By Martin Cleary
Oh, that number 2.
A common theme surrounding Derek Gee’s phenomenal Grand Tour debut in the Giro d’Italia revolved around that nightmarish number.
But as crushing as it was for the neo-pro cyclist from Osgoode, ON., to finish No. 2 in four different stages over 21 days of racing, cycling observers and fans around the world viewed being No. 2 from a totally different perspective.
They cherished his gritty and determined efforts and considered his No. 2 results, along with a pair of fourths, as equal to winning a stage. For the last two weeks of the three-week journey through Italy and Switzerland over 3,449 kilometres, Gee was No. 1 in their eyes for his absolute courage, his assertiveness to be part of breakaways and his bold desire to strive confidently for top results against the best in the world.
The No. 2 was frequently present on Gee’s Giro stats sheet. But it was his impressive and totally unexpected pedal performances that had the European and Canadian cycling communities talking about an unknown rookie Israel-Premier Tech rider. He started the Grand Tour only hoping to survive as a domestique, but finished the task thriving like few of his peers.
Understandably, he had his emotional moments coming so close to winning a stage. As a pro cyclist, that’s the end goal. Four No. 2 results is a lot to digest, but it certainly helped him build a large following inside and outside the Giro.
In some corners, there was a suggestion of a name change as this year’s Grand Tour unfolded – Derek Geero d’Italia.
On the final, detailed results sheet for the Giro, Gee had plenty of No. 2s, but one No. 1, which spoke loudly about why he had such an outstanding Giro.
In the General Classification or overall standings based on time, Gee was No. 22. He finished 40 minutes and 54 seconds behind champion Primoz Roglic of Jumbo-Visma.
If cyclists placed in the top 15 in a stage, they received 80 points for a win down to one point for 15th. Gee scored six top-15 results, which allowed him to finish No. 2 in the Points Classification at 164. Jonathan Milan of the team champion Bahrain Victorious was first at 217 points.
In the mountains classification for King of the Mountain, Gee posted 200 points and was again No. 2, while Thibaut Pinot of Groupama-FDJ was No. 1 at 237 points.
Gee also was No. 2 in the intermediate sprint classification to Thoms Skujins of Trek-Segafredo as well as No. 2 in the breakaway classification to Thomas Champion of Cofidis.
Gee, 25, registered seven breakaways for 483 kilometres distant from the peloton, which directly resulted in his four second- and two fourth-place results.
His tenacious, breakaway riding and heart-breaking and/or heart-warming results also earned him the Giro’s Combativity Award for his astonishing riding. He also earned the Combativity Award after Stages 10, 14 and 19.
Based on his six top-20 results, classification placings and Combativity Award, Gee could earn close to 50,000 Euros in prize money.
Gee, who raced for Canada in the men’s track team pursuit during the 2021 Summer Olympics and placed fifth, secured his fourth and final No. 2 stage result in Friday’s Stage 19, which included 5,400 metres of climbing.
“If I stayed in the peloton, there was no chance I could win so I may have got second a lot, but at least I gave myself a shot,” said Gee, who is signed to race for Israel-Premier Tech through 2025, after riding for the Israel Cycling Academy Continental team in 2022.
“I think that one will take awhile to sink in, to be able to fight for the win on a stage like today was something I never imagined coming into this Giro. Four second places hurts for sure, but it makes me hungrier moving forward to get that first win.
“I’m super proud of the team at this Giro. We showed what we are made of and even if we didn’t get that stage win, I think we gave ourselves the best chance to do it almost every day.”
On the final two days of the Giro, Gee finished 31st on Saturday and 57th on Sunday. But he had a huge uplifting moment before Sunday’s final stage in Rome, where he had a surprise visit with his father Jon, mother Anne and girlfriend Ruby on the team bus. He was shocked and overwhelmed with joy by Israel-Premier Tech’s gesture to bring his family to Rome.
While the Gee family was in total celebration mode, Jonathan Vaughters, the manager for the EF Education-East Post team could only think about the one that got away.
“Funny thing about Derek Gee,” Vaughters posted on Twitter on Friday. “About three years ago … I went to a new French (restaurant). The Canadian owner is (a) cycling fan. He brought me the resume of a kid named Derek Gee.
“Missed that one! Oops!”
But Vaughters knows Canadian cyclists have talent. One of his former key cyclists was Ottawa’s Michael Woods, who produced multiple podium finishes in 2018-20 and now rides for Israel-Premier Tech.
