Treacherous Conditions, Crashes Shape La Course
Jasmin Glaesser punctuated an impressive run at the 2015 Pan-Am Games with an exclamation point, winning the women’s road race in a one-on-one sprint against Cuba’s Marlies Mejias. It was Glaesser’s fourth medal in the Toronto games after winning gold and silver on the track in the team pursuit and omnium events alongside her Canadian teammates, and silver in the individual time trial.
Glaesser benefitted from Team Canada’s considerable horsepower in the 82.5 km road race. Her teammates neutralized any and all attacks over the first half of the race, and she waited for a window to launch a decisive move. The window came near the end of the third lap, and Mejias was the only rider able to follow her decisive strike.
“With Cuba having swept the podium at the last Pan Am Games, we (Team Canada) made sure to take control and ride aggressively early on,” said Glaesser. “As a team, we did a phenomenal job of keeping the pressure high and wearing down our competition, which eventually allowed me to break away clean.”
The pair worked together over the final two laps to build an insurmountable gap on the chasing peloton, and a high stakes game of cat-and-mouse began over the final kilometers. Mejias, arguably the better sprinter of the pair, weaved around the road in an attempt to force Glaesser into an unfavorable leadout position. The German-born Canadian waited patiently on the Cuban’s wheel until the last 200 meters, where she launched one final acceleration to fend off Mejias to the line.
“I knew Mejias was a strong sprinter, winning the Pan Am Championships in a bunch sprint just two months ago,” said Glaesser. “I was confident that the effort required by us to hold our gap would suit my strengths and level the playing field between us. On the long finishing straight, I waited as long as possible to make my move, and was able to get a jump on Mejias and hold her off to the line.”
Glaesser, known for her selflessness on the Orange & Black, was happy to have a turn in the spotlight.
“I was disappointed to have had some bad luck with a flat tire during the time trial, just missing out on the gold there, so was ecstatic to bring home the win in the road race,” she said. “I am always content to ride a supporting role, and I don’t get too many chances to go for a win. It was great to be able to capitalize on this opportunity and show what I am capable of on the road. Bringing home a major medal on home soil is definitely one of the memorable moments of my career.”
In the men’s race, Guillaume Boivin found himself in a similar situation at the line – a three-up sprint against Venezuelan Miguel Ubeto and American Eric Marcotte. The recently crowned Canadian road champion hesitated to start his sprint early in headwind conditions, and was boxed in behind Ubeto and Marcotte. Boivin was left disappointed with the bronze medal finish.
“It’s not the color I wanted,” Boivin said. “I feel like I let the guys down. They did an incredible job all day and my job was to close the deal. I just couldn’t do it. It’s tough right now, but maybe when I take a step back I’ll enjoy it a bit.”
Suffering Abound on Rain Soaked Champs-Élysées Circuit
Like no other sport, road racing is beholden to the elements, and Sunday’s La Course by Le Tour de France offered up dangerous conditions that pushed a defense of Leah Kirchmann’s 2014 podium finish out of reach for the Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies women. Rain began to fall during the race’s opening ceremonies and didn’t relent, causing all six women to crash at separate times during the race. Bad luck didn’t only strike the Orange & Black – there were many pileups on the Champs-Élysées slick cobblestoned corners, shaping the outcome of the race. Many of the world’s top sprinters were left unable to contest on the slippery circuit. The rain didn’t only effect the women – the final laps of the Tour de France, coming on the same stretch of pavement as La Course, was neutralized due to the dangerous conditions.
“It’s certainly disappointing to have the outcome of such an important race changed by circumstances outside our control,” said Performance Director Patrick McCarty. “With the amount of traffic and grime normally on the Champs-Élysées, when you add a big dose of rain on top, it really turns into an oil slick out there. The whole team was left a bit bruised and bloody, and unable to really contest the podium. We are fortunate that no one was more seriously hurt, and we have a lot more racing in Europe to rebound with.”