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Canada Man/Woman lives up to “Extreme” moniker even more thanks to this year’s October date

Florence Lavoie-Deraspe and Sylvain Lafrance take the day, overcoming the tough conditions

Photo by: Kevin Mackinnon

For Florence Lavoie-Deraspe (above) it was a win in her first long-distance finish, while after two consecutive runner-up finishes, Sylvain Lafrance finally got the win in his hometown race. Today’s Canada Man/Woman Xtri event might have featured a shortened swim and slightly shorter run, but the 130 athletes who took on the demanding course didn’t find the course any easier.

The day began with a 1,500 m swim in Lac Megantic – organizers had decided to shorten the swim to 2 km due to the October 3 race date, then chopped another 500 m off the swim once the water temperature dipped to 12.5 degrees Celsius. The competitors braved the three-loop swim before heading out on the 179 km bike course that features 2,500 m of climbing. The course has to be seen (or experienced) to be believed – two of the climbs, including the final stretch into T2, saw most of the fastest competitors weaving back and forth across the road simply to make it to the top. (Needless to say, some competitors were forced to walk their bikes to the top of some of the climbs.)

As if the bike wasn’t challenging enough, the run featured 1,200 m of climbing, even with the modified course that took out the first hill. Add to the fun the muddy trails thanks to yesterday’s rain and the 38 km likely felt like a very, very long marathon to most of the athletes.

Lyne Bessette leads the women on the bike. Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

Even tougher day for Bessette

The modified course ended up throwing previous champion and last-edition runner-up Lyne Bessette for a loop – she managed to go of course and lose over a half an hour – an especially tough break considering she’d hit T2 in fourth place overall, giving up her lead of 13:46 on up on American Alysha Krall and 25:37 ahead of Lavoie-Deraspe. By the time the former Olympic cyclist and member of the House of Commons (she was elected in 2019, but chose not to run in the recent election) got to the 17 km timing point she was 10 minutes behind Krall and five minutes behind Lavoie-Deraspe.

Lavoie-Deraspe managed to run her way to the lead and had a strong performance to nail the win. The former swimmer led the women out of the water, coming out in 25:53, which put her 2:06 up on Krall and almost eight minutes ahead of Bessette. Earlier this year she’d entered her first full-distance race (the Michigan Titaniumman Traithlon), but had to drop out on the run due to asthma issues, but there was no slowing her down today as she passed Krall and made it to the Mont Megantic observatory for the win in 11:36:59. Bessette pushed herself to the limit to get past Krall for another runner-up finish (11:53:07), while the American rounded out the podium in 12:00:51.

Lafrance pushed hard through the last half of the bike and on the run to take the win.

Lafrance finally gets the win

Local hero Sylvain Lafrance (Victoriaville) finished fifth here in the first edition of the Canada Man/Woman event, then took second in the 2018 and 2019 races. Today he finally moved to the top of the podium thanks to a solid day that saw him near the front out of the water, the lead the men off the challenging bike course and open up even more time on the extremely difficult run.

American John Hirsch led the way out of the water, but it wasn’t long before the bike turned into a back and fourth battle between Lafrance and France’s Eric Bessemoulin, with Toronto’s Josh McPhie taking some time on the front, too. Lafrance got to T2 with a 1:45 lead on Bessemoulin, but spent more time in transition, which meant the two started the run just 10 seconds apart. That was as close as anyone was going to get to Lafrance though, as he dominated the run to easily take the win in 10:30:32. Christian Vachon had a great run to move himself into second (11:10:19), while Pascal Coude (third, 11:26:41) also got past Bessemoulin (11:29:56).