|Clara Hughes takes a tumble midway through Thursday's women's time trials at the Chrono Gatineau cycling race. (Jamie Long, Ottawa Sun)
OTTAWA - Once again, like she has so many times in a storied athletic career which includes medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympics, Clara Hughes put the pedal to the metal, maybe a bit too much.
And even after a painful wipeout during the second annual Chrono Gatineau cycling time trial, Hughes was still 10 seconds faster than the next best. Hughes admitted she took the turn at the race’s halfway point “way too fast.”
“I’m so embarrassed. Of course I picked the one spot where there were spectators,” the eight-time Olympic medallist said with a laugh after the race.
Ukrainian rider Ganna Solovey finished 10 seconds behind Hughes’ 23 minutes, 49 seconds. The top local rider was Sue Schlatter of Ottawa, who placed sixth in 25 minutes, 4 seconds.
Hughes was the last rider to start the individual time trial, which ran two 9-km laps along des Allumettieres Blvd. through Gatineau Park.
Racers reached speeds of up to 65 km/h on the downhill stretches, which may have contributed to Hughes’ fall.
The slow parts of the course crawled at a snail’s pace of about 20 km/h.
The cycling veteran is working her way back into world-class shape for the 2012 London Summer Games and admitted she took a big hit to the ego and her body from the fall, but is very pleased with her progress.
Her appearance at the Gatineau race was also a big deal for organizer John Large, after a California race called Hughes with an offer to race for “big money.”
“She turned that down to support this event and try to support Canadian cycling and that means a lot to us,” said Large, who thanked Hughes personally for her commitment.
Hughes added racing is “never about the money” and she had no problem focusing on Gatineau, especially being a Quebec resident, in Glen Sutton, southeast of Montreal.
The Chrono Gatineau event will run men’s and women’s races until Sunday.