You will know from my previous post that we traveled to Canada to catch the Grand Prix Cycliste in Quebec City and Montreal.
After a great day of racing in Quebec Friday we were stoked about watching another race two days later in Montreal. We drove to Montreal right after the race in Quebec City in an attempt to see a bit of the city on Saturday.
Montreal is a much bigger city than Quebec City, with a different feel. It’s much more modern and the streets are laid out in that grid pattern, like New York City, making it much easier to get around. One might compare driving in Montreal to New York and driving in Quebec City to Boston.
I was mostly impressed with the bike infrastructure in Montreal and will cover that more in another post. Everywhere I looked I saw people riding bicycles or clusters of bicycles locked on the streets. It was certainly an impressive sight.
As we sat for breakfast Saturday morning, and I followed Twitter updates from BMC Racing and Podium Insight, I had a funny thought to go to the train station to greet the traveling teams. But of course we didn’t. We had little time in Montreal and there was much to see. We’d be seeing the teams soon enough the next day.
During the team presentation in Quebec City we learned that there are hoards of people that crowd in to watch and sometimes you can’t see much. Add in the fact that the presentations were done in French we thought we’d set up along the route before the start/finish where the riders would pass along to sign in and then hang out at the cars prior to the start. It worked out really well!
The teams of riders would come up along the course and roll slowly by us, which allowed for some really great photos.
Thomas Voeckler, winner of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec.
George Hincapie, always recognizable.
Team Sky’s Morris Possoni and Chris Froome
Team Radio Shack
Happy to see the always fashionable Jonathan Vaughters at the race.
These guys looked like they were always having fun.
A photographer we met and chatted with a bit.
As we stood there watching them come through at various intervals, we noticed an older gentleman holding a photo of Samuel Sanchez of the Euskaltel team. It turned out that this man was from the same province of Spain as Mr. Sanchez. Another man with him was holding their province flag. As the Euskaltel team rolled through Sammy heard the men and saw the flag and pulled over. Sammy seemed to linger a bit, speaking with the men, signing the photos they carried, and the flag, and posed for photos. It was one of the crowning moments we witnessed on our trip and we couldn’t help but grab some photos of the moment. We were really impressed by the kindness Sammy showed.
Sammy Sanchez. Note the Olympic rings on the front of the helmet.
Our friend who had traveled to the races with us is a huge fan of Levi Leiphemer. Since we had not seen him in Quebec City we thought the best way to get as close to him as possible was to hang near the Radio Shack team car. Unfortunately Levi was a little busy preparing his bike for anyone to get to chat with him.
However, I had an interesting exchange with Chris Horner that went something like this:
Me: Hey Chris, we are looking forward to seeing you in Maine next month for the Dempsey Challenge.
Chris: Yeah. He’s (Dempsey) a big cycling guy.
Me: Yeah, but you’re bigger.
To that he simply tossed his head and grinned, which my husband caught the expression on his face. Priceless and I’ll never forget it! (After that some people next to us asked me what the Dempsey Challenge was.)
Right before the riders started we made our way along the course. Our goal this day was to walk the entire course, in the same direction as the race, in order to get photos from different perspectives along the course. It was only a 12k circuit (7.5+ miles), and with 16 laps we figured we could walk the entire course before they were finished.
We didn’t get too far before the gun went off and the riders went zooming by. It was certainly a very fast start.
Soon after they hit the first and most significant climb of the course and where the KOM points were awarded. As you can imagine there were throngs of people on the climb.
People lining the climb
It was also one of the best spots to shoot, 1.) because the riders are going slower and 2.) there was a corner with a straight on sight line at the top of the climb that was less occupied, lending itself to some of the best photos of the day.
As we walked further along the course there were fewer people to work around for photos. We also got to see a bit of the Mont Royal Park by walking the course.
One of the funniest incidents of the day was when the BMC team car pulled over near us and two guys hopped out of the passengers’ side of the car. I had no idea what they were doing at first and then realized they were taking a nature break. I know the riders often take nature breaks but hadn’t thought about the people in the team cars but these guys reminded me that everyone has to pee occasionally!
The second climb was through the Polytechnique. We had mistakenly drove onto this part of the course the previous day when out sight seeing and couldn’t easily get back to the hotel due to the road being closed for the event. The road was pretty steep and tight on the descent with a sharp right turn at the bottom.
As the riders came screaming down through and hit the corner along the flat stretch you could hear all the clicking and whir of the bikes as the riders shifted into a different gear and powered along the flat.
We powered along the course ourselves at a much slower speed and came along the feedzone. I hung back a bit for the next lap, hoping to score a water bottle or musette bag, but I was too close to the feed for those to be thrown. My husband, further down, saw a water bottle being thrown and someone casually strolled over to pick it up after it laying there for a few moments. Further down we saw people with musette bags. (Another life lesson learned at a pro-race event – don’t be too close to the feed zone in hopes of having something thrown.)
We approached the start/finish line with 4 laps to go, knowing this from Twitter updates, and decided to head back up over the Mont Royal climb one last time for a few more photos on the climb.
At the start of the final lap we made our way down to the start/finish. We saw Gesink on his own flying through the turn onto the stretch before the final turn and run-up to the finish.
And these boys weren’t messing around this day. They were on the hunt to chase Gesink down before the finish.
The chase that didn’t quite catch.
We weren’t close enough to witness the win at the line but caught the action on the jumbo-tron. It was a fabulous win by an incredible young rider.
In summary, I much preferred the course in Montreal to the course in Quebec City. I’m not sure if it was because there seemed to be more action in that there was a break, and a one-man chase that fizzled, followed by a bridge up by Chris Horner and Popovich with 4 laps to go, then a catch by the main field and the final attack by Gesink that created a bit more drama to the race than the previous day. It might have also been because we walked the entire course and were able to get some better photos than on the tight and narrow streets of Quebec City.
Next year when we return we’ll plan to walk the entire Quebec City course to see the other parts as it winds through the park that we did not see this year. That might give me a different impression of the race there.
The other thing that was apparent at this race was that my husband was getting really good at photographing these events! If you need proof, check out the rest of his photos HERE.