As I mentioned in my previous post, we traveled to Canada earlier this month to watch the Grand Prix Cycliste in Quebec and Montreal. This is my account of the Quebec trip.
I had heard so many people say such wonderful things about Quebec. Mainly the comments were that Quebec is like stepping into a European town. They were exactly right!
My only concern was the language barrier. I only say this because I took a required two years of French in High School and it was not something I did well at and have forgotten anything I might have learned. I found that most people were perfectly willing to speak English to us, even though I was under the impression that some felt if you didn’t try to speak French they would just give you the cold shoulder. I did not find this to be the case at all.
So our morning started off with a simple continental breakfast at the hotel then a walk to Starbucks for some decent coffee. Luckily I speak the international language of Starbucks!
As we stood in line at Starbucks it was apparent that many of the ProTour riders were also there for a bit of caffeine prior to the upcoming race. Then I gazed down the line only to see George Hincapie and Chad Beyer in line. Soon Jens Voigt also joined them at the end of the line. They were gracious enough to allow me to get a photo of them with my friend Suzy so early in the morning.
My only regret at that moment was not bringing my CSC jacket with me. I had brought it to Canada in search of Jens to sign it. A few years back, at the Tour de Georgia, I was lucky enough to have Bobby Julich and other team members sign it. That was the last year CSC sponsored the team before it became Saxo Bank. It was also the last year that Bobby Julich raced. Jens was part of that team then, too, so it only seemed fitting that his signature be on this jacket as well.
After grabbing coffee we headed out to walk some portions of the course to scope out vantage points for taking photos. There were very few people milling about at that time so it was lovely to walk along the quaint streets without the throngs of people that would later line the streets during the race.
It was then time to check out of the hotel and head to the race start for the team presentations. Having never seen the team presentations, I expected it to be a bit more organized than it was. The riders seemed to flow in casually. In fact Team Radio Shack signed in with only 6 of its 8 riders. I noticed that Horner was one of the riders missing. He and another member showed up a bit later and stood for their applause. It was actually a funny moment.
I love the two photos above and wonder what the story behind them was. Was it Irizar’s plan to get into the break, which he did, and who he could convince to go with him? Or was he laughing at a prank he played on Horner and Brajkovic, causing them to be late?
Once the team presentations were complete we wanted to head out onto the course to set up for photos. Along our walk we saw the team cars lined up with a few of the cyclists milling about.
Of course I stopped at the Saxo car to see Jens again. He was in the process of casually repairing his shoes and entertaining the crowd at the same time.
I wasn’t sure if he would be signing autographs when he was done but he did. So I whipped out my CSC jacket for signing. I also wanted to have my photo taken with him. He said, “Hey, didn’t we already do this earlier?” I replied, “Yes, but I wasn’t in the photo!” (Jens remembering me from Starbucks was the highlight of my day!)
I previously mentioned Bobby Julich, who is one of my all time favorite riders and I was so sad when he retired from cycling. So I was thrilled to know he was at this event. Even though I didn’t get a chance to have a photo with him my husband did snap some pictures of him for me!
Then it was off to the job of photographing the race. We set up on the first climb, Cote de la Montagne, for a few laps. There were tons of people but we managed a few good spots for photos before moving further along the course for more photos. Doing this meant better photo opportunities because there were fewer people. It also gave us different angles of the riders throughout the race.
Quebec City lent itself to a very technical course of winding roads on somewhat narrow streets, with a few challenging climbs.
I was so thankful for Twitter while we were in Quebec. Between the Grand Prix Cycliste, Podium Insight, and BMC Racing I felt like I had a little bit more inside information to the race and what was going on compared to what we could see out on the course. Following these individuals also proved invaluable at the Montreal race as well.
As the race was nearing its end we walked our way along the course back to the start/finish line. While waiting for the race to end we started talking with a lovely man from the area. He wanted to know where we were from and once we told him he mentioned he had visited Old Orchard Beach when he was younger. (Old Orchard Beach is approximately 20 miles south of Portland and a summer haven for Canadian tourists.)
We told him how much we loved visiting his city and he was also more than happy to give us the rundown on Quebec City and all the various events they have going on throughout the year that was should come back for. It was such a pleasure speaking with him. It’s always nice to meet friendly locals who are proud of their city and get so excited to tell you all the wonderful things about where they live.
All in all, the Quebec race was well attended for a Friday. There was not a lot of action within the race except for the last few laps. Thomas Voeckler of BBox ended up winning the race. Later he said that he went off the front and didn’t believe he’d be able to manage the lead as he approached the finish. But the chasers didn’t seem to get organized enough to chase him down. We did watch the race the following weekend on Versus and the look on Voeckler’s face said it all.
The barricades along the streets would be up for a while after the race, which meant we were blocked into the Hotel parking lot, we decided to grab some dinner before heading to Montreal for the remainder of the weekend. Just as we made our way back to the parking lot they were taking down the barricades and we departed on our 3-hour drive to Montreal.
We all felt like we were short changed with our visit to Quebec City. Not only does my husband want to go back for Winter Carnival, but next year we’ll go to Quebec City on a Wednesday and travel to Montreal on Saturday to allow for more time and sight seeing.
Obviously it was impossible to post all our 800+ photos here on the blog. Click HERE to see all our photos from Quebec.
I’ll be posting my account of the Montreal race in my next post. Stay tuned!