Tuesday 23 April 2013

Grand Prix Cycliste de Gatineau 2013

18.05.2013 (GP) and 20.05.2013 (Time Trial) Official Site and FaceBook
Canada, One-day Road Race, 132.34km (GP) and 9.2km (TT)
UCI 1.1

Joelle Numainville won in 2010 (when she
rode for Webcor), was second in 2011
(riding for Tibco) and was best-placed
Canadian rider with fourth place in 2012
(with current team Optum)
Back in 2010, Canada found itself suddenly lacking in UCI women's cycling races when several events - faced with financial difficulties or lack of interest - fell by the wayside. Fortunately, instead of deciding that this was evidence that the sport is less interesting than men's cycling and cutting funding as some national federations might do, the Canadian Cycling Association decided to look into why those races hadn't been as successful as they might have been and to investigate ways in which a new event might be given a better start in life.

The reason, they decided, wasn't that women's cycling is boring or less competitive than men's cycling; awareness of it just isn't sufficiently widespread - there is an audience for it, but most of that audience didn't know it yet. The answer they came up with was one that many professional riders and fans have been advocating for years: combine some UCI races with an already-popular family cycling event. That way, the existing event benefits when more professional cycling fans show up and the race benefits from a ready-made audience, many of whom then go home as new fans thinking that this pro cycling thing all seems rather good fun.

What's more, they had the perfect event in mind. Since 2004, Quebec's La Grande Visite de Gatineau cycling festival had been offering a popular mix of gran fondo, bike show, bike market, children's races, fairground attractions, food and all the other things that have made similar events - like Luxembourg's Festival Luxembourgeois du Cyclisme Féminin Elsy Jacobs and the Belgian Omloop van Borsele, both of which attract enormous crowds with more coming every year - as successful and glorious as they are in cycling's Low Countries homelands. So La Grande Visite gained a UCI  time trial and a road race, and both of them (along with a couple of new men's races) were so popular that the entire shebang was renamed the Grand Prix Cycliste de Gatineau. And it's been getting bigger and better every year since.

If you're running an event designed to showcase cycling, you don't want to use the traditional point-to-point format in which riders begin in one town and then ride to another town a couple of hundred kilometres away, as is the case in stage racing; the problem being that people who haven't already fallen in love with cycling or casual fans really can't be bothered with waiting around for a few seconds of excitement when the race flashes past. Thus Gatineau, like many other races, uses the circuit format: the riders complete thirteen laps of a 10.18km route, allowing spectators to see them go by twelve times without even having to move. With each lap, the riders become more familiar with the parcours and the race becomes faster instead of slowing down due to fatigue and, often, a rider or group of riders who weren't among the favourites will make an all-or-nothing effort to get into the final lap with a big lead on the bunch, putting the favourites under pressure to respond. Watch the start, find a decent cafe and a decent beer with a view of one of the most crucial points along the parcours, then stroll to the finish line - there's no better way to watch a race.

Previous winners: 2010 Joelle Numainville, 2011 Giorgia Bronzini, 2012 Ina-Yoko Teutenberg

Grand Prix Parcours
GP map - click to enlarge
The race begins on the Boulevard des Allumettières, a wide, smooth and flat road that promises a fast start despite the roundabout, left-hand bend, right-hand bend and right corner all within the first 0.5km; the right corner leads onto the Promenade du Lac des Fées heading north for 1.48km. The first 1.1km are entirely flat, then the road climbs 20m on the approach to the non-technical left corner onto the Rue Gamelin, giving an average gradient of 5.26% - just enough for a group of climbers to make a breakaway attempt (expect the less-well-known riders to do so early on, possibly in the first lap, to get a chance to ride out in front and please sponsors by getting noticed, and the favourites to do so later on nearer to the end of the race) in an effort to leave the sprinters behind.

The Rue Gamelin continues arrow straight south-west for 0.96km; the first 0.2km is flat and followed by a 17m descent in 0.234km, the average gradient of -7.26% being potentially enough for climbers in a break to lose their advantage as, being lighter than sprinters, they tend to lack the weight to maintain efficient control on downhill sections (this isn't true of all climbers, however; some don't fear descents and could maintain or even increase their lead here). There's a small climb of around 10m between 0.5km and 0.6km from the corner, the average gradient is therefore 10% - but this isn't an accurate description of the climb because most of it is far less steep; however, for a short while it tops 14%, which over the course of thirteen laps will take its toll. After descending for the next 0.225km, it climbs again; this time gaining 13m in 0.123km - an average gradient of 10.6% with a few much steeper points before it flattens out before the next corner.

