Top pro Meier and White Rock firefighter raise money, awareness
Most of the cyclists at BC Superweek would love nothing more to wear Christian Meier’s Garmin-Transitions jersey, and why not?
It represents an ascent to the Pro Tour, the top level of the sport, the chance to ride at the top events all over Europe, and to race against and with the world’s best at the three Grand Tours, including teammate Ryder Hesjedal’s current headline making run at the Tour de France.
Yet Meier will not be wearing the famous orange-and-blue argyle kit of Garmin-Transitions when the 31st Tour de White Rock kicks off with the HIllclimb on Friday night — he’ll leave that honor for Pro Tour teammate Svein Tuft. Meier will instead wear a simple but stylish black and white jersey, with the words “F— Cancer” blaring boldly across his chest. Like the “last chance” tattoo inside his left forearm, the jersey is a tribute to the brother he lost to brain cancer last year.
It’s also a commitment to raise awareness about prevention, particularly among young people.
“There just doesn’t seem to be a huge push to cancer awareness and prevention, especially with the younger demographic, which is what F Cancer is trying to do,” said Meier. “Even just the name grabs the attention of younger people – and everyone else for that matter.”
Meier, 25, isn’t sure early detection would have helped his older brother – by two years – Michael, who woke up one day with a horrible headache and had surgery two days later to remove a brain tumor. Michael’s cancer returned suddenly last summer, and he passed away while Christian was riding the Vuelta a Espana, forcing the grief stricken younger brother to abandon his first Grand Tour with four stages left to come home.
“What could have helped him a lot is knowledge in general,” Meier said. “How the disease affects you, what you can expect and also what you should look for in treatment. My brother and family were not well enough educated on the cancer and therefore maybe were to quick to accept what they were being told by doctors, and looking back they maybe should have gone elsewhere as it seemed like his case was a bit beyond their capabilities. We should have sought out more specialized services and it frustrates me that it was maybe just a lack of knowledge may have cost him more time to live. There is a lot of money being raised for cancer research, which is super, but a lot of cancers can be cured with early detection so this is also something we should put resources into.”
Meier and Tuft, who live in Langley when they’re not racing in Europe, both took part in the recent Ride to Conquer Cancer from Vancouver to Seattle, and also in The Journey Home, another fundraising ride back from Seattle. The latter is still raising money through its website (http://journeyhomebc.blogspot.com/), including signed jerseys donated by many of Meier’s high-profile teammates from the ProTour peleton in Europe.
There are also items for sale, and ways to donate, at the letsfcancer.com website.
“All sorts of signed jerseys and there are still great jerseys that haven’t sold yet,” said Meier. “Money being raised from Journey Home is also going to F Cancer foundation. So both are a great way to support it.”
Meier isn’t the only rider raising money for a good cause this weekend.
Eric Kameka is a White Rock firefighter who used to race BC Superweek against the top pros as a Cat 1-2 member of the Escape Velocity team (now called Garneau Evolution). He still races with them at a club level, and will line up for the Cat 3-4 race at the Tour de White Rock Criterium on Saturday night while other White Rock firefighters collect money for crowd primes. A portion of will also go to their current charity effort – the biggest ever by the 21-member department – called Shore2Shore, at cross-country ride to raise money for Variety the Children’s Charity.
The fire fighters, who will also be on hand at Friday night’s Hillclimb in White Rock collecting donations will attempt the 6,800-kilometer relay from Halifax to White Rock in less than two weeks in September.
We do a number of charity events and wanted to take it to next level, a major scale,” said Kameka, noting some fire fighters had no experience and only got on a bike in the last year after planning Shore2Shore. “And cycling across Canada seems to be a pretty major scale.”
Besides the obvious cycling link – and the criterium is near the station – Kameka said teaming up with Tour de White Rock made sense.
“The Tour de White Rock being such a big community event, and us as fire fighters wanting to do as much as we can in the community, it was a no-brainer,” Kameka said. “Being one of the biggest cycling events in Canada and for it to be right in our backyard, it made perfect sense for us to join up and help them with the race and for us to promote the ride.”
For more on Shore3shore go online to http://wrfrcharity.blogspot.com/
The 31st Tour de White Rock starts with the Homelife Realty Hillclimb on Friday night, the Maximum Collision Criterium Saturday, and wraps up with the scenic and storied Peace Arch News Road Race on Sunday.
Svein Tuft didn’t feel great to start the Tour de White Rock Road Race on Sunday, but had enough left to finish BC Superweek with a bang.
