As they headed into their respective home races this week, the teams of both Whistler pro cyclists are riding high after excellent results on the road in Quebec last week.
Will Routley's Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies picked up victories on the first two stages of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Saguenay, a new UCI stage race that wrapped up Sunday, June 8, while Ben Chaddock's Garneau-Quebecor squad had a rider on the podium in all four stages, who finishec just one second from first place in general classification.
For Optum, Routley's teammate Eric Young reached the line first on Stages 1 and 2, both circuit courses held in La Baie. Routley played a key role in both wins, covering moves and helping set up Young to sprint for the victories.
But overall, it was somewhat of a bittersweet race for Optum, as Young held the yellow jersey going into the final stage but couldn't hang on for the GC title.
"He had the leader's jersey for three days... but it just came down to that last day," said Routley. "It was a hard circuit and he kept coming back, but on the last lap there were about 30 guys in there (at the front) and he couldn't quite make it."
Routley finished 10th on the final stage, but Young was 69 seconds back, and stage winner Jure Kocjan of SmartStop earned the GC victory. In 25th spot, Routley ended up being Optum's top rider in the overall rankings.
"You set the goals a little higher when you have the jersey for three days, and coming into the last stage there's a distinct possibility of keeping it," said Routley. "But it's hard to be too disappointed when it's still obviously a successful tour."
Finishing as the runner-up to Kocjan was Chaddock's teammate Pierrick Naud, who was in the top three of every leg. Chaddock said Naud's results were a huge boost for the team.
"It's huge for morale when you have someone to rally behind," said Chaddock. "That's what you always want as a bike team. You always want someone going really good."
Chaddock's race unfortunately ended on Stage 2, when the 29-year-old was part of a 20-rider crash. He emerged from the pile-up unscathed, but his bike did not, and he was forced to abandon.
"I was one of the first guys to go down, so I hit the ground pretty hard, but I think I landed on somebody else and they took the brunt. But I broke my bike," said Chaddock, who said he was going 50 km/h when he got tangled up.
"You hear someone yell, then you hear the bad sound, and before you know it, you don't have time to go anywhere... But I didn't hit my head, which was a nice thing."
Both Chaddock and Routley also rode the Philadelphia Cycling Championship, a one-day, 193-km road race on June 1. Routley finished 10th in that event, while Chaddock said he thought he rode well, though he wound up finishing 36th.
This week, Chaddock remains in Quebec with the team for the Tour de Beauce, which kicked off Wednesday, June 11, and runs until June 15. Since the team is based out of La Belle Province, Chaddock said the support the team has been receiving while racing near home has been tremendous.
"When you put on the Louis Garneau jersey here in Quebec, you're a rockstar, so it's very special," he said. "There are a lot of people riding around in our kit... and that's pretty cool. The fans in Quebec are always very passionate, too."
Optum will have a team at Beauce, but Routley won't be on the roster. Instead, he's in Minnesota for the North Star Grand Prix, held over the same dates.
"Optum is based out of that area, so it's a big race for the team," said Routley.