As the Tour de White Rock enters its 40th year – the popular cycling event is set for Saturday and Sunday – a few changes are in store, both behind the scenes and at the start line.
While the famous road-race route remains unchanged – male riders will complete 134 km between long and short laps, while the women will pedal eight long laps totaling 80 km – the start/finish line along Marine Drive has moved back to its traditional location near the head of the still-under-repair White Rock Pier, providing riders a picturesque backdrop as they pedal through the challenging, hillside course. The start line was moved slightly east last year due to construction at White Rock’s Memorial Park.
“The road race can be super challenging,” said former competitor and current race announcer Damien O’Hagan in a news release issued this week.
“Over the years it seems to play into the hands of the seasoned riders who control the front end of the race with a minimal output of energy, and then once the race hits the final laps, the riders who have conserved themselves and still have some power left in their legs are the ones going for the win.”
There’s an important change behind the scenes, too, as longtime volunteer Barry Dalziel recently announced this year would be his last on the organizing team. Dalziel, a longtime Semiahmoo Peninsula resident and cyclist, spent nearly a decade as chair of the Tour de White Rock’s board of directors, and was also the event’s head marshal for close to 10 years.
Dalziel said it was time to move on to new challenges and give others an opportunity to become more involved in the event.
“I’ve watched the race grow from a regional focus with most riders being local to the region to an international race featuring Olympians, national champions, Tour de France, Vuelta, and Giro European road racers,” said Dalziel.
Those changes aside, much remains the same for the two-day athletic showdown.
The event still kicks off Saturday afternoon in uptown White Rock with a series of criterium races, in which riders will zip around a short, one-km course. The under-15 race will be the first official race to hit the streets, at 4 p.m., following by the men’s category 3/4 race at 4:30 p.m. and the women’s race at 5:30 p.m. The men’s race is the final one on the schedule, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
On Sunday, the road race begins at 10 a.m.
Last year, the Alison Jackson won the women’s road race, which was her first-ever victory in the grueling race, though she had finished on the podium in four of the previous five years. American Brendan Rhim won the men’s road race, finishing more than a minute ahead of second-place finisher Christopher Hatz of Germany. In third place was longtime Tour de White Rock competitor Florenz Knauer, who had multiple White Rock podium finishes on his resume. He has finished either first or second in overall omnium standings for the last seven years.
Both Knauer and Jackson are back on the BC Superweek circuit this year. Superweek – which also includes events in Delta, New Westminster, Gastown, Burnaby and Port Coquitlam – began last weekend with the Tour de Delta, which is a three-race series that includes two criteriums and a road race.
As in previous years, there are plenty of other community events on race weekend, too. Preceding Saturday’s criterium races, there is a kids bike parade and race beginning at 3 p.m., as well as a Family Fun Zone that is open uptown from 2:30-6:30 p.m. From 2-7 p.m., a community marketplace – featuring live entertainment, food trucks and more – will also be held at White Rock Elementary.
At the conclusion of the races, the TD Concerts for the Pier series will be in full swing at Five Corners, with Kalimba performing at 8 p.m.