July 11/03 9:29 am - BC Prepares for Superweek!
Posted by Editoress on 07/11/03
Record Turnout For BC Super Cycling Week
A record number of pro riders! The top 3 teams in North America! 2 of the top 3 men in North America! The number one team in Canada! The best racers in BC! The best of the best in a virtual dead heat for the SISU BC Cup Championship! All the elements are in place for an unforgettable bike race and fans in the Lower Mainland will get to see it, not once but 7 times during BC Super Cycling Week, July 18 to July 27.
"This is the best field BC has ever seen," says Jamie Davidson, who's been involved in bike racing in the province for more than 30 years and recruits riders for the Tour de Delta, Steam works Tour de Gastown and the Tour de White Rock. "Gastown had some great riders 10 years ago but we've got the top 3 teams in North America in Saturn, Prime Alliance and Navigators and two guys in the top in US Pro Rankings with Danny Pate and Gord Fraser. It' s awesome."
Nearly 100 pros and elite amateurs, 50 intermediate men and more than 30 of the finest women racers will begin racing in the Tour de Delta July 18, 19, 20, continue with Steamworks Tour de Gastown, July 23, and conclude with the Tour de White Rock, July 25, 26, 27.
The team to beat is the powerful Saturn squad that swept all the men's races last year at BC Super Cycling Week. They'll have 3 riders making their BC debut, Will Frischkorn, Phil Zacijek and Charles Dionne, 2nd in the Canadian Road Race Championship. They'll be working to help Levack, Ontario's Eric Wohlberg, win his 2nd straight Lehigh Cement Criterium in the Tour de Delta. The tireless, 38-year-old recently won a record 8th straight Canadian National Time Trial championship.
Wohlberg will need help to hold off his biggest challenger, Gord Fraser of Nepean, Ontario, ranked number 2 in the US, who replaced the retired Brian Walton of Delta as Canada's greatest international racer. The 34 year old is the mentor of his young Health Net team that has won 1 out 3 races it has entered this year. "It's a really young team," he says "a far cry from Mercury for me, but they are certainly very enthusiastic and motivated. There's a lot of positive energy and I'm still riding with one of my best friends, Mike Sayers."
Team manager, Thierry Attias is confident Fraser and Sayers will do very well in helping Health Net upset the top 3 teams. "Mike is in great form and Gord is at the top of his game right now. The crits and circuit races have our name written all over them. Gordon is a huge asset to our team. Aside from his winning percentage, he's a role model for the younger riders and an inspiration for the older ones. He has great insight into race strategy...a true student of the sport."
Horner and Sayers were teammates on the now disbanded Mercury team that dominated US racing for the past 4 years. Another Mercury member, Henk Vogels was also scheduled to race BC Super Cycling Week until he crashed at 100 kilometers per hour descending a steep hill in a race in June. "Henk's crash presents a huge setback for the team," says Navigators Cycling Director, Ed Beamon. "But he's in stable condition (with a head injury) and hopefully he'll be back on his bike before the year is out. The team is still looking forward to our first trip to Vancouver, the exciting racing and enthusiastic crowds that BC Super Week is famous for. We'll have solid representation with former US Crit champ Kirk O'Bee, 2-time Olympian Glen Mitchell of New Zealand and US World team member Ryan Guay. "
Navigators, Saturn and Prime Alliance arrive in BC in a tight, mid season battle for the top 3 rankings in North America. Prime Alliance will be led by Danny Pate, number 2 in US ratings in 2002 and 3rd this year, and Langley legend, Svein Tuft, who won the criterium at the Canadian National Championships last month.
"BC Super Week is the talk of the peleton (the racing pack) in the US this year," reveals a proud Tuft, who'll be relying on hometown support and his team to help improve on his 2nd place finishes in Gastown last year and the 2001 White Spot Road Race in the Tour de Delta.
Jelly Belly-Carlsbad Clothing out of California is another top 5 American squad destined to become crowd favourites at BC Super Cycling Week. They pass out jellybeans, their sponsor's products, wherever they go. They could be headed for the victory podium with a strong team led by a couple of powerful Aussies, Brent Dawson and Ben Brooks.
"Brian's (Walton) Snow Valley team is one of the top amateur teams in the States and they'll be back again this year," says Davidson. "We also expect one or two more American teams to just show up at the last minute."
Tuft's reference to the growing reputation of BC Super Cycling Week down south was reinforced by a recent unsolicited entry from a strong, independent rider with a lot of international experience. Eddy Gragus, 35, of Fort Collins, Colorado, spent several years with Lance Armstrong's US Postal team in Europe. "I was 10th in the Tour of Poland and 25th in Holland," he says, "but my biggest win was the Manyunk Hill climb where I won the richest per-mile race ever and took home first prize of $5,000."
Local riders, shut out of the big money in all 3 events last year, have rebounded and reorganized this season. Many of BC's top riders, including 2001 and 2002 Tour de Delta Hill climb champ Matt Usborne, have joined the powerful new Symmetrics team that's number one in the SISU BC Cup series and was also the best Canadian team at the recent National Road Race Championships. Usborne is locked in a tight race for the SISU BC Cup, trailing North Vancouver's Larry Zimich by a single point heading in to the final two races in Delta and White Rock.
"We (the BC riders) might surprise a few people," says Zimich. "I'm a marked man in races here this year but in these events no one knows me so I might be able to just hang around and wait for the right opening and who knows what might happen."
Almost anything could happen in the women's races with a recent season ending injury to Manon Jutras, the defending champion in the Tour de Delta White Spot Road Race. She broke her collarbone in a crash at the Canadian Nationals, ending a sensational, first season with Saturn. The Saturn riders who won in Delta and Gastown last year will not be back leaving this year's races wide open.
"It's going to be great," promises Rita Clarkson, Race Director for the Tour de White Rock. "Everything is falling into place and we're going to wind up with one of the biggest events in the Northwest, one that more people just have to come to. Last year we had one team (Saturn) dominate. This year it' ll be more competitive and entertaining than ever."
The Health Net team manager agrees. Thierry Attias says, "We're excited about the entire week of racing. We've heard it's one of the funnest events on the calendar. The crowd support is unbelievable. Next year if you have no field limits I am sending everyone!!!"