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by Michael Better
June 22, 2016
Photography by Casey B. Gibson
Celebrating its 31st edition, the 2016 Tour de Beauce did not disappoint in providing a week of aggressive racing. While the WorldTour teams prepare for the Tour de France, Beauce is a race for North American teams and riders to step into their own and prepare themselves for a successful summer of competition.
The 185-kilometre opening stage of the race set the tone for the week to come. The parcours featured a tough 14.7-kilometre circuit, which included a tough 15% climb through the town of St-Odilon.
Mihkel Räim (Cycling Academy Team) proved to be the strongest on the 200-metre uphill kick to the finish, beating US national road champion Greg Daniel (Axeon Hagens Berman) to victory. Chad Beyer (Team Lupus) finished third.
“We proved today what we are capable of doing. Guillaume, I hope you’re well and this win is for you,” Räim said in honor of teammate Guillaume Boivin, seriously injured in a crash on Saturday at the GP Saguenay.
Nielson Powless (Axeon Hagens Berman) won the bunch sprint for sixth, 1:16 behind the winner, as five-rider breakaway that was able to survive to the finish.
The queen stage of the Tour de Beauce occurred on stage two and finished atop Mont Mégantic in Saint-Georges. Sepp Kuss (Rally Cycling) crossed the line eight seconds ahead of Luis Lemus (Cycling Academy). Canadian Hugo Houle (Team Canada) finished third.
“It’s an honor to win on such a prestigious climb,” said Kuss. “A lot of big names have won on Mont Mégantic and it feels amazing to be on that list. It also feels great to finish off a great day of teamwork and repay the team’s faith in me to go for the win.
Daniel rode himself inside out on the finishing climb and came home in 12th, 1:13 behind Kuss. The effort was enough for him to pull on the leader’s yellow jersey.
The two-part third stage included a morning time trial and an evening road race. Powless scorched the 19-kilometre time trial in the morning with a winning time of 24:39. Daniel was able to retain the leader’s jersey by a mere seven seconds over Hugo Houle (Canada National Team).
“The first half of the time trial was hard for me,” Powless said, “but luckily it was a tailwind on the way out and headwind on the way back. I started feeling better at the turnaround.
“My legs felt a bit more snappy and it gave me some confidence to know that I was feeling good going into a headwind. The one-kilometer climb with two kilometers to go on the way back gave me a chance to empty whatever I had left in the tank. So when I crossed the finish line there was not much else to give.”
Michael Rice (Garneau-Quebecor) captured the evening 78-kilometre stage, which ended at the top of the 178th Street “wall” in Saint-Georges. Daniel finished second and kept the yellow jersey, as Isaac Leblanc (Lowestrates) rounded out the podium.
“It’s a beautiful day, a great victory for the team,” Rice said after the stage.
Mihkel Raim won the fourth stage criterium, besting Pierrick Naud (Rally Cycling) and current Canadian criterium champion Benjamin Perry (Silber Pro Cycling). The general classification remained unchanged.
“I did not know what the plan was. It was really hard but the crowd helped us,” said Raim.
The final stage of the 31st Tour de Beauce demonstrated who was the strongest rider of the race. Daniel sprinted to victory over Houle, who attacked multiple times on the final lap of the final stage circuit in Saint-Georges.
“There were very strong guys here, especially Hugo. I am very proud of my team. They did the job,” said Daniel of his overall victory.
The young American also took home the Best Young Rider and Points classifications. Rob Squire (Holowesko-Citadel) won the King of the Mountains classification.