Many Canadians are enjoying contrasting high profile cycling events running currently with the Tour de France featuring Canada’s Tuft and Hesjedal and Toronto’s Pan Am Games. Our new Milton Velodrome has seemingly expedited its role in the longterm development of Canada’s next generation of racers and is already providing a bounty of hardware with an unexpected tally of medals.

The other events made it easy to overlook another very important annual race series in Canada held simultaneously: Vancouver area’s BC Superweek.  Although overshadowed by the National tv coverage of the aforementioned events, the importance of BC Superweek cannot be underestimated.  It’s here where racers get nightly tests of speed and endurance competing against some of the best domestic talent.

Opening the week is the community driven Tour de Delta.  The residents here open up their homes to the racers, saving thousands of dollars from the cash strapped teams and providing a sense of home while on the road–a welcome respite.  Tour de Delta starts with the MK Delta crit, which favoured my Silber Pro Cycling team with its challenging elevation gain. Ryan Roth would repeat his solo victory of 2014 with a powerful attack. Teammate Derrick St. John would help shut down counter moves behind in the breakaway to go 4th himself and give Silber the perfect start to the week.

One of my favorite races of the series was next: the fast, tight and technical criterium in downtown Ladner.  This race has very rarely had a break succeed and we switched tactics to less aggressive racing and tried to set up our sprinter Elliott Doyle.  Elliott has had a nightmare season having not raced since April suffering from illness and injuries so it was good to see him step up with responsibility of coming through for the team.  Ryan would give a monster one lap lead out, placing Elliott perfectly in the home stretch.  Unfortunately Elliott’s lack of racing sharpness showed and he would fade to 4th.  Not a bad first crack at a sprint in almost 4 months.

The UCI Delta road race was next.  On offer were extremely valuable UCI points for both elite and espoir categories.  These points are vital to qualify for positions at World Championships held in Richmond, Virginia in October.  Our strength is our depth.  We can afford to attack relentlessly and work only when numbers and tactical advantage suit us–and we did just that.  Matteo would find his way into a late break with Jesse Anthony of Optum and surprising espoir Jack Burke of NCCH.  With noted sprinters Young and Anderson behind, Anthony’s reluctance to commit fully was understandable but frustrating nonetheless.   Matteo’s late attack to solo in for victory ended an agonizing 300 meters short of the line.  Optum would indeed go 1-2 with their noted sprinters and Ryan would surf to a well-fought 6th place.

As the former coach of Cycling Canada’s elite program, I always kept tabs on UCI point standings.  For the nation we can qualify for World’s and more importantly the quadrennial Olympic Games through numerous ways; two of which are through either the World Tour or the lower level America Tour rankings.   As the current DS of Silber, I also keep an eye on the very same rankings to help attract race promoters to the idea of inviting our team to their events.  I’m proud that Silber has climbed up to 7th in the team rankings and new Canadian coach Kevin Field will be thrilled that the country is up to 4th and looks set to go 3rd when new rankings come out.  With the complexities of the UCI’s system, number 1 Colombia will qualify higher through the World Tour and vault Canada into a virtual 2 spot with 2 races remaining: the Tours of Colombia and Utah.  It could very be that Canada can qualify 6 racers for Richmond!  A squad size we haven’t seen in quite some time.  Exciting news.

Everyone enjoyed the Monday off and I re-found my old training route along the 0 ave.  The zero runs east-west directly on the US border and flattens out as it heads east into the numerous blueberry fields of the delta.  A mandatory stop at a fruit stand brought up memories of my old partner in crime Mike Sayers devouring the stuff.

UBC was next and with it a change of course.  Lucky for us it included a nice climb which was preferable to the old flat course.  This new version reputedly is the sight of Vancouver’s “Tuesday Worlds” so locals were warning me of it’s difficulty.  We’d get back to attacking racing but with the powerhouse American team UHC and Alto Velo-Seasucker sprinter extraordinaire Dan Holloway now toeing the line, I knew it would take some doing.  Ryan and UHC’s Hegyvary were the only combo to break the hold of the pack but would be reeled in with 5 to go.  Silber would set up their real first leadout of the season and would get overrun at the bell.  Elliott would surf well and return to the action and place 4th yet again.   

