The trip started a little differently from a dream for what is called the “Atlantic Dream Team” at the Tour de Guadeloupe. Actually, 3 days later, we are still recovering physically and especially mentally from what we’d rather call a nightmare.
After about 30 hours of delayed flights, lost baggages, airport time, the team was welcomed in Guadeloupe by, not the organizers, but the custom agents! This was very serious; the biggest local team was caught with EPO and was arrested that same morning. Now, the procedures are on, everyone is completely searched with no exception! This is when the Canadian representatives lost there vitamins! This process is so complicated that, to this date, we still have some missing baggages, namely our tool box and our water bottles! Try to race at 37 degree with no water bottle!
The race finally started for the team composed of Dustin MacBurnie, Ryan Belliveau, Garrett McLeod, Ryan Taylor, André Tremblay (replacing his sick team mate Geoff O’Toole), and Cam Evans (replacing his teammate Christian Meier who has now signed with Garmin, and not allowed to race this event). Under pissing rain, we attacked the prologue with not too much expectations, but I think frustration more then anything else.
Performance was nothing short of great. All our boys were in the top 17, including a 9th position for Garrett McLeod who immediately took the Espoir (U23) jersey! In fact, this was a little too good and we were marked for the 1st stage.
37 degree was the temperature on the road at the start of the grueling 170 km stage one. Early on, about 25 guys went up the road to battle the formation of the decisive breakaway. Our boys did very well once again by sending four of us to the battle field (Belliveau, Evans, MacBurnie, McLeod). After about 50 km, the selection was clear, 10 riders were left, including Evans. Now, the complicated job of car feeding startsed!
On these small roads and lack of cooperation from the local teams, it became very, and I mean very, hard to cover all our boys. No feed zones were established to help us either. In my 10 years in the caravan, I’ve never seen anything like it! It took me over 40 kms to finally feed my 6 guys spread in three groups; in the heat, not funny!
The “non-cooperation” got even worst when I was covering the break and Garrett punctured. Not a single local team, including neutral support, offered the young leader a wheel. When I came back to the main pack - and of course, race radio (every team vehicle is offered a radio to communicate with the organization) was not working - I did not know where he was or what had happened the him. We waited for the next group to come by, and we then figured he was with the broom wagon and was either sick from the heat or was riding slowly to the finish to rest it up for the next day.
Overall, we served over 60 water bottles, meaning more then 10 each rider on the hard day. “Luc, this is crazy, everyone race this first stage like if was a one day race;” MacBurnie was saying after crossing the finish line. When we got the final results, Evans was 6th for the day, and now lies in 5th overall. Taylor, MacBurnie and Tremblay finished in the back at 6 minutes and Belliveau was a little back as he flatted 50 km from the finish.
After many questions to the organizers and commissaires to know where McLeod was, we finally got a set of wheels that was his… but not the body. I seriously started to get worried, but finally someone told me he was in another bus with the volunteers. When he showed up, he explained his whole story. 45 minutes on the side of the road, and not a single team car, nor neutral, offered him a wheel! Once the broom wagon showed up, they did not have any wheel either! He had no choice but to abandon the race with a leader’s jersey on his shoulder. Disappointing for him, but embarrassing for the organizer who did not know what to say about it. We (organizer and other foreign teams) tried everything possible to get him back into the race, but not much we can do since he did not cross the finish line on his bike.
Today, a double day awaits us with a 100km circuit race and a 30 km Team time trial. Our team is pumped for the TTT, even without our strongest TT rider. We’ll show them not to cooperate!
This project is made possible under the Centre’s Selection program, sponsored by Giant, Nelsons, Yakima, Croissant Soleil, Université de Moncton, Shimano and Gu. For this special project, we also want to send a special thank you to some very special donations which made it possible for us to get here:
Luc Arseneau, ChPC
Head Coach / Entraîneur Chef
200, Promenade du Parc / Park Drive
Dieppe, NB (Canada) E1A 7T6