Some jerseys awarded at road cycling races have special meaning — yellow for tour leaders, polka dots for hill-climbing specialists and green for the sprinters. But the jersey awarded to the winner at the Canadian nationals criterium is red — a colour that looks rather fitting on Whistler’s Ben Chaddock.
“The most special moment was just putting on the jersey,” said an ecstatic Chaddock after taking the national title at the Canadian championships in Lac Megantic, Que. on Sunday (June 24).
“I've had the opportunity to get on the podium and get the medals before, but I've never put that jersey on.”
The Team Exergy member finished the 42 kilometre elite men's race in 56 minutes and 13 seconds, edging out Alberta's Cody Canning, who placed second. Nic Hamilton of B.C. came in third.
There was an absence of most of Team Spidertech and several other professional teams at the championships, but Chaddock was still challenged by riders like Canning, Hamilton and Guillaume Boivin.
He managed to hold a consistent position throughout the race and fended off attacks from several strong sprinters.
“Bruno Lenglois (from team Garneau-Quebecor) attacked often and he finally did a big (effort) with one (lap) to go and I was able to cover that move,” said Chaddock.
“On the back straightaway we had a two- to three-second gap, so I waited for the bunch kick. I set a false tempo so when the riders came up behind I didn't get swarmed. I slotted into the top three and then there was an accident on the second last corner. Fortunately I was on the inside of it and suddenly there was no one in front of me.
When I went through the last corner I knew I'd won, and I still had 300 metres to go.”
With some well-placed, strategic moves and a bit of luck on his side, Chaddock was able to savour the final moments of the race on his way to the top of the podium and the coveted red jersey.
“I put in a little sprint but I was able to very much enjoy the final 100m of the race and make sure my jersey was zipped up, so to speak,” he added.
This was Chaddock's first win of the season and his first as a professional cyclist, having joined Team Exergy last year. As the only Canadian on Exergy, Chaddock had to race the criterium without the support of his cohorts against teams as large as nine riders.
“I had some young riders from Cycling B.C. helping me out,” said Chaddock. “It was a fun experience for us all. They were able to learn a few things. I had my own little team.”
The nationals victory carries strong momentum for Chaddock's season, after he achieved a podium spot at the Wilmington Grand Prix criterium in Delaware in May and delivered a strong breakaway performance at the Airforce Cycling Classic in Washington D.C.
The next stop on Chaddock's calendar is B.C. Super Week running July 6 to 15, which includes the Tour de Delta, the UBC Grand Prix and the heavily-pursed Gastown Grand Prix.
He said he started training for B.C. Super week on Wednesday (June 27).
“There's going to be a lot of good riders at that race that are going to fly in just for it,” said Chaddock.