Its been a year of firsts for Whistlers Will Routley: his first year focussing on road racing as part of a team, his first year in stage racing and his first time winning a SISU B.C. Cup series race. In the seven-stage, 900-kilometre Grand Prix Cycliste de Beauce in Quebec last week, he made another important first his first ever leaders jersey.
In the third stage of the epic race, which is considered the most prestigious in North America by racing teams and the UCI, Routley finished in 11 th place with the lead group and gained the red leader jersey given to the top Espoir (under 23) racer. He spent the next four days in a battle to the keep the jersey and with the help of his teammates on Symmetric Cycling and some hard riding he was successful.
"I became the team leader in a sense," said Routley. "We still wanted team results, to try and win some stages, but at the same time we wanted to keep the jersey so I was being protected out there and (my teammates) just did an incredible job, the guys were totally selfless in that regard.
"I remember on the fourth day, it was a mountain-top finish, and it was a totally crucial stage for us, and I had a couple of teammates giving me a lead out to the base of the hill. There were basically out there sacrificing themselves to lead me to the base of the climb. It was phenomenal."
An American Espoir chased Routley every step of the way. After the third stage the gap was just 18 seconds.
"We were battling to the wire. On the final stage he was attacking, he was trying to do it. I had him in the back of my mind the whole way. I had to do the hill climb well. I had to do the time trial well," said Routley.
"Its one thing to be in a break and get the jersey, and its another thing to hold onto to it until the end of the week. You have to be consistent, because one slip-up and you lose it."
Routley stayed in the top 25 per cent of riders throughout the race, finishing in the top-20 on general classification and top-25 in every stage against teams and riders from the U.S., Mexico, Germany, Poland, and other nations. There were also a lot of strong Canadians in the field who were battling for the two remaining spots on the Olympic road team.
Routley says a strong result in the Tour de Beauce will help him reach his goal of representing Canada at the UCI World Road Championships this year. He needs another good result this weekend at the nationals in Kamloops, which is a one-day race.
His team is the first priority in that race. Routley believes Symmetrics, which dominated races in Western Canada and U.S. this season, could take the national title.
After this weekend he has a time trial on Thursday, a criterium on Saturday and another road race on Sunday. He will be back on his mountain bike, familiar territory for Routley, the following week when Calgary hosts the UCI World Cup.
Routley said his results this year have come as a surprise, "but if you work that hard you have to believe in yourself a little bit. I knew it was possible but doing it is a different thing."
You can follow Will Routley on the Symmetrics Web site at www.symmetricscycling.com.