Grand Prix Cycliste Gatineau 2012

The top female road cyclists in the world gathered in Gatineau, Québec, for the annual Grand Prix Cycliste Gatineau, held this year from May 18-21, 2012.

Both the individual time trial and road race events are UCI WE 1.1 rated, which can be considered the equivalent of UCI WorldTour event for women.

This being an Olympic year, the event attracted a lot of the Olympic hopefuls testing their legs in preparation for London. All the teams seemed to have brought their A-riders, with the only notable absence being Italian Georgia Bronzini, winner of last year’s road race.

The weekend also included a Gran Fondo race for us mere mortals. You can read about my experience in that race here.

Photos from this event can also be found on my Flickr Gallery.

Chrono Gatineau Rona

First up is the individual time trial held on the Saturday, May 19th.
The course was 2-loops around a 9.8km circuit, for a total of 19.6km.

There were a lot of good vantage points for spectators, which allowed me to get some good shots of riders off the start ramp.
Olivia Dillon from Canada (Team Now and Novartis) just off the start ramp Alexis Rhodes (AUS, GreenEdge-AIS) just off the start ramp Rhae Shaw (Canadian National Team) working hard right off the bat.

I moved over to the roundabout where riders turn for their second laps, where Olena Sharga of Ukraine had her back wheel slide out and hit the deck. I almost felt bad about shooting pictures while she picked herself up, but I was lucky enough to have been panning her in burst mode.
Olena Sharga (Ukraine National Team) about to hit the deck. Olena Sharga (Ukraine National Team) was ok after wiping out.

All other riders got by the roundabout unscathed.
Julie Beveridge (Canadian National Team) at the roundabout Megan Guarnier (USA, Tibco-To The Top) negotiates the rounadbout

Near the finish line, the riders went right up against the barriers. I used this opportunity to try some action panning shots with slow shutter. Most did not turn out well, as expected, but there were a handful of good ones:
Oliveira Flavia (BRA, Farno D’Asolo Colavita) almost at the finish Olena Pavlukhina of Ukraine approaching the finish

Clara Hughes of Canada, last year’s time trial winner, was the last one off the start ramp, looking to defend her title.
Clara Hughes (CAN, Specialized-lululemon) was the final starter.

She was definitely on form that day, and was already ahead before the roundabout. At the end, she easily beat out the competition for her 2nd Chrono Gatineau victory in as many years.
Clara Hughes about to win the time trial

And so, the champagne flowed on the podium.
Clara Hughes opens the champagne at the podium

Grand Prix Cycliste Gatineau Hydro-Québec

The main event, the elite road race, was held on Victoria Day. The course was 13 laps around a similar route as the time trial, but ran in reverse direction.

Tara Whitten of Canada, world track cycling champion in the omnium discipline, took off on her own on the first lap.
Tara Whitten alone on an early break

Unfortunately for her, no one was willing to work with her, the gap with the peloton never exceeded 2 minutes, and it was doomed to fail. She eventually dropped out of the race after getting caught and promptly spit out the back of the peloton, with nothing left in the tank.

The main peloton cruised at an easy pace for the first half of the race, then the pace picked up. The peloton became smaller with each passing lap as riders were popped off the back one by one.
Peloton chasing down a breakaway The peloton from another angle Peloton crossing the start/finish line with a few laps to go

There were repeated attacks in the final few laps, which was quite exciting to watch.
Another break formed, with 3 Canadian riders The 4 breakaway riders passing the start/finish line

However, every single break was chased down by the peloton, which meant the race would be decided by a bunch sprint to the finish.

On the bell lap, there were about a dozen riders remaining in contention:
Bell lap. Not a lot of riders left in the front group.

The bunch sprint was won by Ina-Yoko Teutenberg of Germany, who seemed to be the Mark Cavendish of women’s cycling. The top Canadian was former national champion Joëlle Numainville, just off the podium in 4th place.

This was my first time watching a professional road race live. There was no clock at the corner of my screen telling me breakaway gaps, nor do I got to see anything that happened outside of my visual range. However, having the peloton rush past at over 40km/h is something that can never be surpassed by TV.

I will definitely need to make my way to Montreal and Quebec in September to watch the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec/Montréal.

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