July 17/05 11:01 am - Tour de Delta: Stage 2 report and photos
Posted by Editoress on 07/17/05
Tour de Delta Lehigh Criterium
Story by Kevin Woodley
Photos by Greg Descantes (More shots available at www.descantes.com)
North Vancouver's Kirk O'Bee won a sprint to the finish to take the fifth-annual Tour de Delta's Lehigh Criterium, a 60-lap road race through the streets of Ladner, Saturday night.
O'Bee, riding for the Navigators Insurance Cycling Team, led a 13-rider break with 12 laps left, and out sprinted Portland's Evan Elken of the Jittery Joes-Kalahari Team and Seattle's Chad Nikolz, a one-man team sponsored by Benaroya Research Institute, down the stretch.
One-hundred and eighteen top professional riders from all over North America - and some from as far away as Costa Rica - reached speeds in excess of 50-kilometres an hour during the 54-kilometre race. And after 60 trips around the 0.9-kilometre track, the top three riders all finished within a bike length of each other.
"There has been a good history of breaks here and I just wanted to split things up right from the start. At the end I just tried to stay at the front and it worked,'' O'Bee, who finished fifth in the 2005 US Pro Championships, said of his early break. "I'm riding well right now and I really wanted to put on a hometown show in front of friends and family.'' O'Bee said he was surprised to catch so many guys back in the chase group, including top names like Canadian cycling legend Gord Fraser, adding that large primes (prize laps) helped the breakaway stay away. The largest prime - a $1,610 crowd prime of donations gathered at the race - came with two laps left and O'Bee was tempted to go for it.
"I couldn't believe my ears, it's like the biggest crowd prime in the world,'' said O'Bee, who earned $1,200 for finishing first as part of a five-rider Navigators team. "I was kind of tempted to go for it but I thought just 'save it for the win.' I didn't want to take any chances after my teammates busted their butts.'' In the women's race, Sarah Uhl of Quark Cycling continued her domination of the Tour de Delta, following up Friday night's victory in the Brenco Hill Climb by winning a sprint to the finish line in Saturday's Criterium. After 40 laps around the 0.9-kilometre track Uhl, who also won the Criterium and Road Race and finished second in the hill climb last year, edged out Vancouver's Marni Hambelton of Symmetrics Cycling and Victoria's Gina Grain of Victory Brewing in a frantic dash down the stretch.
Uhl, a former World Junior Match Sprint champion, also finished second in the Tour de Gastown last year and is recognized as one of the fastest sprinters in women's cycling.
"This never gets old,'' said Uhl, 20, who worked with teammate Helen Kelly. "Anytime you win a bike race, there were a lot of things aligned. Winning a bike race is more than just having the strongest legs. It's having good teammates, having a good plan, having luck.'' With some of the top women's riders in North America in the field of 37, the pack stayed tight right into the final technical turn of the 36-kilometre race.
Grain, the Canadian points race champion in 2004, won three primes worth $100 each by beating the rest of the pack out of the same corner and down the same stretch, but couldn't stay ahead of Uhl or Hambelton when it counted.
"There was too much horsepower in the pack for anyone to pull away,'' said Hambelton, who worked with Symmetrics teammates Christina Briante and Mandy Poitras to improve on her fourth-place finish in the same event last year. "We knew it would come down to a pack sprint and Sarah Uhl and Gina Grain were ones to watch.'' Earlier in the evening, Vancouver's Attila Fritz (Mighty Riders) won the men's Category 3 and 4, beating out Vinko Poldrugovac and Ryan Clarke, who both race out of Victoria for the Dr. Walker Sports Chiropractor Team.
The Tour de Delta, which announced a five-year extension by the council of the Corporation of Delta during the men's race, continues Sunday with the White Spot Road Race. Delta is the first stop in BC Superweek, a three-event series over 10 days that also includes the Tour de Gastown Wednesday and Tour de White Rock, July 22-24.