Part of the series of races in Canada this week was the ‘Sprint Challenge’ in Québec: 24 riders were in the starting line-up – six races of four each. This was whittled down to 12 men: three races with four each. Then came the semi-finals: two races with three men… and the final. Of the four guys vying for the title, the fastest was Edmonton-born Cody Canning. He beat Brian Coquard of France and Steele von Hoff from Australia.
RIDE asked von Hoff about the experience and he wrote a quick summary only hours after the race when he confessed to “having had a little too much coffee before bed”. Here is his commentary on a most interesting concept for racing.
A difference kind of sprint
– By Steele von Hoff
The Sprint Challange Pro was the first time for me ever racing anything like this. I loved it! I think it was an awesome format for racing. It was really fun for me in the race, and also fun for my team-mates and the spectators. I think it’s a much better way to introduce the teams as everyone who will be racing on Friday at Québec and Sunday at Montreal was represented with a chance for some glory.
The sprint series is definitely a winner for me and I would love to come back next year and try and challenge again for the sprint title.
I was quite nervous before the start today; even at breakfast I couldn’t eat properly. I had never done this kind of racing before and each heat is nerve-wracking! It’s not like a standard road race where you get to ease in to things, or a criterium where you have an hour to think about it. It’s a lot more like track racing. Position and timing is everything, and with very little track experience (pretty much none), this scares me.
So, lining up for heat one, I watched the first round on the giant screen that they had in front of us, and we all saw it was too far to go to try and break away in the short one-kilometre effort. As I rolled down the start ramp I took second wheel, knowing as long as I only let one guy behind me pass, I would be okay. I was planning on saving myself each round and trying to get second, but I got too excited with 150m to go, and when I saw the Giant-Shimano rider [Thierry Hupond] open up there sprint behind me, I went as hard as I could until I knew I would win. After winning the first round, the nerves thankfully settled somewhat.
Round two: I had a pretty good draw. I once again went second wheel, and I let the guy behind me open up first, as it was quite a strong head wind and on a hill with a gradient of about four percent. It was quite easy to leave the sprint until late. I left it until about 100 metres to go, and passed the two tired riders in front of me to take another win.
The semi-final (round three) was the most important of all. If I got through this one I was in for a chance in the final. There was no mucking around in this one. I only had two other guys in my race, I started in third wheel, dropped off the back a bike length with 250m to go and I hit them hard early, gaining a 30m gap which I monitored to the line, saving myself for the last round.
Finals! Now it’s the chance for glory. Myself and Brian Coquard from Europcar had won each of our three rounds, and we were up against two of the Canadians who had come down specifically for the Sprint Challenge. Out of the gates Coquard was last, and I was quite happy, thinking that if I opened up my sprint from the front he wouldn’t get around me. But it was not to be. After the corner he jumped on my wheel as one of the Canadians rolled in front of me. I was so busy watching Coquard that I missed seeing Cody Canning open up his sprint. As Coquard reacted I put the power down and looked forwards to see that Cody had opened up a nice four bike-length lead which was going to be impossible to pull back. As I was chasing, the amount of lactic acid from the last three rounds was overwhelming and left me powerless to take on the fast-finishing Coquard as he put his bars in front of me and started moving me towards the barriers. So I tried my best, but I was happy to round out the podium with third in the final.