Ariz. junior cyclists head to Quebec

Eight entered, and eight advanced. After a testing week at USA Cycling’s Regional Road Selection Camp in Flagstaff, a record number of Arizona juniors qualified to attend the prestigious Tour de L’Abitibi stage race.

El Grupo Youth Cycling’s Logan Boyd, Ben Duncan, Keenan Duncan, Nick Harris, Christian Santa Cruz and Daniel Yakushevich, Landis/Trek’s Lance Eddis-Finbow and Athlete Octane’s Clayton Stone earned spots on the three six-rider teams that will attend the Quebec, Canada race.

“I thought that we would all make it on one of the three teams,” said Santa Cruz, who made the “A” Team. “Clayton is really good at time trialing, and Lance is a pretty good racer, and my teammates are pretty good climbers, so I had a feeling we would all make it.”

USAC coaches selected 18 out of 24 riders from the camp. Along with eight other American regional teams and the USA National Team, the three camp teams will represent their country at the only UCI junior race in the Western Hemisphere.

Qualification for the race depended on a gauntlet of tests, including four time trials and two criteriums. When they weren’t racing, the riders were always busy.

“We did two-a-days,” Santa Cruz said. “It was just brutal; you’re just tired the whole day. You wake up early at like 6:30, eat breakfast, get back, change, do the competition, go back, [eat] lunch, then ride for another two and a half hours and pretty much go back to sleep.”

The approximate 500 kilometers of total saddle time at camp imitated the 600 kilometers that riders will tackle in the UCI Nation’s Cup Tour de L’Abitibi from July 22-27. The race’s stages consist of six road races and one time trial.

The mileage took its toll on the juniors, said Eddis-Finbow, who placed in the top 10 overall.

“We were all dead by the end,” he said.

Santa Cruz placed first in the camp general classification. His placing was a repeat of the 2013 camp, which he also won.

He will race the L’Abitibi on the camp’s “A” team, and Clayton Stone and Ben Duncan will accompany him.

The six El Grupo riders will be spread out over the three teams, although the “B” team is officially listed as “El Grupo Junior Select” on the L’Abitibi start list.

“It’s going to be weird, because we’re so used to racing together and now we’re in separate teams,” said Santa Cruz, who added that there would be no bad blood between him and his fellow Arizonans.

The race is entering its 46th year. This year it has been reinstated as a Nation’s Cup event, making one of a handful of prestigious races on the UCI calendar.

National teams, including France and Denmark, will join 20 regional teams from the United States and Canada. This adds up to approximately 170 riders in the race, who will battle for good positioning on the roads of Quebec.

Besides Santa Cruz, none of the Arizona juniors has competed in the race, but they said they have received an enough warning about the aggressive racing of L’Abitibi. It is a maxim that the race is won in the time trial and lost in the other six stages, where crashes typically abound.

Taylor Skinner (Tribe Multisport) and Kenny Polley (Landis/Trek), both former attendees of the race, advised Eddis-Finbow on how to maintain position in the peloton and adopt a you-only-live-once or “YOLO mindset,” they said.

“The main goal is to just stay upright,” Eddis-Finbow said. “If the opportunity presents itself, I’d love to go top 10.”

Flagstaff Selection

Christian Santa Cruz (El Grupo Youth Cycling)

Clayton Stone (Athlete Octane)

Ben Duncan (El Grupo Youth Cycling)

El Grupo Junior Select

Lance Eddis-Finbow (Landis/Trek)

Keenan Duncan (El Grupo Youth Cycling)

Logan Boyd (El Grupo Youth Cycling)

Nick Harris (El Grupo Youth Cycling)

Arizona Select

Daniel Yakushevich (El Grupo Youth Cycling)



Article by James Anderson.