July 17/09 16:48 pm - Tour de White Rock celebrates 30 years of developing Olympians
Posted by Editoress on 07/17/09
One of Svein Tuft’s first big races was the 2000 Tour de White Rock.
Eight years later, Tuft had one of Canada’s best Olympic showings with seventh place in the Time Trial. And this season, after adding a silver medal in the Time Trial at the World Championships and being featured in the New York Times, the Langley native is riding on Europe’s ProTour for Garmin-Slipstream, missing out on starting the Tour de France only because of injuries earlier in the season.
And to think that it all started in White Rock, a common theme among Canadian Olympic cyclists as the Tour de White Rock celebrates 30 years this week.
“I didn’t really even know who Brian Walton was until I was with a breakaway with him at the Tour de White Rock the first time,” said Tuft. “That was my first year of full racing and seeing the difference between a professional rider that’s been doing it for years – his talent and experience and just knowing what to do in each situation – you could tell he had it all figured out from years and years of doing it. Just in that hour-long race I learned many, many things, hard lessons.”
It was a big step in Tuft's cycling career, one that now includes three gold medals at the Pan American Cycling Championships, the 2007 UCI America Tour title, and the 2007 US Open, a race seen by 8 million viewers on NBC. So when Tuft would return to the Tour de White Rock as one of North America's top pros, he knew other local riders were using him as a measuring stick. And so the Tour de White Rock’s crucial role in developing top Canadian cyclists continued.
“It becomes cyclical,” says Walton, a three-time Olympian, 1996 Olympic silver medal winner, and 10-time Canadian National champion who also won the Tour de White Rock road race six times. “It is a key component in the development of grass roots cycling, and having a world-class event with top-level professional talent is a key component in the development of our future Olympians. BC Superweek is incredible for Canadian cycling.”
While Tuft won't be back this year, a lot of other local professionals from the top American circuit will be. It's a list that includes Canadian Olympian Zach Bell, and his teammate on the Minnesota-based Kelly Benefit Strategies Pro Cycling team, Ryan Anderson. Andrew Pinfold and Cam Evans, who both race on California-based Ouch Pro Cycling, will also be in White Rock, as will two-time US Champion Kirk O'Bee. On the women's side, the field includes Canadian Olympian Erinne Willock, and Jazz Apple pro team that includes several New Zealand Olympians, and two-time US National champion Dotsie Bausch.
“These are the most important races in Canada for amateur guys coming up, for sure,” said Bell, who went from winning Tour de Delta last year to representing Canada at the Beijing Olympics. He later returned to China to win World Cup silver, and added silver at the World Championships in Poland. “It’s the best exposure you can get to some of the best pros in North America. For me BC Superweek was the benchmark for what I needed to do to get to a pro level.”
It’s a role that those involved with the Tour de White Rock take a lot of pride in, and something they plan to celebrate during this year’s 30th anniversary.
Following Sunday’s Road Race, there will be an Olympic-themed celebration, with live music, a special appearance by the Vancouver 2010 Mascots, and a chance to meet Olympians like riders Bell and Willock, as well as past Olympic medal winners like synchronized swimmer Janice Birch and runner Lynn Kanuka.
"As a community, we’re thrilled to play a part in the making of future Olympians,” said White Rock Mayor Catherine Ferguson. “It’s great to hear the riders’ stories and the sense of connection they feel to our city—even years later. That’s something we really want to celebrate.”
It's also the continuation of a 30-year history that includes past Canadian Olympians like Walton, Alison Sydor, Eric Wohlberg, Gord Fraser, Alex Wrubelski, Gina Grain, Warren Sallenbach, Roland Green and Alex Stieda, who was also the first North American to wear yellow leader’s jersey at the Tour de France. The Tour de White Rock also served as a pre-Olympic training camp in 1988 and 1992, and is an unofficial training ground for future Olympians every year.
“I last rode the Tour de White Rock in 2004 as my final race before heading off to my last training camp before the Athens Olympics,” Sydor wrote in an email from Europe. “It's an event all the riders value no matter what their level. For the public its always the best opportunity to see the current Olympic level athletes meet with those aspiring to get to that level. And the race is so selective there is never a lucky winner, so year after year a new name to watch is often uncovered.”
Sydor remembers her first Tour de White Rock in 1987 and its key role in the development of Canadian cyclists before and after her.
"Having such an important home race that happens year after year has allowed both the new generation of young cyclists as well as the established local pros to circle this date on their calendars and plan for it each year,” she said. “The pros love it and as you can see always show up when their schedule allows, which raises the level and allows the younger riders to get a huge experience racing with the experienced pros at pro speeds right close to home. As travel is a huge cost for the younger cyclists, the more events we have close to home for them the better. To have such a quality field and race is a double bonus for them.”
The triple bonus is racing against such a postcard-worthy backdrop.
“Tour de White Rock is one of the most beautiful and challenging courses in the world,” said Tuft. ”There isn't a race that compares in difficulty and beauty. To win a race with so much history is something all top cyclists want on their resume.”
For more BC Superweek information visit our website at www.bcsuperweek.ca
2009 Tour De White Rock Schedule
Homelife Realty Hill Climb
Start Date: Friday, July 17
Start Time: 7 p.m.
Start Line: Buena Vista Avenue at Oxford Street
Maximum Collission Criterium
Start Date: Saturday, July 18
Start Time: 4 p.m.
Start Line: Five Corners, 15202 Pacific Avenue
Peace Arch News Road Race
Start Date: Sunday, July 19
Start Time: 10 a.m.
Start Line: White Rock Waterfront
30th Annual Tour De White Rock Celebration
Sunday, July 19 from 2:00 -3:30 p.m. at White Rock Beach
Live music, a special appearance by the Vancouver 2010 Mascots, and a chance to meet Olympians like Zach Bell and Erinne Willock, and past Olympic medal winners like synchronized swimmer Janice Birch and runner Lynn Kanuka.