Holy schnikes the summer has gone fast. Seems just a few days ago I was talking to several about this new exciting opportunity to bring international experience to a few of our local juniors. Before I knew it we are getting into the car and getting our drive back on.
For those unfamiliar with the story there are two major UCI stage races for juniors in North America, both happen to be in Canada. Tour de l'Abitibi is a 6 stage race the works its way around the countryside by Rouyn-Noranda in Quebec. Rouyn-Moranda is about 600 kilometers northwest of Montreal near the border of the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. l'Abitibi is only for boys 17-18 and this year had 22 teams of 6 riders compete. That is 132 boys racing against each other day in and day out for 6 stages.
The other UCI stage race, Tour de la Releve Internationale de Rimouski is focused on the other UCI juniors categories for both boys and girls. Boys 15-16 and girls 15-18 will compete during a 5 day, 6 stage race in Rimouski, Quebec - which is about 500km northeast of Montreal on the Fleuve Saint Lawrent. These teams will each have 4 riders and currently there are 21 boys teams and 15 girls teams registered to race.
What was I thinking? A round of rudimentary math tells me that is 144 teens - teens in their prime teen years - in a single hotel in Rimouski, QC. Guessing I will need to be up before 7am to use the wi-fi for anything important.
Besides the obvious Canad(i)a and Dudley Doright jokes the trip is a huge feather in the cap for all our juniors heading up to race. Imagine being 15 or 16 and getting the opportunity to race in another country against some of the best competition that you could find. It is a trip that will either cement ones love for bike racing - or destroy it. I am not certain there is a middle ground.
The biggest rule that impacts this race is the use of the UCI cadet cassette for racing. We all know the UCI is full of rules, some good, some bad, but what exactly is the rule for UCI cadet cassettes? European and UCI rules for juniors 15-16 require the use of a 16 tooth smallest cog on the cassette. The typical response from adults locally is "what? how can they do that?"
Let's look back at a recent race during the big crit weekend in Cincinnati. At Madeira two juniors, Ian and Spencer, pulled away from the adult men in the Category 3 race running junior gears - 14 tooth cassette. But hold that thought - I hear saying that's a 14t, not a 16t. The interesting part of this race was that Ian and Spencer never really used the 14t until the sprint at the end. In fact Spencer was spinning, remarkably, in his 52x19/52x21 most of the race - and they were closing in on lapping the field before the end.
Reaction to junior gearing locally is decidedly 'Mericun. We are a V8 and Ahnold society. Faster means more power, more muscle, bigger thighs, and a 55x11. Trying to mentally envision how they could keep up with the average group ride with only a 52x16 leaves most perplexed.
Why would they do that? Why would the UCI limit the juniors on gearing? The primary reason for junior gearing is to level the playing field for all kids and help prevent over-exertion injuries that can result from trying to push too big of a gear. Many argue the need for these specific rules - let the kids ride! Let them push whatever gear they want!
If the result of learning to spin is speed like Ian and Spencer, then I want a junior cassette on my bike too.
Stay tuned this week as we keep you up to date with the trip and the success of our kids racing.