Leandré Bouchard
Leandré Bouchard races in the 2015 Canadian XCO championship

Cycling Canada’s squad for Grand Prix Cycliste de Saguenay, running Thursday to Sunday, in Quebec’s Saguenay region, features five riders, two of whom ride primarily on the trails.

The squad leaders are Cycling Academy’s Guillaume Boivin and Benjamin Perry, the latter of whom returns to Saguenay this year after a powerhouse 2016 that saw him take second in final overall standings, not to mention a tidy stage win.

“It’s also great to get MTB/road integrated again – we used to do more of it in the mid-late 90’s and early 2000s. The disciplines are still very compatible.”

The remaining roster, of course, doesn’t slouch in the power department, either.

Hailing from Saguenay himself, Léandre Bouchard will join his national MTB team squadmate, Raphael Auclair, in the road event. Bouchard heads to Saguenay after a stellar 2016, a year that saw him ride at the Olympics in Rio di Janeiro before a season in 2017 that earned him a 16th-place finish on the World Cup circuit. Auclair, meanwhile, one of the country’s top under-23 riders, is also known to followers of the Canadian cycling scene for his performances on the road.

Rounding out the Canadian squad, finally, is James Piccoli, whose first UCI win was in Trinidad and Tobago in fall 2016. Two reserve members—both professional riders—will also be a part of Canada’s efforts: Alex Cataford and Pierrick Naud.

Kevin Field, men’s road manager with Cycling Canada, is enthusiastic about Canada’s plans in Saguenay this year.

“I’m thrilled to be taking this unique team to Saguenay,” Field said. “On the sport side, this project represents an experiment in discipline integration that’s exciting. Leandre and Raphael are primarily MTB athletes, and I’m working close with [national mountain bike coach] Dan Proulx to develop process goals for these riders around tactics and team work that can benefit them in the shifting styles in MTB racing.”

“It’s also great to get MTB/road integrated again – we used to do more of it in the mid-late 90’s and early 2000s. The disciplines are still very compatible,” he added.

Beyond the athletic objectives of the event, though, there’s also an element of community involvement in this year’s unique project, Field noted. “In Saguenay, for example, the team will be participating in a meeting and dinner with local federal Member of Parliament Denis Lebel and other leaders in the community,” he said. “In addition, we will participate in meet-and-greets with important local youth clubs, especially with Léandre Bouchard, who is a cycling success story from the region.”

Pierre LaFontaine, Cycling Canada’s chief executive officer, also noted the importance of outreach in Team Canada’s 2017 initiatives.

“One of the crucial aspects that we need to keep developing in Canada,” LaFontaine said, “is to help enhance our domestic calendar, increase the depth of the events and continue building memorable events.”

TEAM CANADA ROSTER
Raphael Auclair – Haute-Saint-Charles, Que.
Leandre Bouchard – Alma, Que.
Guillaume Boivin – Montreal
Ben Perry – St Catharines, Ont.
James Piccoli – Montreal
Reserve: Pierrick Naud – Amos, Que.
Reserve: Alex Cataford – Ottawa

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