A Fantastic BC Superweek
There was some impressive racing during the $105,000 nine-race BC Superweek in July. Flanked by the Tour de Delta (July 7-9) and the Tour de White Rock (July 14-16), the 10-day event also featured three midweek criteriums — the UBC Grand Prix, Giro di Burnaby and the famous Gastown Grand Prix.
Steve Fisher (left) nips Jesse Anthony (right) at the line in the 140 km Tour de Delta Road Race.
Canadian National Time Trial Champion Svein Tuft, racing for Orica-GreenEDGE, sent a clear message on opening night in Delta. After racing in Europe on the ProTour circuit, winning his fifth straight national title in June, and following a little rest mountain biking in northern BC, he was in splendid form and he was there to prove it. Tuft was part of an early seven-rider break but managed to pull away from an impressive field that included several top US and Canadian teams halfway through the 52 km criterium to finish half a lap ahead of the pack.
“...Sometimes a little rest does a guy good, and more just mentally. We spend so much time on the road, racing on the road, it’s nice to get out and hit the refresh button,” he said. “You come back and you can dig.”
Florenz Knauer, in town with the German-based Team Baier Lanshut, was the runner-up, finishing just ahead of Australian Tommy Nankervis while the last of several hard crashes piled up behind them in the final corner.
In the 39-kilometer women’s race, it was Nicky Wangsgard of Primal/MapMyRide Cycling that found the extra gear — but not until the crucial final corner.
Wangsgard held off an early attack from local Stephanie Roorda, an alternate on the Canadian track team for the 2012 Olympics, then made a break of her own to get to the last corner first, sprinting to win by just three-tenths of a second. Jenny Lehman came in third.
Vancouver native, Ryan Anderson (Spider Tech), claimed the second criterium in Delta. Fresh off a strong showing at the Tour de Suisse, Anderson won the bunch sprint ahead of Bellingham, Wash., Steve Fisher and Nankervis to claim both the day’s victory and take the overall leader’s jersey.
In the women’s race, Roorda improved on a second-place finish in the first stage by winning the 40-lap Brenco Criterium, out sprinting Joanie Caron (Colavita/espnW Pro Cycling) and Jenny Lehmann (Trek Red Truck) down the final straight. Roorda also claimed the leader’s jersey.
The Tour de Delta wrapped up with a couple of big surprises. First, Morgan Cabot, riding for local club Glotman Simpson, took the road race victory and then Steve Fisher shocked a field of top professional cyclists by winning the men’s road race, and with it the 2012 Tour de Delta Omnium.
Fisher, who will join the US Under-23 team in Europe, finished fifth at the recent US Under-23 Road Nationals.
In Delta, he bridged up to an eight-rider breakaway group with two laps to go, and then won a sprint to the finish line. Riding for Seattle-based Hagens Berman, he finished the 140-kilometer race in 3 hours, 9 minutes and 31.1 seconds.
Jesse Anthony (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) came in second after overcoming a bad crash the night before. German Dominik Roels, a former Pro Tour rider now racing for Team HED, was third after having to find a replacement bike following a crash on opening night.
Cabot, the women’s winner who has only been racing for the past three years, summarized the race: “The attack started on the hill with the skinny climbers, and then we crested over the top and some more powerful riders started to go, and honestly I was just following attacks and accidentally ended up off the front, saw a small gap, and then just decided this is it,” she said. “Honestly I think no one expected it.”
Roorda won the late sprint ahead of independent rider Kate Finegan, and with that clinched the Tour de Delta overall title.
Following a rest day on Monday, Langley resident Tuft left two-thirds of an impressive pro field sitting on the sidelines early at the second annual UBC Grand Prix, but it took until the final straightaway before he could shake Roels. The German spent more than half the 50-kilometer race on the two-man breakaway, but couldn’t keep up with Tuft’s last acceleration. Australian sprinter Hilton Clark (United Healthcare Pro Cycling) won a bunch sprint for third place, finishing ahead of a group whittled down to 32 out of the 96 riders who started.
Roorda also spent more than half of the 30-lap women’s race alone, finishing 40 seconds ahead of the bunch. Loren Rowney, an Australian riding for the Specialized Lululemon pro women’s team, beat Utah’s Wangsgard in the sprint for second place.
Midway through BC Superweek, a crowd estimated at 35,000 witnessed the return of the historic Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix after a four-year hiatus. The buzz built as the men did 50-laps of a 1.2-kilometer circuit in downtown Vancouver, racing over the same cobblestones as cycling greats Lance Armstrong, Alex Stieda and Canadian Olympians like Brian Walton.
