ben, Nic, Alex Cataford and I all had the op­por­tu­nity to go for the break if we were feel­ing ca­pa­ble. The king of the moun­tain com­pe­ti­tion is of­ten the goal for Canada. It’s a way we can fea­ture in the race and is a re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tion. Get­ting a top 10 is ex­tremely dif­fi­cult in those races. So, the na­tional team tar­gets that KOM prize as a way to get some­thing out of the race.


Get­ting into the break is al­ways kind of a lot­tery. The race could go on for five or six laps be­fore the break goes. Or it could be the first at­tack. In Que­bec City, I knew I could get in, but it would be hard.

The first cou­ple of guys went af­ter the Parc des Champs-de-bataille, when it gets tech­ni­cal on that fast down­hill on Gil­mor. Then a cou­ple of at­tacks went on Boule­vard Cham­plain. Ev­ery­thing was brought back to­gether. All the World­tour teams were try­ing to close the road so the break would stick. I would say that half­way along Cham­plain, I at­tacked with Jan Barta. We bridged to the break. Be­fore the first climb up Côte de la Mon­tagne, the break was es­tab­lished, so it took about 7 or 8 km. It was pretty fast.


Af­ter Nic went across to the break, I tried to launch across. I was on my own and got maybe to within 20 sec­onds of Nic and his group. But they were go­ing full out try­ing to es­tab­lish the break. The pack was feath­er­ing it out, but the break wasn’t go­ing to be slow­ing up at that point just to bring on one more guy. I floun­dered a bit and then ended up go­ing back­wards.


They were all su­per ex­pe­ri­enced break­away rid­ers. We ro­tated through for 150 km. Col­lab­o­ra­tion was re­ally good.

They let me have the first KOM point the first time up Côte de Glacis. They said, “Just take it.” So I did. But then my plan was to go for the KOM, even though the first 10 laps only award one point on the climb. I was try­ing to save en­ergy for later when I could win three or 10 points. They let me get the lower points, but when there were more points to win, it got re­ally hard. Jan Barta got in the mix. Then we were brought back by the pelo­ton too early so we couldn’t get any 10-point koms. In the end, no one from the break got the kom.

It was an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence – the best race ex­pe­ri­ence I’d ever had. To be able to race in the break at my first World­tour race, and in my home prov­ince of Que­bec with peo­ple I know cheer­ing for me, was an ex­cep­tional ex­pe­ri­ence.


In Mon­treal, I at­tacked Lukas Pöstl­berger and Fa­bien Grel­lier on the climb. I looked back at Mat­teo and thought, “What is he do­ing?” He was drag­ging the pelo­ton. He gave an­other dig and came across. It was a gam­ble for Mat­teo to keep me so close to the pelo­ton, but it worked in our favour.


I had watched two edi­tions of Mon­treal and par­tic­i­pated in one. It seems the break al­ways goes up Camil­lien-houde. If it’s not there, then it will go some­time later in that first lap. I knew that it would be im­por­tant to be ready to go for it. I made sure I was at­ten­tive up front. It felt a bit crazy do­ing a flat-out ef­fort up the climb on the first lap.

Ben and I tried to see if the oth­ers in the break were in­ter­ested i n the kom. Still, you can never be sure. Some­one might say, “Oh, you can take the points,” and then sprint you each time. Ben and I elected to have Ben go for all the points be­cause he has a bet­ter sprint than me. I wasn’t go­ing to go for them from mid­way or the bot­tom of the climb. The safe bet was with Ben with the bet­ter kick. He could fol­low guys who might be in­ter­ested in it, then just out­sprint them. It was also bet­ter than split­ting the points be­tween us. We could get jumped in the points later. Ben won a few koms pretty hand­ily. I think Grel­lier went for a cou­ple. But, the com­pe­ti­tion kind of waned when ev­ery­one re­al­ized Ben was su­per com­mit­ted and that he had a re­ally good sprint. It was a tough combo for the oth­ers to com­pete against.


I was re­ally happy with how it went for us. Mat­teo was re­ally strong. He did a lit­tle too much early on. But break­away rid­ers like Jasha Süt­ter­lin, who is World­tour, and Sean De Bie, who has won Driedaagse van WestVlaan­deren, were both dropped a few laps be­fore Mat­teo and me. Pöstl­berger and I were the last to get caught. Ac­tu­ally, I think Pöstl­berger had 50 m on me. And of course, then we were just spat out the back.


The break was los­ing time with maybe four laps to go. I did a few turns at the front that were a bit longer to make sure we could hang on for a bit more so that Ben could see more of the 10-point climbs. When they went for the next round of points, I never made con­tact with the group again. I got caught by the pack at the bot­tom of Polytech­nique. I wasn’t able to hang on, and then stopped in the feed zone. I watched the last lap with a cou­ple of the other guys who had also not fin­ished and with a bunch of the staff. Ben kept go­ing as he had to con­tinue to se­cure jersey.


Af­ter that day, I was re­ally happy. Even talk­ing with my coach, we could see it was a break­through per­for­mance in terms of sta­tis­tics and the stress I put my body un­der. It was a new best. It was also the first im­pact that I’ve ever made on a World­tour race. To get on the podium of a World­tour event, even though it’s the kom of a one-day race (not a highly sought-af­ter prize), it was re­ally cool to be up there. It was cool TV time.


I think hav­ing the na­tional team at the Grands Prix Cy­clistes de Québec and Mon­tréal is a huge priv­i­lege given to us by or­ga­nizer Serge Arse­nault. It’s a good op­por­tu­nity


for us to de­velop. To have some­one like Ben go out and re­turn that favour with the ef­fort and a suc­cess­ful podium ride, even if it’s not the fin­ish podium, it shows well for the coun­try and Cana­dian cy­cling.


Last year was also a lot of fun be­cause I knew a lot of peo­ple on Mont-royal. You’re only climb­ing at 20 km/h so you can see all the faces. Ev­ery 20 m, it’s like, “Oh, there’s my mom. There’s Mat­teo’s dad. And there’s this guy I used to race as a ju­nior. There are my Sil­ber team­mates who aren’t rac­ing this week­end.” It was al­most like, “Oh hey! How’s it go­ing?” (Re­ally, I’d nod at the odd per­son be­cause it was not easy be­ing up there.) It’s weird: when you’re rac­ing in front of tons of peo­ple, it feels like it doesn’t hurt as much to go re­ally hard. It’s even more so when you feel like you know ev­ery­one in the crowd. Ob­vi­ously, I only knew about two per cent of the peo­ple, but it felt like I knew ev­ery­one.

left Mat­teo Dal-cin breaks away at the Grand Prix Cy­cliste de Québec

op­po­site Ni­co­las Mas­bourian in the break­away at Que­bec

right Ben­jamin Perry in the Mon­treal break­away

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