Lachine is a suburb on the island of Montreal and also the largest weekly bicycle club race I’ve ever seen.
But I should watch my terminology while I’m here. As a number of participants adamantly impressed upon me, Tuesday night Lachine is NOT a club race. It’s a full-blown, no-holds-bar, anaerobic pain-fest of the highest degree for a road race in Canada.
Nick Rowe, Espoirs Laval, leads through corner four.
“It’s such a big deal,” says Alistair Howard, captain of the local Espoirs Laval racing team, and an old friend of mine I’m staying with during my visit to Montreal.
“There’s no money on the line,” says Alistair, but “the only thing bigger than winning a Lachine is winning Nationals.”
After watching these guys finish Lachine in one hour, 54 seconds, I do not deny such claims in the least. Lachine is 31 laps and 49 km on a flat, four-corner course around a park in the suburbs. There’s a sprint for points every five laps. It’s faster and more competitive than most races I ever did in British Columbia; harder than most I’ve done anywhere. There’s usually over 100 riders. And it’s every Tuesday night, inbetween “real” races on the weekend.
Riders in the top standings for the Lachine series get called to the line first. There’s even a don-the-jersey ceremony for the overall leader, 2nd and 3rd place, top Master (over 30) and top junior (under 18).
You know how the Tour de France has different jerseys for different leaders in the race? Like, the best hill climber (polka dot jersey), best sprinter (green) and the overall leader (yellow)? They do that at Lachine, too, based on points accumulated throughout the summer series. So before every race the top riders (best junior, fastest, etc.) are called to the start line in order to don their special jersey for the event and the admiration of the crowd.
With the best view of corner one, these fans were also the first in line to view the podium after the finish.
First place Éric Boily, Volkswagen-Trek (Winner, four stages Abitibi 2005, 19 years old); Second place David Veilleux, Louis Garneau Optik (National Espoir Road Champ, 2006, 19 years old); Third place Daniel Bélisle, Cinelume-Cycle Performance
And the fans–a mix of girlfriends, residents on their front steps and geriatrics on wheels of their own–really do admire the riders. It’s the weekly entertainment around here. A row of bleachers lines the finish along with a concession stand, announcers stage, podium. There are podium girls!