Race report of the Women’s UCI race at the Gatineau Grand Prix from Justine Clift

Justine Clift

There’s a scrap of duct tape on my stem with the word ‘belong’ written in Sharpie; a reminder to myself that I am where I need to be, that I have earned my place on the start line, and that the wheel in front of me is mine to hold. This past weekend brought me to the start line of my first UCI races, the GP Gatineau and the Chrono Gatineau time trial. With the invaluable help of the Wheelers, I was able to hold some fast wheels and gain some critical big race experience with a top-10 finish.

After a rainy pre-ride on Thursday, the Friday time trial was thankfully dry. It was a technical course, therefore I took it out conservatively, perhaps too much so, trying not to burn myself out on the first grinding uphill off the start line. After the first section I settled in, attempting to ride aggressively through the corners- one of which I definitely needed to be on the brakes for! Luckily, I saved this too-fast turn at the last second and came away satisfied with my overall effort and a 14th place finish in a field of over 40 riders.

Saturday’s 120km race has been re-told to me several times, and there was great online and live coverage. Due to the intensity of the effort, my experience is not very coherent but can be summarized as:

Laps 1-6: Move up, move up, move up. Corner, crash, chase, corner. Move up, move up, move up!
With the pace not high enough to string out the peleton, and corners almost every kilometre, it was messy off the start line! Lots of contact and a few crashes kept things interesting, to say the least.

Laps 7-8: Chase. Sit up. Chase for real.
The first significant break was caught at about 60km after Tibco went to the front to bring it back. In the counterattack that followed 5 girls got away, with all the big teams represented. I initially went to the front to initiate the chase, but around one of the roundabouts a gap opened up and I put my head down and kept going.

Laps 8-12: Don’t screw up. Don’t screw up. Don’t screw up.
I bridged to the break alone, making contact sooner than I expected. I committed fully to the effort knowing that I wouldn’t have anything left if we were caught. In hindsight, I should have been more strategic, because when it came down to the final kilometre, the moves happened quickly and my legs had nothing left to respond.

So it was 6th place for me- a result indicative of all the work I have done over the past year and a welcome reminder that I have earned my place in the peleton.

What a warm welcome to the Wheelers! Thanks again for all your support that made this experience possible for me and my teammates.

Pro-Elite Team 2014

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Race report from Fynn Schooley at the Grand Prix cyclistes de Brossard


On may 4th at about twenty to one, I was lined up in the Gp cyclistes de Brossard. I was already soaked but really excited to ride the 1.5 km 5 corner course. It was my first race as a cadet in Quebec this year and I knew it would be a very competitive field. About fifty of us awaited the start of a hard 45 minute race in the rain. Right from the start I knew positioning was going to be key. I got right up in the first 10 in the peloton. It was a fast pace! There was a split in the peloton just 5 or so laps in. There were a few early attacks but nothing stuck. I found myself at the back of the peloton after my right foot unclipped from the pedal when I was sprinting out of a corner. I battled hard for three laps and made it back to the front safely. About 30 minutes into the race, Thierry Kirouac Marcassa attacked on the home straight. I jumped across and bridged the gap onto his wheel. Thierry was the overall winner of Mardis cyclistes de lachine last year. He won as a first year cadet. Finding myself on his wheel 50 metres ahead of the peloton going full gas gave me a good feeling about the season. Neither of us wanted to work together so we fell back to the group. At this point, I was soaked and really cold. I was looking forward to changing into my sweats and hoodie. But we still had another 10 minutes + 3 laps to do. I raced calmly at the front until 2 laps to go where I worked myself into a good position to sprint from. We came around the last corner into the home straight. At about 350 metres I was on the right of the group 4 back where I wanted to be. I had a good feeling. As I started my sprint which was early. The lead out of a sprinter of Laval espoirs followed cut in front of me. I had to slow down and sprint around them taking off later than the eventual winner. I made my way to tenth. My sprint had got blocked but at the end of the day I was happy with my performance in the race. I had done well in my first cadet race and learned a few things! Season’s in full swing now! Thank you to my dad for driving me to the race. Wouldn’t have “almost felt” like I had hypothermia without him!