WORLD RECORD 5-KILOMETRE RUN FOR REJEANNE FAIRHEAD
The 49th Ottawa Race Weekend had a little bit of everything under sunny skies and warm temperatures – a world record, a marathon mayor, 27,954 runners and more than $1 million raised in the Desjardins Charity Challenge.
Rejeanne Fairhead waited until she was 96 years old to experience the joy of running in her first road race. When she completed the Ottawa 5K presented by ASICS Runkeeper, she set a world record for her 95-99 age group.
Fairhead, who walked the distance at the 2022 Ottawa Race Weekend in a Canadian record 58 minutes, 52 seconds, crossed the finish line this year as a runner in 51:09.01. That impressive time beat the former record held by American Betty Lindberg at 55:48.
Mark Sutcliffe went from running for Ottawa mayor last year (and winning) to becoming the running mayor on Sunday. He completed his sixth Ottawa Marathon in the past two decades in four hours, eight minutes, 13.1 seconds.
The first City of Ottawa mayor to run the Ottawa Marathon, Sutcliffe finished in the top half of all of his racing categories – 1,266th out of 3,156 finishers, 979th out of 2,141 male runners and 77th out of 170 in the men’s 50-54 age class. He also averaged a pace of 5:52 per kilometre.
Ottawa’s Alexandra Hynes ran a huge personal-best time to place 10th in the Ottawa Marathon women’s race in 2:46:42.1. Her previous best marathon time was 3:08:54 from October, 2017.
The women’s race also saw three other National Capital Region runners place in the top 25 – Ottawa’s Julia Nikonorova, 21st, 3:06:54.1, second in the 30-34 age group; Gatineau’s Andree Burke, 23rd, 3:07:29.1, third in the 30-34 age group; and Ottawa’s Robyn Hardage, 24th, 3:09.52.1, first in the 40-44 age group.
Three local runners cracked the top-50 in the men’s marathon – Gatineau’s Maxime Marian, 36th, 2:37:18.1, third in the 30-34 age group; Ottawa’s David Massicotte-Azarniouch, 39th, 2:41:01.1, second in the 35-39 age group; and Ottawa’s Pablo Aguilera Clouet, 46th, 2:47:32.1, second in the 25-29 age group.
Ottawa runners James Fielding and Warren Layton broke the three-hour barrier, completing the 42.195-kilometre course respectively in 2:51:27.1 (57th) and 2:53:02.1 (59th). Fielding and Layton also were second and third respectively in the 40-44 age group. Niali Tait had the fastest time among the men’s 55-59 runners in 3:11:25.1 for 176th overall.
Andrew Deak of Ottawa won the men’s Ottawa half-marathon presented by Desjardins in 1:12:42.1, while Nicholas Abanto Enns of Ottawa was fourth in 1:14:10.1 and Daniel Ribi of Ottawa was sixth in 1:14:44.1.
On the women’s half-marathon side, Aditi Krishna was the top Ottawa distance runner in 1:25:11.1. Kayla Gallo of Ottawa was sixth overall and second in her 30-34 age group in 1:26:56.1, while Jessica Turanec of Ottawa was 10th overall and third in her 35-39 age group in 1:27:28.1.
Tristan Woodfine of Cobden, ON., placed sixth among the men’s elite runners in the Ottawa 10K presented by Otto’s Ottawa in 29:37.1. Gatineau’s Max Lebeouf was 20th in 31:48.1, while Royden Radowits of Ottawa took 27th in 32:37.1.
Emmanuelle Labonte of Chelsea, PQ, finished 23rd in the women’s race in 37:08.1, Lynda Gingras of Chelsea was 26th in 37:32.1 and Andrea Hill of Ottawa took 28th in 38:16.1.
ISMAIL AYYOUB WINS CANADIAN U23 WRESTLING TITLE
Ottawa’s Ismail Ayyoub, who was representing the Hamilton Wrestling Club, won two matches to claim the men’s 79-kilogram title at the Canadian U23 wrestling championships in Laval, PQ.
Ayyoub, a graduate of Longfields-Davidson Heights Secondary School, defeated Connor Church of Montreal 19-14 and Dilpreet Randhawa of Guru Gobind Sin 10-0.
The championship also served as the world team trials in four men’s and four women’s weight classes. Ayyoub’s class was not part of the team trials.
Jessica Hong of the Carleton Wrestling Club was third in the women’s 50-kilogram class.
