Lac-Etchemin, Quebec (June 12, 2007) The Kodak Gallery Pro Cycling Team, presented by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. took the top two podium spots in Stage-1 of the 2007 Tour de Beauce. Riding through the aches, pains, cuts and bruises suffered in crash in the final meters of Sunday’s 156-mile Commerce Bank Classic in Philadelphia, Mark Walters captured a solo victory while teammate Dominique Rollin took the field sprint for 2nd place. The performance put Walters in the race leader’s yellow jersey and Rollin in the race’s points leader jersey.
The first of six stages of the 2007 Tour de Beauce offered riders no time to relax. Temperatures hovered in the upper 80s while high humidity, strong winds and sunny skies worked on rider resolve from start to finish. Bumpy and deteriorated road surfaces also forced riders to focus their attention and afforded few moments when riders could even comfortably lift a hand from the bars to have a drink.
In the stages’ early going attack after attack was launched by various teams trying to gain an advantage. Finally, Mark Walters followed a move of three others and the four succeeded in opening a gap. Not long thereafter, a dozen other racers set off in pursuit. This group included Walters’ teammate Dominique Rollin. As the 12 chasers caught the break, the field was closing down their advantage which had dropped to only 20 seconds. The breakaway riders rode hard together to re-establish their advantage, eventually gaining more than 4 minutes on the field.
The final miles of the race covered a series of short steep climbs that enticed riders to attack. After several failed attempts by other riders on the steepest points, Kodak Gallery’s Walters saw an opportunity, “Everyone was wrecked - I just gave it a shot.” The “shot” was a vicious attack of his own over the top of one climb and on the downhill that followed. By the bottom of the decent, Walters had nearly 15 seconds on the field. The remaining breakaway riders failed to form an organized effort to reel in Walters as he grew to lead 45 seconds heading into the final climb. Walters’ advantage was narrowed somewhat by his chasers in the final mile, but he crossed the line 25 seconds ahead of the break, earning an additional 10 second time bonus for the victory.
At this point the now 9-man breakaway still had more than a 3 minute advantage on the field. Kodak Gallery racer, Dominique Rollin used his knowledge of the stage finish to his advantage and took the field sprint over the likes of former World TT Champion Danny Pate, a trio of Navigators Insurance riders and US Pro Tour points leader Svein Tuft and his Symmetrics teammate. The remainder of the pack finished more than 3 minutes back.
After the race, team director, Kurt Stockton discussed the victory and the stages ahead, “We’ll take it day by day from here, but it sure is nice to see Mark take such a convincing solo win. Tough men win tough races and there is no doubt Mark is one of the toughest. With the conditions this week, hydration will be the key. There is a lot of racing ahead, we have to stay focused and get our work done.”
The race continues on Wednesday morning with the 170km “Rocky Mountain” stage. Follow the race live at: http://www.tourdebeauce.com