June 20, 2011 (Banff, AB) – Sunday’s Stage 4, Tunnel Mountain Road Race, the final event for the men, greeted riders with no rain and even some sun to show off Banff's amazing scenery. The 143km course featured a 13km loop around Tunnel Mountain with the start/finish on Beaver Street just off Banff Avenue. The course consisted of a flat stretch through town, a climb up Tunnel Mountain Drive, a rolling technical section along the top of the climb, and then a fast, roller-coaster descent, past Surprise Corner back into town to the finish.
There was a lot at stake: the stage win, a chance for riders to move up on the GC, bragging rights, and a great cash purse. All teams came prepared with a game plan, including Dave Stephens from Vancouver-based Garneau Evolution. Following his third-place finish in Saturday evening’s Criterium, he was sixth overall giving the team even more motivation to be in the mix on the final stage. "We have three guys in the top ten and we're looking at making it a race. There are a lot of teams going for it today and I don't think it will come down to a bunch sprint," said Stephens.
The race started at 10am and right off the gun Trek Red Truck led the charge up the first climb. An early attack by three riders at 5km including Trek, Garneau and HR Block went off the front, but they were unable to make it stick. Next, a group of twelve got clear, gaining a 15-second lead only to have it pulled back.
Then on Lap 3, another break that seemed to have momentum got away, including Dave Gerth (Garneau Evolution), Dave Skinner (Trek Red Truck), and Cam McKinnon (HR Block). McKinnon had been in second place overall, but lost ground following a crash in the Crit on Saturday, yet he was riding hard in support of his team. The small break had a 50-second gap at one point when three more riders including Stephens, Gordon Jewitt (Rundle Mountain CC) and current Alberta provincial road champ, Dustin Andrews (HR Block), caught up to the leaders.
The strong group of six had a lead of almost two minutes by Lap 7 at which point Will Routley (SpiderTech p/b C10) started a chase with Garneau Evolution's Jason Thompson on his wheel. As the pace quickened, Gerth was dropped, leaving Stephens alone at the front without a teammate as the other riders forced him to do the work.
A chase group was now coming on strong, having reduced their deficit to 40 seconds. By Lap 10, they had caught the lead group, just as Justin Kerr (HR Block), in third-place overall, and Thompson in eighth, attacked, but race leader Routley responded quickly as did Craig Logan (Trek Red Truck) in twelfth.
This foursome had all the ingredients to make the final two laps something special. Coming off Banff Avenue heading toward Tunnel Mountain, Thompson and Kerr attacked again, but Routley was there with amazing power, bridging the gap with Logan close behind. At the small hill just past the feed zone, Logan dropped his chain and the lead group was reduced to three.
On Lap 11, the bell lap, the three lead riders had a 90-second gap on the peloton and were taking no prisoners. Logan was still trying to chase his way back, but to no avail. Near the summit before the fast, twisting descent, Routley attacked hard and only Kerr could respond, leaving Thompson trailing to finish on his own.
It was Routley and Kerr, neck and neck, heading back into town and turning right onto Beaver Street to the finish line. But the Tunnel Mountain Road Race was to be Kerr’s, as he out-sprinted Routley for the final stage victory. Thompson sailed in alone for the third spot on the podium.
Routley held on for the overall victory and was crowned the 2011 Banff National Bike Fest men's champion. Kerr moved up into second place overall and Thompson’s hard work rewarded him a third place finish. "I had hoped to have moved up even more, although Will had quite a big lead. When we got away, Justin and I did all the work with Will sitting on. When he lit it up on the last pitch I couldn't respond," commented Thompson after the race.
Routley also had a tough day in the saddle on the way to his overall GC victory. "We had a late night with the Crit and an early morning today, so there was fatigue in the legs, and I knew it was going to be another tough day of playing defense. When the gap got to two minutes on the break I started to panic. With not much horsepower left in the group, we were still able to catch the leaders. It was a long 143km race, pretty hilly and technical over the top and my legs were cramping a bit near the end," said the elated overall winner.
And so the 2011 Banff National Park Bike Fest came to a close with the town of Banff, hamlet of Lake Louise, and Parks Canada playing host to some of the finest riders in the region – much to the enjoyment of visitors from around the world. The event was very well organized and riders were again treated to world-class courses, surrounded by breathtaking scenery. There is no doubt many are looking forward to next year as the event certainly has the potential to grow into a major Canadian stage race.
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You can find complete information on the Banff National Park Bike Fest at http://www.banfflakelouise.com/bikefest
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