Monday, June 3, 2013

Dauphine leader left his mark at Tour de Grove

A daring solo escape allowed David Veilleux of Team Europcar to take the lead after the first stage of the Criterium du Dauphine, which he maintained after Monday's sprint stage. 

That's quite a dizzying height -- leader of one of two Tour de France preludes -- from the soggy mess that Veilleux found himself in a little less than three years ago at the first Tour de Grove. He was racing for Kelly Benefits at the time, and the race was in its first year in the Grove neighborhood, southeast of Forest Park. Organizers moved the event from Winghaven in suburban St. Charles County, in the hope of attracting a larger, hipper crowd, despite being scheduled on Father's Day.

Instead, weather conspired against it. Heat and humidity combined to put the heat index into triple digits for the first two hours of racing, at which point a thunderstorm whipped up. About 20 laps into a race scheduled for 33 circuits, organizers pulled the pin when the finishing banners came loose and blew uncontrollably west on Manchester Avenue.

Veilleux and teammate Scott Zwizanski had broken away and hoped to hang on. You can read the full story here.  The short version: Veilleux, a young French Canadian, agreed to give the veteran Zwizanski the victory because, as he told me at the Atomic Cowboy, "I felt like Scott was stronger than man, so he deserved the win. It's not a big deal since the team got 1 and 2. ... We share the work, but we share the reward."

After that season, Veilleux signed with Europcar and has won a couple minor races. Given the show of strength Sunday, team leaders probably will seriously consider including Veilleux in the Tour de France team, where he will ride in support for Thomas Voeckler, also noted for the daring solo escape, and climber Pierre Rolland.

Veilleux found himself at the front Sunday on a stage that featured four categorized climbs -- a far cry from the heat and humidity of the Tour de Grove, which has been moved to May. We suspect, though, that the conditions Sunday were more to his liking. With no superiors to show deference, Veilleux enjoyed his moment on the hills in the sunshine.

He maintained his lead Monday, when the stage ended in a bunch sprint.