GP altimetry - click to enlarge
There is loose gravel along the roadside at the left corner onto the Promenade Gatineau Sud, but there's plenty of room for riders to avoid it even if the corner is approached by a complete peloton. The section is 1km long and the first 0.27km descends steeply, losing 22m at an average gradient of -8.1% with plenty of scope to let the sprinters catch the climbers again, then following a flat central part  riders climb 10m in 0.15km, average 6.6%. It ends at an easy right turn onto a 0.2km access road leading back onto the Boulevard des Allumettières, where the riders turn right to continue traveling west. The first 0.125km of the access road is flat, the rest descends very steeply between two rocky outcrops. If you take a closer look at the route on Google Earth, note that the mad -40% descents at the end of the access road and the first 0.15km of the Allumettières don't actually exist and appear as features on Google's elevation profiles due to the difference between the altitude of the road (which first passes through a cutting between the rocks and then over an embankment) and the surrounding landscape isn't taken into account - neither of them appear on the race organisers' profiles.

The race now continues along the westbound carriageway of the Boulevard des Allumettières for 1.7km, a flat and gently bending fast section that passes under a flyover 0.82km before a turning point where the riders switch onto the eastbound carriageway and head back the way they came, passing by the access road from earlier before coming to another one 1.82km from the turning point. Turning right onto it carries them up a small climb and onto the Promenade Gatineau heading north; they cross Allumettières on a flyover and then return to the first access road 0.34km after joining the Promenade, following it back down onto Allumettières where they travel east on the westbound carriageway for 1.31km to a roundabout, going right around it before heading west once more. 0.28km later - an ideal distance on a flat and straight road for a good bunch sprint, should the race come down to one - they arrive back at the finish line to either begin a new lap or complete the race.

Time Trial Parcours
TT map - click to enlarge
The time trial, which takes place two days after the Grand Prix, uses a parcours made up of the same roads but in a different order; this makes it 9.2km in length, slightly shorter than the GP's lap length of 10.18km. Evelyn Stevens won the first edition in 2010, Clara Hughes won in 2011 and 2012.

The start line is slightly west of that used in the GP, being located at the roundabout where the Rue Labelle crosses the Boulevard des Allumettières; instead of turning left onto the Promenade du Lac des Fées access road as they did in the GP, the riders continue west along the Allumettières for 2.59km, arriving at the same turning point between the carriageways. They then travel east for 1.82km to the Promenade Gatineau access road, turning right onto it and, rather than turning left after 0.33km on the Promenade to get back onto the Allumettières, proceed north-west for 1.41km to the Rue Gamelin - not an easy route at all due to the steep climb up to the junction. The Rue Gamelin carries the race just under a kilometre to the east, where a right turn leads onto the Promenade du Lac des Fées heading south for 1.48km - the first half-kilometre is downhill and should generate some very fast speeds - to the left turn and access road to get back onto Allumettières; once on Allumettières, the finish line is approximately 110m ahead at the roundabout where the race started.

TT altimetry - click to enlarge

Other Events
The women's Grand Prix and Chrono are just two of many events and activities that make up the GP Cycliste de Gatineau. In addition there road races for Junior, Senior and Masters men, the new-for-2013 Coupe du Québec Cuisses Or de l’Outaouais young riders' race; a 102km gran fondo promising some of the best roads and most beautiful scenery in Quebec; a Ride with the Pros event in which children aged 4-9 can ride on the circuit with some of the professional stars shortly before they race in the Grand Prix; and the 20km family nocturne that formed the very first Grande Visite de Gatineau back in 2004. Velo Village - a combination of bike show, bike market and food/music/art festival, takes place on the Rue Laramee immediately south of the Boulevard des Allumettières start lines throughout the duration of the meeting.

How to follow the race
Keep an eye on Twitter (#Gatineau?) to find riders, team officials and fans tweeting directly from the events.

No start list has yet been made available. Further details here as soon as possible.

More information closer to race day.

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