Strong fields light up Ottawa’s Little Italy for 43rd edition of criterium
It was a year for first-timers at the 43rd edition of the Preston Street Criterium presented by eQ Homes in Ottawa on Father’s Day Sunday.
The victors in the elite women’s and elite men’s events had never raced Preston Street before, and they both came out on top of the strongest fields in years.
But the biggest winners were the spectators who turned out in force for the elite races as the sun came out after a wet start to the day and were treated to an exciting day of racing.
The elite women’s race was stacked with talent. The Cyclery-Opus, which has won the event for the last five years running, lined up with 2013 and 2014 champion Annie Foreman-Mackey backed up by talented teammates including Ellen Watters, Emily Flynn and Ariane Bonhomme.
They faced a field with plenty of out-of-town riders on their way to the Canadian Championships next week. These included Vancouver’s Trek Red Truck Racing (Leah Guloien, Kinley Gibson, Sarah Coney, Sara Bergen and Suzanne Hamilton), Montreal’s SAS-Mazda-Macogep_Specialized, 2014 world team time trial champion Karol-Ann Canuel (Velocio-SRAM) and 2012 Olympian Joëlle Numainville (Bigla Pro Cycling Team).
The racing was aggressive from the start. The riders from The Cyclery-Opus had clearly been given instructions to go on the attack to try to avoid a field sprint and they started launching moves from the first lap. Catherine Dessureault of SAS-Mazda also initiated several breakaway attempts and Canuel got in the mix too, but nothing was able to stay away for more than a lap as the high pace took its toll on the field, whittling the main group down to fewer than 20 riders going into the final laps.
Numainville, who struggled in 2014 with a lingering concussion, has returned to top form recently, finishing second in the Grand Prix Cycliste de Gatineau two weeks to go. She was clearly the sprinter to beat but spent much of the race chasing primes, so the big question on the final lap was whether she had anything left for the finish. But she erased any doubts by coming around Jamie Gilgen (Rise Racing p/b Cyclepath Woodbridge) after the final corner to take the win. Independent rider Rebecca Beaumont was third, Canuel finished fourth and Guloien fifth.
“I’m really happy that I came – I didn’t expect such a strong field and so many spectators,” said Numainville. “This gives me lots of confidence that I have good form going into the national championships.”
The men’s race had almost as much depth as the women’s, with strong contingents from Team NCCH p/b DEC Express, Ride With Rendall p/b Biemme, Sante Universelle/Marin Bikes and H&R Block Pro Cycling Team, along with smaller entries from Garneau Quebecor, Silber Pro Cycling, Transports Lacombe/Devinci and, racing on his own, heavy hitter Pierrick Naud of Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies.
The attacks started almost as soon as the flag dropped. Adam de Vos and Bailey McKnight of H&R Block both made several attemps, as did Jack Burke and Brandon Etzl of NCCH, Ben Andrew of Santé Universelle and Matteo Dal-Cin and Derrick St. John of Silber Pro Cycling.
But nothing stuck until a group of nine riders moved slightly off the front after about 50 minutes of racing. St-John used this as a launch pad for a solo move that quickly gained 10 seconds on the peloton. Recognizing the danger, the riders in the pack stabilized the gap, and it stayed the same for the next 10 laps. St-John has won Preston St. from this position before – in 2009 – but it was not to be this year as he was brought back with five laps to go, setting up a bunch sprint won by Australian Jason Lowndes of Garneau Quebecor, just ahead of Naud and Etzl.
Lowndes, 21, came to Canada to join his new team this March, bringing with him a reputation as a sprinter. He came through today, winning the $1,000 top prize and his weight in Kichesippi beer.
For full results, click here.