What a difference a year makes.
At last year’s Tour de White Rock road race, it was the women’s winner – Shelley Olds – who sailed to a commanding victory, cruising to the finish line without another rider in sight, while the men’s race was much closer.
This year, the roles were reversed – Canadian national time-trial champion Ryan Roth crossed the finish line on Marine Drive all alone, one minute and 15 seconds before second-place rider Kaler Marshall, while the 80-km women’s race came down to a bunch sprint, with Vancouver’s Stephanie Roorda – also a Canadian national team member – outpacing second-place Alison Jackson and third-place rider Sara Bergen for top spot.
The 134-km men’s race was relatively uneventful in the early stages – save for a crash on the first lap that knocked reigning Canadian road-race champion Bruno Langlois from the race with a suspected broken collarbone – with a lead group of three riders, Craig Richey and Garneau-Quebecor teammates Alexis Cartier and Michael Rice, breaking away early. No one in the chase group seemed interested in bridging the divide either, until the race moved from the long 11-km laps to the final six shorter-course laps.
At that point, Roth – who also won the Tour de Delta road race last week – made a move, and with three short laps to go, it was apparent that no one was going to catch him.
”The start was probably the tamest White Rock Road Race I’ve ever seen, we were very controlled and the break was only three guys, so it wasn’t too stressful,” said Roth, who clocked a time of 3:33:57 and rode alongside two teammates.
With five laps to go, the 33-year-old broke away and never looked back.
”I wanted to just ride steady and at that point it was pretty hard to accelerate much… Kaler kept doing a little bit less and a little bit less and I knew he was hurting. I figured at that point it was just best to go on my own,” Roth said.
With his second-place road finish, Marshall – who was sixth in Saturday’s criterium – won the men’s overall omnium title.
Virginia native Timothy Rugg was third in the men’s race Sunday to round out the men’s podium.
Spots on the women’s podium Sunday were up for grabs right until the very end.
With no rider willing to break away in the waning laps, the lead group of about a dozen cyclists stayed together until the stretch run up Marine Drive, at which point Roorda – a noted sprinter – broke early and held on for the win over Jackson and Bergen.
”I was hoping for a bunch spring – that’s what I wanted,” said Roorda, who clocked a time of 2:32:23.
”I think if you get the first jump, then you have the advantage and that’s kind of what I was looking for.
”I know the other girls are pretty strong sprinters as well, and I thought if I just got the initial jump on them, I could maybe hold them off (at) the end.”
The three women were the class of BC Superweek, combining for 13 podium finishes.
Saturday’s criterium had a pair of exciting finishes, too, especially in the men’s race.
In the latter event – a 60-km loop through uptown White Rock – 19-year-old Australian rider Liam Magennis lapped the field just three laps into the race and appeared set to cruise to victory.
He was eventually reeled in, however, by a chase group of seven that also lapped the rest of the field.
With so many riders lapping the field – thus locking up the top eight finishing positions – race organizers decided the remaining riders would race four fewer laps, with the winning rider from that group placing ninth overall.
The course was then opened up for the top eight cyclists to race for first over the final four laps, with Magennis crossing the finish line first.
Calgary’s Kris Dahl was second, bringing to three his podium finishes at Superweek events this year.
Bergen, 27, won the women’s 30-lap, 30-km criterium, completing the course in 37:31.5, just ahead of Jackson and Kendelle Hodges, who were second and third, respectively.
”I felt really strong coming into today,” Bergen said.
”Once I got off the front, I thought, ‘Alright, it’s a bit early, but you committed to this, so let’s make it happen.’”