Clara Hughes Nabs Gold in Road Race

The Globe and Mail, Medellin, Columbia

Canada’s Clara Hughes continued to impress in her return to cycling Sunday, fighting off severe cramps to win the road race at 2011 UCI Pan-American Championships.

The Winnipeg native completed the 96-kilometre course in two hours 23 minutes 52 seconds, an impressive 1:18 lead over silver medalist Evelyn Garcia MarroquDin of El Savador. Theresa Cliff-Ryan of the U.S. was third, 6:53 back.

Montreal’s Joelle Numainville was fourth, 6:53 behind Hughes. Yellowknife’s Denise Ramsden was sixth, followed by Heather Logan-Sprenger of Madoc, Ont., in eighth and Winnipeg’s Leah Kirchmann in 10th.

Hughes, who also won gold Friday’s time trial, guaranteed her participation as the Continental Champion in both events at the 2011 UCI Road World Championships in Copenhagen in September.

“It was an epic day… We had a plan as a team to win the road race today and I am so proud of this victory for Canada,” said Hughes, the bronze medalist in the time trial and road races at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Hughes, who now resides in Glen Sutton, Que., won four speedskating medals for Canada — including one gold — over three Winter Olympics. She has won three straight races since returning to the bike.

“It was hot, hilly and gruelling, and I was cramping up really badly halfway through the race. I ate and drank as much as I could to make the cramps go away and kept thinking ‘You can’t lose this race for the team!“’ Hughes added. “It gave me a lot of strength and motivation knowing my teammates were working hard behind.

“It was a team victory and I’m satisfied but exhausted. I’ve never cramped up in a race and had to go through that kind of pain.”

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