POWERLIFTER ALEXANDRA SCHELLA SETS THREE ONTARIO RECORDS
Ottawa powerlifter Alexandra Schella set three provincial records at the recent Make Your Mark meet in Toronto.
Competing in the women’s classic 63-kilogram sub-junior division, Schella, 17, lifted 118 kilograms in squat, 145 kilograms in deadlift and, including her non-record 50 kilograms in bench press, finished with an unprecedented 313-kilogram total.
The former records were 117.5 kilograms for squat, 140.5 kilograms for deadlift and 310.5 kilograms for total.
“I tried deadlifting for the first time and immediately fell in love with getting as strong as I could be,” Schella wrote in an email. “I love the discipline, structure and hard work involved with the sport and how it translates to my personal life as well.”
Schella was introduced to powerlifting in January, 2021.
LOCAL NORDIC SKIERS NAMED TO NATIONAL TEAMS
Nakkertok Nordic’s Katherine Stewart-Jones of Chelsea, PQ., was the only woman named to the Nordiq Canada national gold team for the 2023-24 cross-country skiing season.
Stewart-Jones also was one of five skiers to earn a $500 bursary from Evenements Nordiques Gatineau Nordic Events “to reduce their costs and to encourage them in their quest for excellence.” They received financial aid based on their international results in 2022-23.
The Nordiq Canada silver team for Next Generation prospects included Jasmine Lyons, Luke Allan and Pierre Grail-Johnson, all of Nakkertok. Ry Prior and Tory Audet, both of Chelsea Nordiq, were selected to the national development team.
Nakkertok’s Addison Frank, Evelyn Davies, Lluc Bou and Owen Siderius have been placed in Nordiq Canada’s Prospects Program and have been invited to an Eastern Canada camp July 11-16 at Mont-Sainte Anne, PQ.
DIVER KATE MILLER FIFTH ON PLATFORM AT SUMMER NATIONALS
A pair of local athletes qualified for the women’s platform final at the Canadian Summer Diving Championships in Toronto.
Nepean-Ottawa Diving Club product Kate Miller placed fifth following her final five dives at 248.90 points, while Audrée Howes of the Ottawa National Diving Club was eighth at 231.10 points. They qualified for the final by recording identical placings in the preliminary round.
Miller was fourth in the women’s one-metre preliminary round, but elected not to compete in the final. Howes was 18th overall.
Gatineau’s Matthew Taal was 17th in the men’s three-metre and 15th in the men’s one-metre springboard competitions.
ANNABELLE CHUKWU PLAYER OF THE MATCH AGAINST JAMAICA
Canada defeated Panama 5-0 and Jamaica 4-0 to qualify for the semifinals at the CONCACAF women’s U20 soccer championship in the Dominican Republic.
Ottawa’s Annabelle Chukwu scored two first-half goals six minutes apart against Jamaica and was named Player of the Match. She entered the game against Panama in the 78th minute.
Canada, which is aiming to qualify for the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup, completes its group play on Wednesday against the undefeated United States team.
KEVIN ROBERTSON, KEIRA CHRISTIE-GALLOWAY REACH NCAA TRACK FINALS
Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club’s Keira Christie-Galloway of Grand Canyon University and Kevin Robertson of Syracuse University have cleared their final hurdles to qualify for the NCAA Division 1 track and field championships, starting June 7 in Austin, Texas.
Christie-Galloway had identical showings in her two women’s 100-metre hurdle races, placing second in 13.08 seconds in both her heat and quarter-final at the NCAA West regional meet. Her times were just shy of her recent personal-best of 13.01 seconds.
Robertson won his quarter-final heat in the men’s 3,000-metre steeplechase in 8:47.69 at the NCAA East regional meet and advanced to the national championship.
Meanwhile at the Bob Vigars Classic track and field meet in London, ON., Ottawa Lions’ David Adeleye won the men’s elite division 110-metre hurdles in 13.93 seconds and claimed first place by 0.06 of a second.
Eliezer Adjibi of Ottawa’s C.A.N.I. club was second in the men’s elite 100 metres in 10.21 seconds. He qualified for the final by winning his heat in 10.24.
The Lions’ Alexandra Telford won the women’s 400 metres in 54.38 seconds, while Gatineau’s Audrey Leduc was third in the women’s 100 metres in 11.47 seconds.
In the open division, Maria Okwechime captured the women’s long jump title with a wind-aided 6.23 metres. In the fifth round, she jumped 6.13 metres to beat the meet record by 0.01 millimetres.
Leduc won the women’s 200 metres in 24.39 seconds.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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