Gastown is back and with Global Relay taking over sponsoring and running the event, it is bigger and better then ever.  We’d battle traffic and arrive early enough to see the spectator number grow during the women’s race.  The air was electric with over 20,000 spectators and the boys put on a performance to remember.  Ryan would take a rare solo victory in these famous streets, helped in large part to Matteo’s pacemaking and teamwork.  This is what it’s all about.  Online streaming of the event and it’s raucous crowd surely can attract new sponsorship into the sport.  It’s showcases like this that is desperately needed to sell the sport and increase needed partners.

It’s easy to feel an emotional let down after such an adrenaline rush, and I don’t envy the Burnaby race in that aspect.  Regardless, the good folks in Burnaby put on a beautiful, spectator friendly event with a course that has both some elevation and a U turn, doubling the number of times the crowd can cheer the riders.   This Italian enclave struts their pride with Ferrari pace and Lamborghini follow cars.  We’d continue racing hard with hopes of continuing to succeed in breaks, but the pack was held together by high pace.  My eyes popped when the team lined up the leadout with a rather long way out at 9 to go.  We’d do well and rally all hands on deck for Elliott once again only to come short by 1 lap as in UBC.  Holloway would also take the win replicating his UBC victory with Elliott chocking up another hard fought 4th place. 

We’d get our break during the White Rock crit the following night.  Constant attacks from the guys had sprinters gasping and it was rewarding to see Holloway and two UHC guys succumb to the pressure we applied.  Matteo would time his attack perfectly and with Derrick and Ryan back neutralizing the chase Matteo would enjoy putting his hands up across the line.  The pack came back together on the last lap and Ryan would help Elliott take 5th place.

The series concludes with probably the most prestigious cycling race in the country:  the White Rock road race.  The 130 km race boasts 2300m of elevation gain.  More importantly for my espoirs riders (Cataford, Perry, Doyle and Ellsay), White Rock provides a hint of what they can expect in Richmond.  With National coach Kevin Field in attendance, I challenged them to showcase their abilities.  In particular I put responsibility on Nigel Ellsay’s shoulders.  He’s been a valuable member of the team this year, but with his broken collarbone in May at the Joe Martin stage race in Arkansas, he has yet to thrust himself back into the limelight with a top result, often working as a selfless team rider.  I wanted that to change in White Rock.  Adding to the race dynamics was the attendance of former grand tour contender, Paco Mancebo.  I know the Spaniard well with my time directing him in 2011-12 and his contributions to the pace cannot go unnoticed. 

I think in general the guys were feeling the effects of the week’s efforts.  We had been the team taking all the shots and fatigue crept up on us.  Our rivals over at H&R Block had a good week with a key rider Garrett McLeod finally coming onto the form we all know he possesses.  His second place to Ryan at both MK Delta and Gastown were warnings, and in White Rock he’d play his cards well with teammate DeVos to solo to a fine win.  Mancebo would eke out 2nd over DeVos. Nigel would gut out an impressive 4th place–a result he needed to vault him back into the discussion for Worlds with DeVos, Perry and Cataford the favourite espoirs to represent Canada in Richmond.

I’d finish the week by driving the car to Edmonton.  I can finally publicly say that Silber will once again compete at the Tour of Alberta.  With 5 World Tour teams competing, we’ll have a crack at some Tour de France level competition and with National tv exposure perhaps we can finally get more corporate involvement to match the talent of cycling in Canada.  As we’ve seen with Ryder and Svein at the Tour and medals on the track in Toronto, cycling enjoys unique sponsorship opportunities and dramatic racing action.  Can’t wait to see what my Silber team can accomplish next.

Gord Fraser

Written by Gord Fraser

Gord is a three-time Olympian with over 200 career wins. He retired from professional cycling at the end of 2006. He has been a Sports Director ever since, joining the team in 2014. He was inducted into the Canadian Cycling Hall of Fame in 2016. Gord and Floyd were teammates from 1999-2001.

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