When Tuft took off to start the final lap of the 60 km race that included several crashes, many envisioned a three-peat of his two breakaway criterium wins already at BC Superweek. However, with a $15,000 first place prize, Ken Hanson and the Optum Pro Cycling squad had other ideas. After slowly reeling in Tuft on the backstretch, the six-deep Optum team overtook him coming out of the final corner, setting Hanson up perfectly for a bunch sprint victory over Anderson and Nankervis.
After watching Roorda ride an early solo break to an easy victory at the UBC Grand Prix a night earlier, the top riders kept things together in Gastown, setting up a thrilling final stretch. Australian Rowney pocketed the $8,000 first place check by finishing the 30-lap race a bike length ahead of American veterans Laura Van Gilder of Mellow Mushroom, and Wangsgard.
The Giro di Burnaby was next on the schedule. For a while it looked like the 58.5-kilometer race wouldn’t come down to a group sprint. A solo break by Roels 17 laps in became 11 riders strong by the midway point, and included representatives from Optum as well as big names like Tuft.
Without much cohesion up front, though, the break was whittled down to two with 16 laps remaining, and then it was just Joseph Cooper of New Zealand’s Pure Black Racing who collected five lap primes before being reeled in with 10 to go.
This set up a bunch sprint, and once again Hanson received the perfect lead out and surged more than a bike length ahead of Competitive Cyclist's Nankervis and 2006 winner Clarke.
Like the men, there was also a familiar feeling to the 30-lap women’s race. After a bunch sprint in Gastown, the Giro di Burnaby came down to two riders, with Van Gilder beating rookie Rowney by more than a second. Jean Ann Berkenpas, who bridged up to the early break, managed to stay with them until eight laps to go. She then hung on to a 14-second lead ahead of a hard-chasing peloton for third place.
The final weekend opened with the Tour de White Rock Hill Climb. Florenz Knauer, who made the overseas trip to race BC Superweek, took one look at the leg-numbing 700-meter ascent up a 16 percent grade and knew he only wanted to do it once. But he did so too fast, finished in the top-five and qualified for the medal round.
With fans lined five deep on both sides of the road to cheer them on, the 23-year-old German used a strong kick over the final hill to pull away and crossed the line ahead of local Jacon Schwingboth and New Zealand’s Louis Crosby of PureBlack Racing.
Ontario’s Carrie Cartmill reached the finish line well ahead of Exergy Twenty12’s Rhae-Christie Shaw (Seattle, Wash.), who was on Canada’s 2012 Olympic shortlist for the road and time trial, and Kristine Bryniolfson of the local Trek Red Truck Racing team.
The next day, a couple of Canadian champions put on a cycling clinic at the Choices Market Criterium, the second to last stage of BC Superweek.
Rhae Shaw, the current Canadian Criterium Champion, built a sizeable gap during the 30-kilometer women’s race, piling up prime money before crossing the finish line alone. Wangsgard won the sprint for second a little less than seven seconds behind Shaw, and just ahead of Quebec’s Joanie Caron.
Tuft, who finished 9th at this year’s Giro d’Italia, was even more dominant in the men’s race, breaking away early in the 60-lap race around the hilly one-kilometer street circuit and almost lapping a strong field for his third win at BC Superweek. Ryan Anderson, who now rides in Europe, was next across the line 38 seconds back, Nauer was third.
The final stage of the week saw local Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEDGE), who usually competes on the ProTour, make his first trip to the top of a BC Superweek podium. He bridged up to, and chipped away at an early breakaway, then dropped the final two riders, New Zealand’s Joseph Cooper (PureBlack Racing) and Hanson, on the last of several tough climbs to win the grueling 134 km Peace Arch News Road Race. Tuft, who lost almost four minutes to a mechanical problem on his first lap, slowly made up the deficit to finish fourth, only 14 seconds behind Hanson. Only 18 of the 81 starters rallied the finish line.
For Meier, it was a long time coming after years of racing BC Superweek in more of a support role, either as part of bigger pro teams or for his current teammate, Svein Tuft.
On the women’s side, no one was going to catch Kristine Brynjolfson and Megan Rathwell after a strong early breakaway in the 80-kilometer race. The duo spent most of the race in front, steadily building a gap up to three and a half minutes before Brynjolfson outsprinted Rathwell. Caron came in third.
That clinched the women’s overall title for BC Superweek for Caron, while Carrie Cartmell claim the Tour de White Rock Omnium. Germany’s Florenz Knauer took the men’s overall for both the Tour de White Rock and BC Superweek.