Cyclists win stage race in Rimouski

Rob Meeder is director of the Centurion Next Wave Cycling Team.

By Rob Meeder

Will Smith competes in the opening team time trial last weekend at Tour de la Releve in Rimouski, Que. SUBMITTED

Will Smith competes in the opening team time trial last weekend at Tour de la Releve in Rimouski, Que. SUBMITTED

The Centurion Next Wave Cycling Team proved this past weekend that continuous hard work and preparation pays off big time.


Two years ago, the team stormed onto the national youth cycling scene with a convincing win by Gunnar Holmgren at Tour de la Releve in Rimouski, Que.

The five-day race is the premiere cycling event for youth cyclists (under-17).

The following year, Tyler Clark rode to a third-place victory. That year’s team gained huge experience and would return this year with three veteran riders (Dylan Kerr, Colton Woods and Paul Mysko) hungry for another podium spot. Joining them would be rookie Will Smith.

All athletes are from the Barrie-Orillia area and have been training hard for years with this race in mind. They would be racing against 81 athletes on 21 teams from across Canada and the United States.

Knowing the geography and race format allowed them to hone their skills and tactics riding closely as a team in the team time trial, against the wind in breakaways, with the technical skills of criterium racing and with the raw power required for long steady climbs and the individual time trial.

The local hills of Oro-Medonte have proven fruitful in the past for producing high-level cyclists and would prove so once again, along with the team’s new training base at Hardwood Hills.

The team rode the first stage, a team time trial, extremely well with the fastest time overall.

On the following stage, a 48-kilometre road race, Kerr, Mysko and Woods finished in second, fourth and sixth place. An untimely puncture saw Smith drop down in the overall classification.

The third stage was the individual time trial, the 15-km race against the clock.

Again, the men rode extremely well with both Woods and Mysko cracking the top-10.

Woods finished in 3rd place and Mysko in seventh place on the stage. The hard efforts over the three days were paying off with both Woods and Mysko sitting in fourth place and seventh place in the overall standings, with Woods sitting a mere 49 seconds behind the yellow jersey of the leader.

Kerr was just a few spots farther back in 16th overall.

The fourth stage would prove pivotal. This stage was a criterium, 35 laps of a 1-km downtown circuit.

These races are fast and furious with bonuses awarded to riders who sprint to the line during the race and at the finish.

Rain-slicked roads did not help matters. Mysko, Kerr and Woods would finish safely in the pack and the overall leaderboard did not change with Woods continuing to sit in fourth-place overall.

However, Mysko would stamp his authority on the race as the sprint champion placing second at the stage finish while also winning one of the intermediate sprints.

The bonus points saw him win the green jersey as the race’s sprint champion.

Unfortunately, Kerr crashed on the final corner of the stage, taking him out of the race and unable to start the final stage.

Smith did an excellent job controlling the pace of the group and finished safely in the bunch.

The final stage was the hardest of the five stages.

The town of Rimouski sits between the St. Lawrence River and a mountain ridge. The climb to the top is known as Cathedral Hill, a 2.2-km steep climb that has become the defining feature every edition of this race.

The 76-km stage goes up this hill four times and the rider who dominates on this hill wins the race. The men proved up to the challenge and used every opportunity to ensure one of their riders would finish on the podium.

The race was off to a fast start on a beautiful sunny but windy day and riders were dropped from the peloton already on the first time up Cathedral Hill.

A breakaway rider from Team NCCH, Evan Russell, soon was out in front.

By Lap 2, both Mysko and Woods along with two other Team NCCH riders began to close that gap, and were eventually successful.

In the process, many riders including the overall leader in the yellow jersey found themselves unable to match the pace and began to lose time.

By Lap 3, the lead group was down to three riders: Woods, Giuseppe Carone (also of Team NCCH) and Russell. The trio worked together to build a 2:14 advantage over the shrinking peloton.

On the fourth and final pass up Cathedral Hill, the trio shedded Russell and once the remaining two riders made a west turn at the top of the ridge into a strong headwind, Woods accelerated twice and dropped Carone.

Woods continued alone for the last 10 kms of the race including an 83-kilometre-per-hour descent back down the mountain and go on to win the stage by 36 seconds over Carone and over a minute on Russell and more than two minutes on his remaining rivals in the peloton.

The advantage was more than enough to put Woods in the yellow jersey and win the overall title.

Meanwhile, Mysko led the remaining peloton in and claimed fourth place on the stage securing his green sprinter’s jersey.

Also racing this year was the Centurion Next Wave women’s team. Local Centurion Next Wave riders Dana Gilligan and Kayla McKee were joined by riders Abbey McGill from Edmonton and Isabella Brookshire from the United States.

The women started strong winning their Stage 1 team trial in convincing fashion. The team continued subsequent stages placing riders consistently in the top 25 of each stage.

The women’s best finish was Gilligan’s third place in the Stage 3 individual time trial.

However, the criterium and final road race stage would prove difficult. Gilligan, who wore the yellow jersey for three stages last year, managed a respectable eighth-place overall, followed by Brookshire in 11th, McGill in 14th and McKee in 16th.

These strong overall finishes were enough to win the overall junior women’s team title for Centurion Next Wave, a repeat of last year’s performance.

Coaches Kevin Simms and Rob Holmgren couldn’t have been more pleased.

“We performed incredibly well again this year, the 3rd year in a row we have heard CNW over the loudspeaker so regularly. The boys squad was super strong and amazing to see them so dominant throughout the whole event,” Simms said.

The team is looking forward to further success at the upcoming Centurion Blue Mountain event and local mountain bike races, but also the Canadian National Mountain Bike Championships next week in Alberta and then the Mountain Bike World Championships in Australia and UCI Road Race World Championships in Norway, both in September.

Rob Meeder is director of the Centurion Next Wave Cycling Team. 

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