Posted by Editoress on 06/19/09
BC Superweek returns for 2009; strong field of top riders expected
BC Superweek is preparing to continue and celebrate an impressive history of top cyclists from Canada and the world this summer with the 30th anniversary of the historic Tour de White Rock, $40,000 in prizes, and expectations of one of the strongest fields ever for Western Canada's biggest week of bike racing.
Despite losing mid-week criteriums in Gastown and Burnaby this year, BC Superweek continues to build on a growing reputation as one of North America's best-run cycling events with six races over two weekends. It starts with three races and $25,000 in prize money at the Tour de Delta July 10-12, and wraps up with three more at the $15,000 Tour de White Rock July 17-19, a historic event that made an immediate impression on Tour de France veteran Chris Horner.
"This is a fantastic race," said Horner, who finished 15th at the 2007 Tour de France, but came to BC Superweek after his new team, Astana, was suspended in 2008. He won't be back in BC this year - Horner is expected to return the Tour de France alongside new teammate and fellow Tour de Gastown alumnus Lance Armstrong – but was quick to encourage other riders to make the trip to Western Canada's biggest cycling races. "You'll get some good training and some good racing."
"You can't beat it," continued Horner, his point about the quality of the field driven home by an inability to finish on the podium in either Gastown or Burnaby, and a second-place finish in the White Rock Criterium before finally breaking through with a victory in the Road Race on the final day of both the Tour de White Rock and BC Superweek. "It's a fantastic crowd and they are knowledgeable in bike racing and appreciate the work they are watching in these races, and in general the courses are beautiful and each is different, from technical to wide open, to hill climbs, and just a fantastic road race in White Rock to finish it off."
The sentiments of Horner, who won three straight USA Cycling NRC Championships from 2002 to 2004 before going over to Europe, have been echoed by an impressive list of riders over the years. BC Superweek alumni includes past Canadian Olympians like Brian Walton, Gina Grain, Erinne Willock, Alex Wrubleski, Alison Sydor, Eric Wohlberg, and Gord Fraser, and top international pros like Kirk O'Bee, Alex Stieda, Henk Vogels and Armstrong. The races have also been proving points for young locals, a list that recently included Canadians Svein Tuft and Christian Meier, and Washington's Tyler Farrar, all now ProTour riders in Europe.
Like Horner, most left with great things to say about BC Superweek, on and off the bike.
"It truly has grown to something we should all be proud of," said Tuft, who cut his racing teeth as a youngster rubbing wheels with Walton at the Tour de White Rock, the start of a career that took him to the 2008 Olympics and an expected spot in this year's Tour de France with his new Garmin-Slipstream team. "The organizers have attracted the most amazing talent from all areas of the world and we got to race on the coolest, hardest courses in front of thousand of crazy fans."
Tuft is experiencing a new level of crazy cycling fans in Europe, but BC Superweek organizers expect to give Vancouver-area fans plenty of great racing to cheer. While the absence of Tuft's powerful local Symmetrics squad in 2009 is a blow to BC cycling, local riders like Meier (Garmin-Slipstream), Andrew Pinfold, Cam Evans (both now with Ouch) Will Routley (Jelly Belly), Ryan Anderson and Canadian Olympian Zach Bell (Kelly Benefit) all caught on with other teams.
Many are expected to return – along with new teammates -- as this year's cancellation of the Tour de Altoona in Pennsylvania, which was going to run at the same time in mid-July, also makes BC Superweek a perfect stop before the NRC Cascade Cycling Classic stage race, which starts in Bend, Oregon on July 21.
"We're going to probably see broader representation than ever, and more wide open," said Jamie Davidson, a Tour de Delta director and BC Superweek recruiter. "I think we'll have a very strong field because of the reputation of the races. White Rock is in 30th year and Delta is into its ninth without ever being a minute late off the start and there's very good prize money. So riders should have a lot of confidence in BC Superweek."
Those who took part in past races certainly seem to. Kelly Benjamin came for the first time last summer on the advice of then Cheerwine teammate and BC Superweek alum Sarah Uhl, and the Kansas City native left determined to bring others back to BC.
"I'm going to try to work to get more women here because it's been outstanding," said Benjamin, who some help from then Cheerwine teammate Sarah Bamberger won four of eight races at last year's BC Superweek. "From the race promoters, to the housing, to everything, they truly embrace you as a community. I was cashing cheques at the bank (in Delta) and three or four people called out and waved, and I don't even live here. It's just amazing the way they've been here. I don't really have control over my schedule so much, but when I do I am going to try to get everybody I know to come here."
No wonder Walton, a Delta native, called it, "the best run race I know in North America."
"Initially it was one of the best, but it is second to none now," said Walton, a three-time Olympian and 1996 Silver Medalist who returns annually from Philadelphia, where he is now VP of Performance and a partner in Cadence Cycling and Multisport Centers.
BC Superweek starts with the $25,000 Tour de Delta from July 10 to 12, kicking off with the MK Delta Prologue, continuing with the Brenco Criterium Saturday, and the gruelling White Spot Road Race on Sunday. Superweek wraps up with the 30th Tour de White Rock July 17-19, a three-event weekend that starts with the Homelife Realty Hillclimb Friday and Maximum Collision Criterium Saturday, before wrapping up with the scenic and storied Peace Arch News Road Race Sunday.
"One of the most beautiful and challenging courses we do in the world," Tuft said of the Peace Arch News Road Race before last year's event. "There isn't a single race that compares to the difficulty and beauty. To win a race with so much history is something all top cyclists want on their resume."
Keep updated at www.bcsuperweek.ca
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