Rafael Gagné (Red Truck – Garneu p/b Easton Cycling) dominated day 2 of CycleSmart International, soloing away from the field and holding off his pursuers to take the win. A large group of podium contenders would ride together behind him, making soft attacks to jab at one another all race. After a suspenseful race waiting for big attacks, the final podium places were decided by a blistering final lap and small group sprint. Dylan McNicholas (Polartec) rode a smart race and would out-sprint all in the chase group to claim 2nd, while Cameron Dodge (unattached) would hang onto his wheel for 3rd.
Half a lap in at the sand-pit and Smith still led, followed by McNicholas, Gagné, and the rest of the field.
As we’ll see again later, Gagné put a little more body-english on the bike, looking like he had a little more trouble on the sand than other riders. Also, check out Dan Chabanov (House Industries/Withings/SimpleHuman), as featured in Episode 8 of Crosshairs Radio! Great start and an otherwise great ride, finishing in 13th!
After dipping out from the wooded section of the course, Gagné was already off the front and beginning to establish a solid lead.
After Gagné passed a few seconds earlier, his pursuers hit the run-up in two separate little groups:
A lap later, and chasers would begin to rotate at the front:
The sand never proved to be a defining feature in how the race would play out, but Gagné did seem to be in a little difficulty with each encounter.
Then Van Den Ham, Clark, and McConnell got their turns to drive the pace:
As the race progressed, Gagné made the interesting tactical choice to continue bunny-hopping the barriers. I’ll assume he was showing off a little for the crowd, but with his lead, it was still a safe move. He could have bobbled once or twice, then stopped for an espresso at the Rapha Mobile Cycle Club, and still would have held an advantage.
Meanwhile, it was still anyone’s game for the remainder of the top 5 as riders jockeyed for position.
Over the last half lap, McConnell led through the sand, and up the run-up into the woods.
From the finish line, I looked across the course to see riders emerging from the woods. Clark looked to be fading from the group, apparently having attacked too early in the woods section, with Van Den Ham and Dodge leading the charge.
Around the final corners, Gagné even slowed to watch the race unfold behind him. As Gagné crossed the line, the sprint for 2 and 3 was developing further down the finishing straight.
Out of nowhere, McNicholas has the advantage and rides into 2nd place, with Dodge firmly latched to his wheel but unable to come around in time. McConnell took another 4th place on the weekend, and Van Den Ham appeared to have sprinted too early, and would settle for 5th.
Gagné, post-race, pre-giant-cookie.