It was a busy weekend on Mont-Royal...
I suited up with warm clothes and went from home to Mont Royal. Teams took their time to arrive but after a while, I saw something orange ride up Camilien-Houde... Not Youppi!, the famous mascot of the Expos (and now the Habs) but Euskies!
I'll miss orange
Usually riders are ok with people following them (one team was an exception, I'll let you guess who), some riders are even very friendly (Samuel Dumoulin and Leonardo Duque come to mind), so I held the wheel of Ion Izagirre (he was taking it easy) for a few hundred meters right to the top of Mont Royal. Speaking no Basque whatsoever, I tried to remember what Albertina patiently teached us, but without success. No conversation here.
As I waited on the top, chatting with various people, I saw most teams. Vacansoleil was one of the first teams to go by.
Thinking of Holmovka and Pablo I cheered for Lagutin, which made for a comical reaction from the other riders who made some fun of him in a "hey Sergei people cheer for you and not for us, you're a fan favorite" way.
The first two times I went on the pre-race warmup day (missed it last year) I rode with Cofidis; couldn't do it this year as they are not present. It was starting to get a little cold, so I went with the next team... 4 BMC riders and a few tourists like me. There is something with red kits I guess. Riders were Moinard with whom I exchanged a few words, two others I didn't manage to identify... and Cadel Evans.
This guy. Picture taken while standing on the side of the road of course.
That's right, I held a few times (very respectfully and being extra-extra-extra-extra-(...)-extra careful) the wheel of Cadel Evans (on flats and downhill, mind you), marvelling at how smooth and easy everything is to them. At the end of the lap, they headed for the hotel, I headed for another climb of Camilien-Houde at my own snail pace.
Two Katusha riders were ahead.
Katusha as seen earlier on Polytechnique climb
I managed to reduce the gap somewhat but when the climb went steeper, I realised I wouldn't catch them. Or if I pushed and did catch them, I would blow up seconds later. Turning around I saw a few hundred meters behind me a big group coming.
These guys were coming. Hello Alberto.
I moved to the side of the road, got the camera out and took pictures. Maybe I should have stayed on the bike to be caught by Contador (and then, when I'm old, I can say "kids, let me tell you about the day Contador dropped me on Mont Royal")?
Two unidentified AG2R riders came by and I followed them to the top.
Anyone know who they are?
Once again, they are going easy, I'm dying behind them. These guys are good (and I'm not). I put the bike on the side of the road at the top to take a break, turn around and who do I see, coming alone about 50 meters behind me? No other than Hesjedal. No time for a picture, a word, anything.
Teams and riders go by. There is a good crowd at the top, taking pictures, going with teams. In the crowd, there is a little boy, maybe 8-9 years old, on his racing bike. Obviously he climbed the whole way up, never underestimate the energy of kids. Hesjedal then comes around for another lap and the father of the kid sees hims, and yells at his kid that Ryder is coming. Kid starts going and Hesjedal, a class act, goes beside him, gives him a little pat on the shoulder and starts "sprinting" with the little kid. Great moment, much respect for Hesjedal. A while after, I went home with a cold headwind... that was less fun.
Have to get up early to get to the circuit... roads are closed, so finding a decent place to leave the car (no bike today, too many people) includes some luck (and some skill to understand the infamous Montréal parking signs). We got to the start / finish line just as they started the team presentations. Met some family and friends, and we stayed at the 200m sign to see riders going back and forth between the line and the team cars. For those of you who were in Flanders in 2010, the Rollin flag is now autographed; he was impressed to find out that the flag was there at the classics.
Speaking of cobbles... OPQS
For the first few laps, I stayed at the hairpin at the end of the circuit. The speed at which the riders arrive, the breaking and the sound of the carbon brakes is impressive; when you see the riders coming, you believe there is no way all of them will pass safely, yet they do.
It was now time to go up, which meant passing the finish line were we had the audio of the TV broadcast. At that moment, they were talking about wheels, and how important it was to put air in the tires before the race. Thank you TVA Sports for giving us such great advice.
Slowly climbing Mont Royal, we saw the peloton go by a few times. The break was set early, OPQS (especially Pineau) were driving the peloton... time to eat lunch. Someone saw my PdC jersey and said we're doing a good job; maybe he likes tales of zombies and becco slaying?
We stopped at the concrete barriers turn, my favorite spot. Crowds were a little lighter than usual, but just after the turn, things were as crowded as usual. There I met Frenchkheldar (wearing a PdC jersey really helps to find people). The break was the same, but at a point a Katusha rider went fully chasse-patate, being in a nowhere between the peloton and the break.
Another Katusha (Selig) tried the same thing, he held for a lap before blowing up and being dropped.
Sky then started to raise the pace.
Rasch spent a long time pulling the peloton.
Where is Froome? (held up by a crash)
We finally had a race, and at a time on Camilien Houde, Sagan was at the back and not looking very good, or so I thought. Cannondale was nowhere to be found at the front, but Sky and FDJ were.
With two thirds of the race done, we went back down to the finish area to get a good spot; found one at 140 meters. But someone had an ever better spot.
Long work day is over for Pineau, who has the best spot to view the race
We also saw many riders going back down to the hotel. Peloton got smaller and smaller, and faster.
Albasini did a solo number, without results.
In the final lap, crowd roars, looking at the single giant screen we see Hesjedal attacking, but Sagan leaves him behind and goes solo all the way to the finish line. Guess he was ok.
Back to reality: workday. It's cold again. Train ride to downtown is ok. I work right next to the hotel were the riders are; Cannondale and BMC trucks are right there. While in the elevator, I take a casual look at the various business that are in the tower; notice one I hadn't seen before... I wonder if the riders knew that right next to their hotel is the headquarters of WADA?