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PacificSport Cyclists Manon Jutras 2nd, Erinne Willock 3rd at Road Nationals

June 25, 2004

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In the women's race, Lyne Bessette (Team Quebec) was the dominant rider, taking her second road title in four years. Olympic hopeful Manon Jutras (Team Quebec and PacificSport cyclist) finished second to Bessette, and now looks set to take the third spot on the women's squad, beside Bessette and national time trial champion Sue Palmer-Komar (Genesis-Scuba).

The heat that has sapped the strength of riders all week showed no signs of abating on the final day of the championships, topping 35 degrees during the men's race. The ten kilometre circuit was simple in design, and incredibly hard - start and finish in the valley, in downtown Kamloops, and climb three kilometres up out of town each lap before a quick descent. The climb went up in steps, with some portions better than 10%, and many riders, including Bessette and Fraser, called it the hardest nationals course in memory. The women had to do 12 laps, and the men 18. In the women's race, only 12 riders finished on the same lap as Bessette.

Speculation was, prior to the start of the women's race, that Team Quebec would try to get Jutras into position to take the remaining Olympic spot. Bessette's position was secure, as the highest UCI ranked Canadian woman, and Palmer-Komar, after her incredible time trial performance, had a virtual lock on the second spot. Now it was down to one remaining spot and four contenders - Jutras, Genevieve Jeanson (Rona), Anne Samplonius (Team Quebec) and Amy Moore (Quark). Jeanson did not have a lock on the third spot, after finishing sixth in the time trial, so there was an opportunity for another rider to grab the place. (interval training cycling)

"My plan was to go early, make it hard and get the group at the front smaller." explained Bessette.

Her surge on the very first climb was so strong that only Jutras, Erinne Willock (Rona and PacificSport cyclist) and Palmer-Komar could respond. Willock sat on, for her team leader Jeanson, and Palmer-Komar was struggling, still depleted from her effort in the time trial.

The gap steadily increased, as the field behind splintered. Jeanson was riding with a chase group containing Moore, Samplonius, Sara Neil (Trek-Broadway) and Nicole Demars (Victory Brewing), but they were constantly losing ground, and the Rona team leader clearly did not have the legs to get up to the front group. Bessette and Jutras finally said to Willock that Jeanson was not coming, so she had to contribute. The young Rona rider responded with an attack which dropped Palmer-Komar. Jutras brought Bessette back to Willock, and then the Team Quebec pair dropped Willock on the fifth lap.

Bessette and Jutras rode together until the final climb, with Bessette spending the majority of the time at the front, setting a hard tempo. On the final climb, Bessette attacked, and soloed in for the national title, 1:29 ahead of Jutras. Behind, Palmer-Komar bridged up to Willock, but "my legs only had one speed today on the that climb, they had no snap." said Palmer-Komar. So, when Willock attacked on the final climb, it ensured the first year senior rider a bronze medal.

"It worked out perfectly, with four of us at the front." said Bessette. "Erinne wouldn't work, so we dropped her, and then Manon and I worked together until the last lap. We had discussed (letting) Manon win, to help her Olympic chances, but this is the nationals and it should be the strongest rider who wins, so I attacked again on the final climb."

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