by Marie-Soleil Blais
The more I travel, the more I appreciate being home. Racing in Gatineau is going to be just like that. After a block in the U.S. with the Tour of California and Winston-Salem, I’m back in Canada for one of my favorite races of the calendar. The Grand Prix de Gatineau is a special race for me for many reasons. It will be my seventh consecutive year racing it. That’s as many years as I’ve been racing!
I will always remember my first time in 2013, racing for the Ottawa-based Team Infinit. I didn’t make the initial selection from my team, but a spot opened at the last minute and I jumped in the car. I learned all about the feeding and the caravan, listening like a sponge to all the advice my teammates were giving me.
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I think we were about 70km in the race when my hamstring cramped really bad, losing touch with the peloton. My director got out of the car and grabbed me before I fall off the bike because I couldn’t move my leg! She helped me stretch my leg on the side of the road. She gave me the directions to go back to the parking when I interrupted her, “But I want to finish!” And I did! Haha…
It’s a funny story but this event gave me a lot of confidence for what was going to happen next. Having a UCI professional race in Quebec allowed me to see what it’s like, to discover professional racing, to get a taste of it. I remember looking at all the pro teams and their set up. It gave me hope that I could do this too one day. It was an eye-opening event for me. We’re very fortunate to have this race at home, offering opportunities every year to upcoming racers.
In the following years, the GP Gatineau became an opportunity to raise my level and to participate in my first project with the Quebec federation. As I started racing at a higher level, it became my home race. A race I know so well, it became kind of a benchmark to see my progress every year. It’s also a great advantage to know every turn of the course and having seen a few outcomes in the past years.
The GP Gatineau was also the race where I got to check a personal goal from my long-time list by wearing the Canadian national team jersey for the first time last year. I’m really excited to have the opportunity to race for Canada again this year and I look forward to riding for a team victory.
The 2019 Grand Prix Cycliste de Gatineau takes place on June 6 with the Chrono Gatineau on June 7.
Marie-Soleil Blais is a first-year professional with Astana Women’s Team from the Centre-du-Québec. She’s a seven time Quebec champion on the road and track.