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Catherine Bouchard’s race report from last weekend at Ste-Martine. This is the second race she has done, not of this season, but of her life. WOW!!!



Grand Prix IGA  Ste-Martine Race Report

Here’s a short recap from my race at the Grand Prix IGA  Ste-Martine, on April 27, 2014.

For this race, all the women’s divisions were combined at the start line, and riding alongside the Elite teams felt somewhat surreal at first. The pace was high from the outset, with several attacks already taking place early in the first lap. I fought to keep my position near the front and out of wind, and jumped several times to catch riders that were trying to get away. In the second lap, the attacks were routinely followed by counter?attacks, which made it hard to recover.  I became expected to pull at some point and did so for a short while. Meanwhile, there were a lot of riders still sitting behind, and I knew the race hadn’t even started yet.

In the third lap, the peloton split. I caught up to a rider, and after resting on her wheel for a few seconds, I passed her so she could do the same.  Next thing I knew, there were a few of us now forming a small group. A few Kilometers later, we were down to four with the main peloton still in sight. One of the girls said “Come on let’s catch them”, and that’s when we really began to get organized and look after each other. We never caught up to the main peloton, but we echeloned our way to the finish line through two more laps. I came in fourth, just missing the podium, and was very happy about my race, especially the first half of it! I think this road race gave me a good taste of what’s ahead this season, and it won’t be easy!

Catherine Bouchard

Additional Comments From our Race Director, Rick Bourgeault

Well this being Catherine’s second race it was  important to keep things simple. Like most races for any racer my instructions to Catherine were to stay near the front and always try to find the center. This would keep her out of danger, keep her speed at a constant level and being centered would keep her sheltered from the wind. Ste Martine is always windy and this day was no different with strong steady 20 Km/h head winds!

Staging for the race Catherine was ready, positioned in the middle of the group and a bit nervous but eager.

So I was happy to see Catherine come by during the second lap in eighth position! Right where she should be. She continued to stay out of trouble until after the 4th  of 6 laps. As I suspected the Elite women started to push the pace and I knew it would be difficult for Catherine to counter moves made by the Elite teams.

In the end I was very happy to see Catherine do so well in such a difficult race this early in the season! The final numbers and results don’t always tell the whole story! Catherine has listened carefully, and she has made great strides in such a short period of time. Congratulations Catherine on your performance in a very difficult race!

I think as race director I was most pleased  after the race to see that other women, Elite women riding with her in the race came up to me to ask “Who was that new Wheeler?” I could not think of a better way to end such a difficult race day as  her peers complimented to me how impressive Catherine looked during the race. It was a source of great pride to me and the ladies were blown away when I told them that this was indeed Catherine’s second race ever as a Master 1! The Wheelers should be proud of her efforts as a Wheeler and the traditions of strength, honour, courage and grace in her pursuit of excellence!


Rick (Rico) Bourgeault

Race Director,

West of Quebec Wheelers

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Race report from one of our youngest members, John Stuart, who pulled a great team effort with fellow member, Fynn Schooley. Good work boys! Making us proud.


