The Tour de White Rock

Never a dull day for sports fans

As is the case every year on the Semiahmoo Peninsula, there’s plenty of action to keep the average sports fan busy no matter the season, from cycling to softball to hockey and more.

One of the biggest events of the season takes place at Softball City (2201 148 St.) and Cloverdale Athletic Park (6330 168 St.) when the world’s top girls’ and women’s softball teams compete in the Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship, a foursome of tournaments all under a single banner.

The weeklong event, slated for July 9-17, is now in its second year after formerly being run under its old name, the Canada Cup. For more on the event, see page 24.

The other high-profile summer event is, of course, the Tour de White Rock, which brings the world’s top professional and amateur cyclists to White Rock streets for one weekend every July.

This year, the three-day event, which is in its 32nd year, is scheduled for July 15-17.

The Tour de White Rock, part of B.C. Superweek, begins Friday, July 15 with the Homelife Hill Climb. The hill climb is one of the most popular and spectator-friendly events of the summer, as hundreds usually line the sidewalks of Buena Vista Avenue to watch cyclists – two at a time – pedal up Buena Vista, from Oxford Street to just beyond Martin Street.

The women begin racing at 7 p.m., while the men start at 7:30 p.m.

New this year is an amateur hill climb, slated for 5:30 p.m., in which local cyclists can sign up to test their luck on the same grueling course as the pros.

The following day features the Choices Market Criterium, where racers zip around a one-kilometre circuit that includes Johnston Road, Five Corners, White Rock City Hall and White Rock Elementary.

The first race, featuring men’s category 3 and 4 riders, hits the pavement at 4 p.m., followed by the pro women at 5 p.m. and the men’s pro category race at 6 p.m.

The criterium races are some of the most exciting of the weekend, as cyclists ride in tight proximity to one another, reaching speeds up to 70 km/h.

Aside from Saturday’s race, the Five Corners Block Party is also on the schedule, beginning at 10 a.m. and going until 3 p.m. The five-hour party includes live entertainment, street vendors, face-painting and other family events.

The main event of the Tour comes Sunday morning when hundreds of riders convene along Marine Drive for the Peace Arch News Road Race, which will see competitors pedal throughout White Rock, on either an 80-km (women’s race) or 130-km (men’s) circuit.

The race is one of the most grueling in the country, with plenty of long steep climbs and tight turns, but also one of the most scenic, as cyclists – nearly all of whom rave about the course – ride with the Semiahmoo Bay as a backdrop.

The action gets going at 9 a.m. For more, visit www.tourdewhiterock.ca

July’s marquee events aside, there’s still plenty of action to keep sports fans busy throughout the spring and summer, especially on the ball diamonds.

The White Rock Tritons – both the U18 and U16 Junior Tritons – can be found on the fields at South Surrey Athletic Park throughout most weekends, and even when they aren’t on their home turf, they often aren’t far away, as the rival North Delta Blue Jays and Fraser Valley Chiefs (who play out of Whalley) are just a line drive up the road.

The Little League baseball scene is as popular as ever on the Peninsula, and White Rock-South Surrey Baseball Association players – there’s more than 1,000 of them – can routinely be found on any number of local diamonds, honing their skills and enjoying themselves.

On the softball front, the White Rock Renegades are as competitive as ever, and offer fans an opportunity to watch future college and even future national team players in action; each year, a slew of ‘Gades earn athletic scholarships to high-profile teams both in Canada and the U.S., and a handful have even represented Canada on the world stage.

The Renegades, who play out of Softball City in South Surrey, are one of the country’s top programs; last year Renegade teams won four provincial titles and two national crowns, and players and coaches both scooped a number of year-end individual awards.

The one loss on the White Rock/South Surrey sports scene will be felt on the gridiron, where the South Surrey Big Kahuna Rams packed up and moved east to Langley for the 2011 B.C. Junior Football season. The Rams had played out of South Surrey Athletic Park since 2006 – moving from Bear Creek Park in North Surrey – and had played in Surrey since the 1940s, in one league or another.

The football void is filled, however, by both the White Rock-South Surrey Titans minor football program – which plays Sundays throughout the late summer and fall – and the Earl Marriott Mariners, the only high school program on the Peninsula, which plays in the fall.

And if football isn’t your thing, perhaps you’re waiting for the local hockey season to pick back up in the fall.

The Surrey Eagles will look to build on a very successful first year under its new ownership group and new coaching staff when the B.C. Hockey League season kicks off in September.

Last season, the Eagles – coached by rookie bench boss Matt Erhart – finished in second place in the Coastal Conference with a record of 35-22-1-2, by far the team’s best showing since its 2005 BCHL championship season.

And though the team inevitably loses a few players each season, as the 20-year-olds graduate from the league, the Birds will likely be a contender again in 2011/12. For more on the team and the league, visit www.surreyeagles.ca

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