The final day of Epic Israel 2019 was the best yet for Canada’s team of Andrew LEsperance and Raphaël Gagné. The pair made the break with powerhouse Czech rider Jaroslav Kulhavy for a second day in a row. This time the two Canadians held on all the way to the finish and a third place on the stage.
Saturday’s result pushes Gagné and L’Eseprance into the top-10 on the final GC ranking at Epic Israel.
As they had on Friday, the Canadians made sure to be near the front of the race when the flag dropped on a neutral rollout and real racing began. Following an early attack, the two quickly found themselves in a front group with the Czech Olympian’s team and rapidly gaining time on the field.
“After 5k the pace went really hard after the Russian/German attacked and we were the only one to follow as well as the Czech team,” Gagné said of how the day unfolded. “We rode the front trio team for half of the race until we had to take our own pace. Doing so probably meant we finished strong, unlike the last two days where the last long climb was our weakness.”
While Kulhavy kept the pace hot on the front with eyes on the maintaining his team’s GC ambitions, the Canadians focused on riding their own pace in the approach to the days final, long climb. The plan worked, with the pair attacking the final climb to hold on to third at the stages end, just 2min 42s behind Kulavy and Matous Ulman’s winning time. With the result, the Canadian pair end 2018 Epic Israel in 7th overall.
“What a great way to finish off our time here in Israel with our strongest ride and 3rd place on the stage,” says L’Esperance. “Going into the last day our goal was to again race at the front and ride aggressively but my personal goal was to make it to the last climb in good shape and finish strong.”
“We delivered a strong day on the bike for this last stage,” added Gagné. “Its nice to see that we never played defense in the day or overall, always charging always playing offense, again today it proved to be a smart decision.”
With the three day race done, the pair now head back to Canada to start the off season.
“My experience at Epic Israel was amazing. Each time I get to do a stage race I learn so much and takeaway so many great lessons,” said L’Esperance, looking back on three days of racing. “I am happy to conclude my 2018 season with this race and I am looking forward to getting back to Canada to start preparations for 2019. Thanks to the race organization, Israel Ministry of Tourism, Norco Bicycles and Forward Racing for the support to make all this happen.”
“I’d like to thank my partner Andrew for the race, the Israel Ministery of Tourism for inviting us and hosting us well, added Gagné. “Also my team Silverback OMX pro team. This concludes my 2018 XCO season and I am excited for a bit of rest before starting building towards next race season.”
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Donc @jaquelinemourao et moi avons pris le 3è rang aujourd'hui pour s'emparer de la 3è place au classement général!! 😁🥉🚴♀️ 3 jours où nous avons mis tellement d'expérience dans notre baluchon. Merci aux bénévoles durant ces 3 jours qui ont surpassé nos attentes! J'en profites pour vous annoncer que dans moins 14 jours, Jacky et moi prendont le depart du Bresil ride, une autre course à étapes de 7 jours au Bresil😱😱 Merci à @apogee.sports pour les maillots d'ambassadrices! ✌🤘 . . It's over and with today's 3rd place, we finished the GC in 3rd overall.🥉🚴♀️ It was AMAZING and we learned so much. Thanks to every volunteer who made this race incredible. Now back home tomorrow for less than 10 days because Jacky and I will be racing again together in the Brasil ride in 14 days. Yep another stage race of 7 days 😱😱 Thanks to Apogee Sport for letting us be ambassadors of the jerseys👌 😁 @epicisrael @brasilride #smithoptics #PursueYourThrill #ChromaPOP #absoluteblack #ovalthis #esigrips #stagescycling #kogelbearings #badassracers #cricketpowered #golddiggercyclist #teampowerrunenergy #cssl #timecycling #timepedals #ambassadeurLTIPS @smithoptics @andrewmc_ofc @esigrips @kslsport @stagescycling @mtcouleurcafe @absoluteblack.cc @kogel_bearings @kogelcanada @naak_bar @s4suspension @powerrunenergy @cliniquesportsante @agnicoeagle @lauriedumas @nievex2toine @groupeminiercmacthyssen @SPASO_Sports @timecycling @pilegilles @fredericdomingue @cdesllaurentides @ville.valdor
Canadian Cindy Montambault was also racing the 2018 Epic Israel. With her Brazilian race partner Jaqueline Mourao, Montambault finished 3rd on the final stage. Added to the pairs Stage 1 third place, they end the Epic Israel third overall.