***Credit to Cara Kropp for the picture

As I waited on the line, I sized up the competition. I learned from the Machine from Lachine, not to judge someone based on their looks. I didn’t think anyone would be very competitive, but I proved to be wrong. Right off the line, Fynn and I gunned it 300%. We tore the field apart, with nobody in our dust. We continued hammering for 4km, and we told each other when to go harder and if anyone was chasing. I looked back after a long straightaway, and all was clear. Then, right before Fynn pulled off, I looked back again around the corner and we had a pursuer! I kept a strong pace over and back down the hill, keeping our distance at about 10 seconds. I torched it up the next hill, in hope to discourage our pursuer, and opened the gap significantly.We kept it strong for couple minutes, then we saw him closing in. He made contact with us, and we all slowed down and kept an endurance pace. I pulled off the front and went in behind the OBC rider. His calves were huge, and I wasn’t sure whether his skin could keep them contained, then suddenly when Fynn pulled off the front, he made an attack. He accelerated quickly and didn’t stop, but he didn’t get far. He returned and stayed on the front at an endurance pace. Seconds later, he pulled off and slowed down, then I was at the front and kicked. He had to stand up to get on the back. About 20 seconds later, when I pulled off, he made a space between Fynn, who was now in front, and himself. I filled the space, but slowed my pedalling. I made a gap between fynn and I, and soon it was several bike lengths. The OBC rider behind me realized that Fynn had a gap, and he had to fill it. Fynn sped up, and it made it even harder for the guy to get onto his wheel. I sat in his draft as he brought me back up to Fynn. After Fynn, then the OBC guy pulled off the front, I attacked, and kept it for about 300m. We slowed down, and played cat and mouse for the last lap. Whenever the OBC rider seemed suspicious of an attack, I sneekily pulled him over to the side of the road and blocked him from going. I did this countless times, and I succeeded. I didn’t want him to attack, because if was able to catch Fynn and I earlier in the race, then maybe he could pull a flyer. We came to the last 600m, and there was a rise, a curve in the road, then 300m straight to the finish. He was at the front, then attacked the hardest of all, up the hill, towards the finish. Fynn covered his wheel, and I took Fynn’s. He lead us out to the 200m mark, then Fynn sprinted around him, and I just followed Fynn’s wheel. We celebrated 20km before the line, but we knew we were safe, because he was a ways back. The whole race, we did little things to beat him down, and although he could accelerate like the cars that ride on the track, by the end, his legs were too bogged down to compete. It was a brilliant team effort.

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From horseback riding to bike racing. Fellow Wheeler, Catherine Bouchard, recounts her first racing experience at Calabogie.

20140413_8172On Sunday April 13th, 2014, I entered the Calabogie Road Classic in the Women’s Master A division, and here’s my race report.

But before I begin, I want to thank my fellow Wheelers for their support, and in particular Rico, who has generously given of his time and knowledge in order to help me become a racer. Hopefully I haven’t given him too much grey hair in the process. Big thank you  everyone!

Back to Calabogie. I must have been slow to get organized that morning because I was just starting to warm up when staging began. It worked out well since that didn’t leave me enough time to worry. I lined up at the start line with about 30 girls, none of which I knew so I won’t be dropping many names today. As we waited for the countdown, I was shivering like mad and wishing for the speech to end already so I could get warm. Did I mention it was ass-freezing cold? Ok, I think I’ve made that point!

We’re off. I’m positioned toward the front of the peloton and my goal is to stay there, nothing fancy. The first few laps are uneventful and I manage to stay in a sweet spot without too much work. Life is good. Almost too good, in fact, and I wonder how much longer this will last.

The pack seems to be moving backward when we hit a hill. I have some good momentum but not so much patience, so I jump to the front instead of slowing down. However, I soon realise that I’m not strong enough to pull for very long without risking blowing up early in the race. I tuck in behind a wheel with newfound admiration for the girls in the front. They are some tough women!

After lap 3 or 4 I start to loose count. Apparently there was a lap counter, but of course I didn’t find that out until after the race.  I decide to focus on one lap at a time, and manage to stay within the front third of the pack despite the pace picking up a bit. Someone has gotten away fairly early on, but nobody is interested in chasing her so I almost forget about the breakaway until the next gap update. A quick scan of the peloton reveals that some of the girls are missing. Meanwhile, I’m floating around the pack and things are running pretty smoothly.

We’re nearing the end of lap 10 and I’m getting tired. On the hill, the girls take off like they mean it this time, but I have nothing left in the tank. The head wind hits me as soon as I lose my wheel and there is no hope of making up the gap now. There is a full lap left to go, and it’s going to be a long one…

As I glance over my shoulder, there is no one in sight and I begin to wonder whether I’m not dead last somehow. I eventually spot a solo rider in the distance and try as hard as I can to catch up to her. She crosses the finish line just before I can catch her, but I’m grateful she was there because she kept me going when I felt mentally an physically worn out in the final km’s.

I was glad to have stayed with the faster girls for 10 out of 11 laps, but it almost seemed irrelevant as I rolled across the finish line to the sound of criquets. I didn’t know yet that there were still about a dozen riders behind me, much less that I had made the podium!

As I think about my race, it strikes me how lucky I am to be part of the Wheelers community as I experience these things for the first time. There is still a lot for me to learn, but the whole day was a blast and I can’t wait to do it again!

Catherine Bouchard

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