Clara Hughes of Glen Sutton, Que., won her first race on Canadian soil since returning an a cyclist, winning the time trial race Thursday at the 2011 Chrono Gatineau, winning the solo time trial in 23 minutes 49.17 seconds.
The emotional winner, who has Canada’s flag bearer at the Vancouver Olympics, dedicated the win not only to Canada, but also to Daron Richardson, a young girl from Ottawa who died last year.
The victory is Hughes’ fourth consecutive win since her return to the sport of road cycling. Hughes won the general classification and the time trials at the Tour of the Gila, as well as both the road race and the time trials at the international cycling union’s Pan-American championship.
The race was Hughes’ first at home since she hung up her speed skates.
She left the start gate as the last rider of the day and rode the 17.35 kilometre course in the streets of Gatineau, Quebec. The trip included a crash on the wet pavement of a roundabout.
“I am really happy to have raced for the first time in Canada, although it was a bit more dramatic than I would have liked,” she said in a statement.
“It was a technical course and it just shows I have a lot of work to do to remember how to ride in the different conditions road racing and time trialing can offer. There is no control over the weather and today was the first time I can remember preparing to do a time trial in the rain.
“I was nervous in the morning thinking 'I just hope I don't crash' and there I was, half way through the race, on the only part of the course where there were spectators with my bike sliding out from under me on the slick paint of the turnaround arrow,” said Hughes after the race.
“I heard the crowd shudder and then cheer for me as I got going again. I kept saying to myself 'you can't lose this race like this' and it really motivated me to go hard again and push through the effort of the last lap,” continued Hughes.
Hughes raced for Daron Richardson, a young girl from Ottawa whose life ended tragically last year. She raced with a purple bracelet with the letters D.I.F.D. – Do It For Daron – which is the campaign to raise awareness and break down the stigma related to mental illness in young people.
“I wanted to win today in memory of Daron and in support of her family and dedicate this victory to her. I was really inspired me to keep going and put the crash behind me.”
Second was Ganna Solovey of the Ukrainian national team, trailing Hughes by 10.74 seconds, and in third place was Amber Neben of the HTC Highroad cycling team, 13.68 seconds back.
Hughes also was faster than 13-time World Champion, 4-time Olympic medallist and 7-time Olympian Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli of France.
Wearing the National Team uniform, Annie Ewart of Victoria, B.C. finished 28th, while Julie Garnet of Saskatoon, placed 33rd.