June 22/07 6:33 am - Fraser out of Retirement for BC Superweek
Posted by Editoress on 06/22/07
Canadian Legend Coming Out of Retirement for BC Superweek
Courtesy Cycling BC
Break out the records books and an eraser, cycling legend Gord Fraser is coming out of retirement for BC Superweek, July 13-22, to try to rewrite his unprecedented victory totals.
The Ottawa native put a dramatic finish to his hall of fame career last year when he made the Tour de Delta White Spot Road Race the last of a record number of wins in two decades of pro racing. Shortly after winning in Delta the 38-year-old retired with more than 200 victories to his credit. It was a record for most wins by a Canadian and more than any other North American in the last 20 years.
"This is not hockey or baseball, there aren't any official stats or records for that kind of thing," explains the modest Fraser, downplaying his achievement. "I never kept track of it but somebody added them up and came up with that 200 plus total. I guess it sounds about right."
Called "the Gretzky of Cycling", Fraser had the same finishing touch as Wayne and the same ability to analyze the action and anticipate an opening and opportunity almost before it occurred. He'd streak through the smallest hole and emerge at the front at the finish line.
"Gord was a great sprinter," says Eric Wohlberg, of Langley-based Symmetrics Cycling. Wohlberg's an old rival and friend who raced with and against Fraser since their teen days back in Ontario. "What made Gord special was not just his speed but also his stamina. He was one of the few sprinters who had the endurance to hang around the front in longer races and still have enough energy left to turn it on when he had to."
At the peak of his career he averaged more than 20 wins a year and had back-to-back seasons with nearly 30 victories apiece. His record totals include four wins in the last three years in BC Superweek. He won the Tour de Gastown in 2003 and 2005 (can you see a trend here?) and took the Tour de Delta White Spot Road Race in 2005 and 2006. Last year in Delta he proved there's still a lot of life left in those old legs. Locked in a duel with hometown favourite Cam Evans at the head of the home stretch in Tsawwassen, Fraser turned on the afterburners and rocketed past the kid barely half his age to pick up the final win of his career.
The impressive performance didn't change his mind about retirement. "It just felt like the right call," he says from the Tucson area that's been his home for the past several years. "There were a lot of days where I just wasn't interested or willing anymore to do all the work it takes to stay in shape. I'd been dedicated full time to cycling for 20 years, since I was a kid in Ottawa. It was time to move on."
He's still involved in cycling by developing programs with Carmichael Training Systems in Tucson. He rides an hour or two every day but not too seriously.
"I haven't done a century for ever," he says referring to 100 mile training rides. "I used to do a hundred miles four or five times a week. Now I just do enough to keep in half decent shape and keep from getting too lazy. "
He misses the competition and his old team mates but didn't feel the urge to start racing again until BC Superweek time rolled around again. The chance to race in Vancouver one last time was too much to pass up.
"I can't imagine not being there, it's such a beautiful part of Canada, a real special place and a real special event," he says. "That's the main reason we did the race with my old team from Health Net. BC Superweek conflicted with dates in the States but the organizers treat the racers so much better than in any other race that we loved to be there and wanted to support that kind of effort. The races are well organized, they're exciting and the crowds are fantastic. It's really grown and if I had even a tiny part in helping that happen I'm really proud of it. BC Superweek shows young Canadian riders what they have to do to get to the top. When I was growing up we had the Canadian Tire series that brought in the top American teams and it showed me where I needed to do and where I needed to go. Canadian riders still need to go to the States to make a decent living. We'd need about 20 more Superweeks before you could stay here and race full time. Delta is a great model for other communities to follow. It's not just a bike race. The entire community gets involved and that's what makes it so special."
His work schedule will force him to miss the Coast Capital Savings Tour De White Rock, July 13-15 but he will be in Vancouver to race the Tour de Gastown presented by BC Hydro Power Smart, July 18, the Giro Di Burnaby, July 19 and the Tour De Delta, July 20-22. He'll race as an independent rider without any support or expectations.
"I haven't been in a race or racing condition for nearly a year so I'm not expecting anything," he admits. "I'll be defending my honour, not my titles. I just hope I don't embarrass myself."