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22nd Tour de Beauce - 2.2

Canada, June 12-17, 2007

North American stage racing back in Beauce

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Saint-Georges, Quebec

Navigators try for three-peat against multi-national peloton

Kobzarenko climbing calmly.
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
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The Tour de Beauce is one of the longest-running stage races still active in North America - with a winners list showing the start of careers for some of North America's brightest talents, as well as racers from around the world. Levi Leipheimer was a two-time winner in 1998 and 1999, and Michael Rogers took the title in 2002. This year the Navigators Insurance team returns to try for a rare three-peat in producing an overall winner, and Valeriy Kobzarenko tries for a repeat in the leader's jersey.

Stefan Parinussa (Team Sparkasse)
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
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But the task will be difficult with strong American and Candian teams looking to dethrone the Navigators, as well as teams from Europe and Australia looking to do the same. The German team Sparkasse battled with the Navigators last year with Stefan Parinussa holding the yellow jersey early in the race. Kodak Gallery comes into the race with the current Canadian champion, and Québecor, Dominique Rollin and with a successful race in Ireland in their legs. Slipstream-Chipotle has former Canadian champion, and Québecor, Francois (Frank) Parisien, as well as strong time trialist Danny Pate. The Tecos-Trek team is back as well with its dangerous climbers from Mexico and Colombia.

Canadian teams will be ones to watch this year with a bolstered Symmetrics team and current UCI America Tour leader Svein Tuft. The Québec team is loaded with Charles Dionne, Dominque Perras and recent Pan-American champion Martin Gilbert. A host of other Canadian teams will be looking to get younger riders stage race experience. New teams to the race include Farso Denmark and Savings and Loans from Australia.

Lagutin and Chadwick
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
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Most of the stages are similar to recent years. However stage two is different with a 171km rolling loop starting and finishing in Vallée-Jonction. The biggest change is to the time trial course, a 20km climb starting in Saint-Georges, up to a turn around before coming back into Saint-Georges. The urban circuit in Québec City has been slightly altered to avoid last year's technical issues and looks to be a fast and exciting course in front of big crowds. However, the most-feared stage is back and looming in the distance - the mountain-top finish on Mont-Mégantic, climbing more than 600 meters in last 25km.