Team SpiderTech powered by C10 is one of the most talented Canadian road racing teams ever assembled, and Whistler's Will Routley has the distinction of being the first member of the team to climb the podium since they earned their Pro Tour status.
At the Tro Bro Leon, also known as the Tour de Leon in the Brittany region of France, Routley placed second overall, just one second back of Team Europcar's Vincent Jerome. He was joined in the top 10 by teammate Bruno Langlois, who was sixth overall with the third chase group.
The podium came just two days after Routley won the Most Aggressive and Top Sprinter titles at the Grand Prix de Denain, as well as the points classification.
It also came on a course that featured several kilometres of gravel track, which no doubt suited the former national junior champion in mountain bike.
Routley was sitting in fourth coming off the gravel road section and came out of the corner with the lead group. With six kilometres to go there were four riders in the race, and Routley latched onto the back where he rested and drank from his water bottle while preparing for the final sprint.
It didn't look good with two members of the FDJ team in the final four, but Jerome made his move on an uphill section with about five kilometres to go and Routley hung on while the FDJ riders dropped back.
The two jockeyed for the lead, but the French rider got out of his saddle a little faster on the final sprint to take the win while Routley, suffering from a cramp, was caught off guard.
Routley's placing was big for the team, which is entering its first season on the UCI Continental Cup tour, as well as big for the 2010 Canadian champion.
"I've known for a few weeks now that I have been due for a breakthrough," he said in a statement at www.cyclesportmanagement.com. "My form has been good and the team has been riding together as a unit more and more all the time. Today it finally happened.
"Everyone did such a good job supporting one another as a team, and I felt really strong. I'm happy to get our first podium over here in Europe.
"I know the mistakes I made coming into the final sprint, and might lose a little sleep in knowing if I did the finish a little differently I might have won the race, but this second place only makes me more hungry. Tro Bro Leon was a really great classic-style race that I'd love to do again."
Teammate Lucas Euser also earned some accolades with the Best Sprinter and Best Climber titles.
From start to finish the Tro Bro Leon was 206.4 km, and Routley averaged roughly 41.5 km/h from start to finish.
Routley has been in Europe for three-and-a-half months training for this season, riding the roads in the south of France. He also has 21 race days under his belt so far, on top of flights, train trips, road trips and ferry rides.
"The whole team, myself included, went through a few nasty illnesses at our first races of the season," said Routley via email to the Pique . "So we were recovering from this for a few weeks and it took a little longer to get into really good form."
Since the illness, the team has been steadily improving leading up to the most recent block of races.
"It was an unreal race," said Routley of the Tro Bro Leon. "It's (Brittany's) version of Paris-Roubaix. A 210-km race with 25 gravel road sections, totalling 32-km of dirt. A real hard-man's race. It was broadcast live in France and they loved the Maple Leaf out there - it's really cool to get to race in the Canadian flag. The current national champion is required to wear a jersey representing this fact, and Canadian cyclists are a novelty over here in the world of Belgian, Italian and French domination."
Routley said the level of competition and intensity in Europe is off the charts, and after some races his speedometer shows an average speed of 48 or 49 km/h. It's been a learning experience, to say the least.
"At home it takes fitness and race tactics to succeed, but over here it takes those two factors, as well as experience and skill," said Routley.
"The descending is much faster and more scary, and positioning in the peleton is way more tight and aggressive, you really have to fight for it, and knowledge of the course plays a much more important role. The roads are often narrow, valley-trail sized tracks. So all-in-all I am learning a lot."
After the Tro Bro Leon the team headed back to its home base in Carcassonne to recover, then it will head to the Presidential Tour of Turkey. After that it's back to North America for the Amgen Tour of California from May 15 to May 22.