Kimberley Wells of Colavita-Bianchi went long and won the seventh edition of the Grand Prix Cycliste Gatineau. The Australian rider edged out Joëlle Numainville racing for Team Quebec and Leah Kirchmann of Team Canada in a long sprint from a reduced group of about 40 riders.
“I took the words of Kirsten Wild who said you need to be fifth wheel in the roundabout, third wheel around the final corner and then you win,” Wells said. The Colavita rider ran into Wild, the winner of the 2015 Grand Prix Cycliste Gatineau, at the airport after the Amgen Tour of California wrapped up last month.
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The 104.4-km race that passed through Gatineau Park twice was lit up by a number of attacks, but the peloton never let a true break establish itself. Leah Guloien of Trek Red Truck Racing did most of the first lap through the park solo off the front. Guloien attacked and quickly closed the gap to early attackers Allyson Gillard of TRJ Telecom-Desjardins Ford and Aliya Traficante of Stingray/Trek/Lacasse. The Trek rider had a maximum advantage of 50 seconds before the gap plummeted on the second lap.
“Karol-Ann Canuel set a super hard pace on the second lap through the park and shattered the field,” said Kirchmann, who sprinted to a third-place finish. “The race came back together for the circuit. We were always in the moves, but then with two laps to go, it was obvious the peloton wanted a sprint.”
Canuel, racing for Team Canada, put on a punishing pace that saw a group of 12 riders get away from a reducing peloton. Team Canada and Tibco-SVB were well represented but with a number of other teams missing the move, the group’s 30-second gap began to be whittled down and entering the final urban circuit, the group had been caught.
A move of nine riders stayed away for a lap on the circuit that included Numainville (Team Quebec), Jessica Mundy (Fearless Femme), Lauretta Hanson (Colavita -Bianchi), Irena Ossola (SAS-Macogeg-Acquision), Canuel (Team Canada), race winner Wells, Kendall Ryan (Tibco-SVB), Sarah Iepson (Sélection de la Région Capitale Nationale) and Rebecca Fahringer (CRCA/Velo Classic). They were brought back, and then a group of seven took off but were also brought back quickly.
“Coming into the final kilometres, we had the whole team there. Karol-Ann led me out through the final turn. The sprint started super early with Wells going and it became a drag race between Wells, Numainville and myself. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the legs.” Before the race Kirchmann said racing in Canada was particularly special with members of her family making the trip to watch her race.
At the end of 104.4 km, it was Wells who raised her arms in triumph after holding off Numainville and Kirchmann. “I went from a long way out to try and get the jump,” Wells said. “I really just had to keep pushing and dig deep despite having cramps in the sprint. I held them off thankfully.”
Numainville said that despite coming in second for the fourth time in Gatineau she was very satisfied with her race. She is coming off a training block with Carmen Small (Cervélo-Bigla), who is fresh off of winning the U.S. national time trial championship. “I always come out to win, but I was very happy with how I raced,” said Numainville.
For the Australian Wells, the win comes in only her second time visiting Canada—the first was a family vacation to Niagara Falls. “I hope to qualify for the world championships in Qatar with Australia. Winning a big UCI 1.1 race is a good step to achieving that goal,” she said.