WHITE ROCK - The annual BC Superweek came to an appropriate end Sunday afternoon with a pair of homegrown cyclists celebrating victories in the toughest race of the week.
The grueling Tour de White Rock Road Race turned into a showcase of B.C. talent with Kristine Brynjolfson winning a sprint to the finish line to take the women's title, while Christian Meier pulled away on the final lap to capture the men's title.
"This is fantastic," said Meier. "I've always really enjoyed this race, and with my physique, this race suits me the most of all the races in Superweek. To be able to win it for the first time is a fantastic feeling."
The Road Race offered plenty of drama for the cycling fans who turned out to line the course and cheer on riders.
In the 80-kilometre women's event, Brynjolfson and Megan Rathwell of Victoria ran away from the rest of the field.
2012 Tour de White Rock Women's Criterium
2012 Tour de White Rock Men's Criterium
2012 Tour de White Rock Hill Climb
"Megan and I were riding quite well on the hills together and once we got a gap, I thought maybe somebody would try and bridge up with us and make the break even stronger," said Brynjolfson, a longtime North Delta resident who relocated to Kamloops last year.
"We kept getting time gaps (updates) and they kept getting bigger and bigger. That's always a good sign.
"If the time gaps were getting smaller we might have been worried but every time we got a time gap, it was growing so we knew then the race was between us."
The two stayed together right to the final sprint up Marine Drive to the finish line, where Brynjolfson prevailed by a bike length to win in a time of two hours, 31 minutes and 19 seconds.
Brynjolfson added she was happy just to be in the mix at the end.
"I was having some mechanical issues with my chain the whole race," she said. "My chain kept dropping off and I really didn't think I would be able to sprint."
Mechanical issues were also a factor in the 134-kilometre men's event as one of the pre-race favourites, 2008 Olympian Svein Tuft of Langley, could only watch helplessly as the pack rode away from him up the Columbia Street hill, after the lock ring on his rear wheel came loose on the first lap. Tuft removed the wheel only to have all his gears pop loose and scatter across the roadway. By the time the problem was mended, Tuft was more than four minutes behind his rivals.
"There was a moment where I knew I was probably four minutes down and I thought, 'Hmm, maybe I'll pack her in for the day and maybe I'll just ride home,'" he said. "But we're here to race hard and this is a big building block to our second half of our racing in Europe. So I just put my head down and tried to keep a steady pace."
Tuft's bid to catch up to the pack and become a factor in the race quickly won over the crowd as they gave him big vocal support for the remainder of the day. Tuft managed to reel in the pack and then broke away to make a late charge at the leaders when the course was shortened for the final five laps. Tuft was making up an average of 25 seconds per lap on the leaders en route to finishing fourth overall.
With the course shortened, the men's race came down to a trio of riders - Meier, Joseph Cooper of New Zealand and Ken Hanson of California - vying for the lead. The three stayed together until the final lap when Meier initiated a charge up the Columbia Street hill. Meier's move left Hanson behind, but Cooper tried to answer the challenge only to fade halfway up the grade. Meier then bore down and pulled away to win the race in 3:34:26, 28 seconds ahead of Cooper in second place.
The Tour de White Rock began Friday night with the Homelife Realty Hill Climb. Germany's Florenz Knauer took top spot in the men's event ahead of Cloverdale's Jacob Schwingboth in second place. Carrie Cartmill beat out Rhae-Christie Shaw for the women's title.
Saturday's feature race was the Choices Market Criterium; Tuft destroyed the men's field, winning by 38 seconds over Ryan Anderson and Knauer. Shaw took top honours in the women's criterium, topping Nicky Wangsgard by less than six seconds.
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