So at this point I could run through the stages and tell you how it played out but I happen to think that Tour de Beauce was enough of an adventure aside from the racing to warrant telling the “other” story of the week.
Sunday night before flying out I was at a friends pizza party (complete with a brick pizza oven!), enjoying the summer weather in the back yard, drinking wine and generally having a good time (at least as good as you can a few days before a race). The conversation was wonderful and the food...over the top. I planned on heading home on the earlier side but the clock got away from us and it was 11PM by the time I left for home. This wasn’t too much of an issue though as my flight wasn’t until 3PM the next afternoon, or so I thought. Before climbing into bed I thought I would double check the departure time of my plane the next day, turns out I looked at the arrival time not the departure time so there I was running around my house in my underwear at midnight frantically packing for a plane I had to get up at 5AM to catch.
I made it to the airport with time to spare only to find out that my 8AM flight was delayed by 30 min. We boarded only to sit on the tarmac for an hour, disembarking and wait in line at the desk to have our flights rescheduled. (Side note: Why do people pay money for hallucinogenics, just travel a couple time zones sleep deprived. Reality and your imagination blend into one big confusing Fondue). In the end I had to make an extra stop going to Detroit then on to NY, finally arriving in Quebec City at 11PM with an hour drive left to Beacue. Arriving at the hotel we discovered that we were short a bed so I had to share one with Lucas all week, fortunately it was a King. We all passed out and woke the next morning late for a training ride in beautiful Northern Canada summer day.
Out and about in the day time we finally had a chance to see the town that we had driven into the night before. Our hotel was perched on a hill looking down at the main drag which as far as I could tell consisted of a sandwich shop, a couple of car dealers, a grocery and a bank. An 18th century european style church across the river on the other side of town stood out in stark contrast to the small downtown. In this remote town of about 30,000 or so and it became very obvious just how far North we were, especially when the sun didn’t set until nearly 10PM.
Although we were only an hour plane ride from the boarder Quebec still managed to give off the feeling of being somewhere back in Europe. Our credit cards stopped working properly, English was replaced by gesturing as a form of communication and Starbucks was not just around the corner anymore. By day four of the race buffet we had all cracked on the standard assortment of “race” food as evidenced by our post dinner raiding of the teams breakfast box.
The next two days brought torrential down pours which made for less than ideal race conditions. Fortunately everyone managed to avoid the crashes that always come with rain, well everyone except me. Day two chasing back from a flat with one of the Canadian National team riders a car towards the front of the caravan slammed its breaks and we went full gas into the back of the team car. I was lucky landing in the ditch instead going through the rear windscreen but it made for a sore hip the rest of the week.
The circuit race in downtown Quebec city was awesome! The main drag there reminded me a lot of Victoria, B.C. cobble stones, courtyards, massive parks and outdoor eating. We rocked up blasting tunes in our 15 passenger van, everyone in good spirits. Even Hendrik starting dancing once “Empire State of Mind” came on. There aren’t many things that can make you laugh before a race like Hendrik getting his groove on. It was a glorious day until the race gun sounded. Heavy gray clouds settled in by lap two and for laps three and four we might as well have been racing in a shower for how wet we got. When it rains that hard you immediately go into survival mode, its no longer about racing to the best of your abilities its about making it to the finish line in one piece without giving up anymore ground than the next guy. Fortunately the rain didn’t last and the finishing laps were dry.
The foul weather from the Quebec circuit seemed to be the breaking point for the peleton as fever, coughs, aches and general malaise struck about half the riders down. The morning of the final stage a number of us woke up with sore throats and fever, I was amongst the wounded soldiers. The final day was to be all out warfare if we were going to change the outcome of the race and we would need all hands on deck. We put our whining aside, lined up, numbers pinned and raced to blow it apart.