BOISE, Idaho (VN)- Canadians swept the first podium of the inaugural Exergy Tour — the only UCI 2.1 race for women in North America in 2012 — with Tara Whitten (Tibco-To the Top) setting the fastest time at 4:09 on the 3.2km course.
Gillian Carleton (Canadian National Team) took second, just a few hundredths of a second behind Whitten while Clara Hughes (Specialized-lululemon) rounded out the podium one second back.
The 3.2 km course took riders over the Boise River and up a short hill to the Boise Bus Depot where the road narrowed into several technical turns. Once around the Bus Depot, racers hit a fast downhill on the way back to the finish. The short course favored track riders like Whitten, but the hill before the turnaround made for a challenging start.
“Three kilometers is a distance I do quite often on the track, but [the prologue] felt the opposite of how it feels on the track. The hard section was the first half of it. It was just so much more intense, whereas the track is steadier. It was quite painful.” said Whitten, the 2011 Track Omnium World Champion.
Current national time trial champion Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon) set the earliest fast time, coming though the finish at 4:12. Her time was quickly toppled by teammate Ina-Yoko Teutenberg. Teutenberg, a powerful sprinter, gave it full gas from the gun.
“No pacing. All out, and hoping just to keep it going,” said Teutenberg, who ended up fourth. “My acceleration is my good point against the others. Probably ran a bit to fast.”
Twenty-two starters later, Canadian national team member Carleton, 22, eclipsed Teutenberg’s time, coming in three seconds faster than the German. Carleton also rocketed out of the start with all engines firing.
“I didn’t pace it at all. I went out like it was a kilometer long, and just tried not to die. [The hill] was pretty brutal because I ran out of gas about three-quarters of the way up and had to get out of the saddle,” said Carleton. “I wasn’t really expecting anything, I just wanted to go as hard as I could.”
The young Canadian led the prologue until Tara Whitten blasted through the finish just a hair under her time. None of the remaining 23 starters could beat Whitten, and she will start tomorrow’s race with the first-ever Exergy Tour leader’s jersey on her back. It’s an honor, but it also puts the pressure on Team Tibco.
“We haven’t discussed our team strategy yet, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow,” said Whitten in a post-race press conference.
For all three women, the Canadian podium sweep is testament to a nationwide trend. There’s also a Canadian vying for pink right now in the Giro, said Hughes, a sign of a new energy surrounding the country’s cycling.
“Cycling in Canada right now is just growing, and it’s not just in road cycling. It’s in track, and mountain bike, men and women,” said Hughes. “It’s an exciting time for our country. I’m so honored and proud to be a part of it.”