The Quebec Cycling Grand Prix is a race of attrition. For the past 7 years, the best riders in the world have been competing in this World Tour level event, knowing full well how relentless it is.
September 2012 was the GP’s third edition and for Québec’s cyclist Bruno Langlois, it was a third time on the start line. With each passing lap, the successive climbs caused riders to drop out of the race. With only two laps to go, Bruno was still there, at the head of the peloton. “I had great legs, I felt great, I attacked…”
The First Rendez-Vous
The love story between the Team Garneau-Quebecor rider and the Quebec GP began in the summer of 2009. “The UCI announced that World Tour races would be held in Quebec and Montreal starting 2010. Local riders didn’t have too many expectations,” admits Langlois. “Would the European teams be sending their best riders? Would this be a failure? No one knew. But during the week prior to the first edition, all doubts vanished. The level of competition would be high; I was super motivated. At the start signal, I attacked, ‘on the gun’ as we say in the cycling world.”
An attack that would not last, but that would set the tone for the years to come. Langlois, a warrior on two wheels, would go on the offensive at every given opportunity over the following years.
For Canadian riders, being selected to race in the Quebec and Montreal Cycling Grands Prix on the Canadian team is the goal of the year. A good result in these races can be a career changer. “If there’s one weekend of race for which all Canadian riders prepare at 100%, this is it,” says Bruno Langlois. “Personally, the Quebec one is my favorite. It’s a dream race for me. It’s at home, in front of my friends and family, on a course that fits me well. If you have a good day, if you don’t fall or have mechanical problems with your bike, anything can happen. Every race has a classic scenario, but you never know how it’s going to turn out.”
On the afternoon of September 2012, the classic scenario is under way. The peloton just caught up with the breakaway and Langlois doesn’t feel the pedal strokes. “At mid-point through the race, I was talking to the younger riders on the team. They were telling me that they were at full speed and that at this pace, they would soon be dropped. Normally, I feel just about the same and I encourage them, I tell them that their legs will get used to the pace. I repeated my usual words of encouragement, but truth is, this time, I felt great. It was actually easy!”
With 25 km to go, the best riders in the world head up the Côte de la Montagne, at the heart of Old Quebec, pushing with everything they’ve got. The crowd literally supercharges Langlois. He’s one of the only Quebecers left in the race. He hears his name everywhere – ALLEZ BRUNO! He even sees his long-time friend and team owner, Louis Garneau, and waves at him. “I’ve got good legs today, Louis…”
Well positioned at the front, Langlois is waiting for the slightest waver in speed to attack. And it occurs at the bottom of the Côte des Glacis. Bruno takes off, pounding down on the pedals in high gear, pulling ahead of the peloton with Danish rider Chris Anker Sorensen. “We opened a gap right away. I pushed hard until the last kilometer of that lap, in front of the Château Frontenac. When Sorensen took his relay, I grit my teeth. I was on the limit. Further up the hill I though, as long as I’m here, might as well take the points for the mountain grand prix, so I passed him right before the line.”
After using the same strategy on the next mountain grand prix, Langlois is tied with the ranking leader for Best Climber. He’s racing at the head of his favorite race, less than 20 kilometers from the finish line. The breakaway is caught up with one lap to go. Bruno’s legs are still going. He finishes 30th, with the best in the world.
“I was super happy; I showed myself at the end of the race. In the previous years, I used to attack a lot at the beginning. This time, I was in the heat of the action until the very end. After I crossed the line, I was recovering from my efforts when someone from the organization came to tell me that I would be on the podium as Best Climber! Because the other rider who had the same amount of points as me finished the race further down the rankings, I won! That’s the importance of never giving up. It was a great moment, especially since my good friend François Parisien finished 10th and Best Canadian. I couldn’t believe it; two old dogs on a World Tour podium, after all those years spent riding together.”
Racing at home provides extra motivation, in good times and bad. The following year, Langlois was having a bad day, but he pushed on to honour his biggest fans. “Everyone came to cheer me on. If I had been at any other race that day, I wouldn’t have done as well.”
Cycling is never easy. In 2015, Bruno had to miss his favorite race because of a fractured collarbone. He came back even stronger, winning a spectacular Canadian Championship in the streets of Ottawa in June 2016, after nearly 20 years of professional racing. A few days later, he fell again on his collarbone… Which caused a new facture.
“I worked really hard to stay in shape and come back just in time for the Quebec Grand Prix. I know this race by heart. I go there to help young riders of the Canadian team realize their dreams, and if I’ve got great legs on that day, anything can happen. Anything’s possible when you follow your instinct and race with panache. That’s the beauty of cycling.”