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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Canadian Road Cycling Championships


There is a point in every cycling race where a rider faces a choice. You bite into the lead -- or get bitten by others. In the 2011 Canadian Road Championships, it’s appropriate this could happen on Rattlesnake Point Hill. The women will climb the steep incline of Appleby Line eight times, the men 14. It is a 600-metre haul covering 150 metres in elevation. For a map of the course and other details, go to http://www.midweekclub.ca/  and click Road Nationals.

“This is where riders will try to demoralize opponents by showing their strength,” says Burlington’s Charlie Bryer, who will compete for the first time in the elite men’s event Saturday.  “Or they can end up demoralizing themselves if it doesn’t work.”
Burlington is action central for the national championships over eight days. The road race course over Burlington and Milton country roads is the premier venue with around 5,000 spectators expected. The women’s elite race is Friday June 24.

The Nationals serve as part of the qualifying process for October’s Pan-American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico and give elite riders a measure of where they stand competitively leading up to qualifying next year for the London Olympics.

Bryer, 23, went over the course with me recently to provide a sense of how the race could play out.  He said the Immunity-FX road race will be different from professional races he has competed in as there will not be as many pro teams working together to spring a winner. Bryer said the SpiderTech team will likely dictate the pace and strategy as the 180-kilometre race evolves.  He says spectators can expect a calm first two laps before the first attempt at a break will be staged.  “A big team like SpiderTech will want to make sure they have the right composition for a break,” noted Bryer, who will ride for Team Ontario. “They’ll want to have two riders in every break.”  Other big teams like H&R Block or the Quebec entries will assign a rider to go with the SpiderTech men.  “The break group will probably be made up of that and one rider from each provincial team and maybe a few individual riders.”

The strategy here is to protect the rider or riders designated to be in position for a final attack to win.  The pros in the breakaway group will set the pace through the first seven laps and let the potential winners cruise back in the main body, or peloton, to be sprung later with fresher legs.

Bryer expects the lead group will begin to falter as riders have expended too much energy. They will fall back into the pack and the stronger riders will begin to emerge from the peloton for a split that could determine the winner.  Thereafter, he noted, it will come down to a series of attacks, individual riders trying to break the will of others in the lead group. He feels it could be decided on Bell School Line, a straight shot south from 14th Side Road to Britannia Road West.  “I think you will probably see two Spider-Tech guys in that split group of about six. They could attack here on Bell School Line and help each other while the others are in the wind. The idea would be to build up a cushion before that final climb.” It could come down to one final leg-draining push up that twisting 600-metre climb to declare a winner.

Rattlesnake Point Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25. The best place to watch the road races is on the Appleby Line hill.  For the elite men’s and women’s criteriums Sunday, June 26, a tight downtown course in Georgetown, spectators will get a great view of the race by watching from the platform on the back stretch along Mill Street and Park Avenue. The hill going down toward Main Street also provides a good vantage point.  For Under-19 and Masters events on the Aldershot course Sunday, July 3, the best place to catch the action is along Howard Street and Hidden Valley Road near the finish line. There are many turns, dips and dives in that area.

John Kernaghan has written about cycling at the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, world championships and Canadian championships.

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