For that Tift thanked Christian Meier, his teammate on a Garmin-Transitions ProTour squad that races at cycling’s highest level.
“The first few times up the climb I was hurting,” Tuft said. “I was lucky Christian was just jumping into every move. If I didn’t have him up there covering it would have been a bad day for me. It ended up being the perfect situation because I came around as the day went on.”
The plan going into the 134-kilometer race was actually for Tuft to get into any early breakaways, it went out the window after the first few climbs. Perhaps feeling the effects of lapping the field and finishing the 60-kilometer Criterium in just 86 minutes the night before, Tuft sat back in the peleton instead while Meier jumped into an early three-man breakaway with Will Routley and Ryan Anderson.
“I was tapped out from last night’s effort,” said Tuft.
Tuft bridged up to the break on the last of 11 laps around a larger 10.1-kilometer circuit. But they didn’t stay together long in the final six laps around a shorter 3.8-kilometer circuit. Anderson was dropped by a series of attacks by the Garmin-Transitions riders, and Tuft took off on Routley with a lap and a half left, finishing the hill-filled 134-kilometer ride alone in three hours, 35 minutes and eight seconds.
“It was probably one of the fastest Tour de White Rocks I’ve ever done,” said Tuft, who added his first omnium title in the 31-year-old event to his first-ever win in the historic road race along the beach.
“This is probably one of the hardest circuits you’ll do in North America for sure. It’s 130 km but it’s one of the hardest 130 km I know of.”
Tuft, who won a silver medal in the 2009 World Championships Time Trial for Canada and raced the last Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana with Garmin-Transitions, was quick to pass along lots of credit.
The first went to Meier for keeping things within striking distance, and then to Routley, who bravely withstood a series of attacks from the two Gamin-Transitions riders over the final few laps before cramping up as Tuft finally got away for good with a lap and a half left.
Routley, who won the Canadian Road Race championship last month in Edmonton and rides for U.S.-based Jelly Belly Pro Cycling, finished 53 seconds behind, while Meier was third another 50 seconds back.
“Will was absolutely amazing; for sure the strongest guy in the race today,” said Tuft, adding later that Routley was ready for the ProTour. “We hit him with probably 20 different attacks and he covered every single one. They guy was unreal. Unfortunately we have two guys against one. But he proved why he is the national road champion.”
Routley said cramping finally caught up to him over the final two laps, but knew it would be harder as soon as Tuft bridged to the break.
“Initially when it was the three of us away I thought that was a good move for me,” Routley said. “But sure enough on that last (big) lap Svein came across and it was a totally different ball game. You had two teammates, two ProTour riders, so that makes it more difficult, and they didn’t waste any time. As soon as he got there they started going back and forth, one-two, Svein attacks then Christian attacks.”
Routley actually mounted a few bold counterattacks of his own, and managed to lose Meier in the process. But that left a rested Svein, who was content to sit on his back wheel and let him do all the work.
“I towed him around for all I could but I started cramping,” he said.
While Routley didn’t make the podium in Saturday’s criterium after he got caught up in a late crash, it was a repeat performance for the Garmin-Transitions duo, who finished first and third both days.
The women’s race also finished with familiar faces on the podium, but the path they took to get there was decidedly different from the men.
Joelle Numainville, who won the Canadian Road Race championship in Edmonton late last month, won a bunch sprint in the 80-kilometer women’s race, edging out Leah Kirchmann of Vancouver’s Trek Red Truck Pro Cycling and Alberta’s Heather Kay of United Cycle.
Numainville, a Montreal native who also won Saturday’s criterium in a sprint, finished in two hours, 35 minutes and seven seconds, with the second and third place both within three-tenths of a second behind.
Numainville was also third in Friday night’s Hillclimb вЂ“ after posting the fastest time up in the opening heat вЂ“ and won the omnium, or overall.
All of which had her worried about running out of gas in the sprint.
“I was getting tired,” said Numainville. “I was chasing down a lot of things today and getting tired and I was worried.”
To the surprise of many, the women stayed together, with occasional breakaway attempts always reeled in quickly. Numainville, who was the lone representative of the San Francisco-based Webcor Builders team, was often a part of those chases, making sure none of the local squads with a numbers advantage could get too far ahead. As for getting away by herself at any point, Numainville knew she was being watched closely as the newly crowned national road race champion.
“For sure (there’s a target) and I felt it today, but that’s part of the deal,” she said. “I just race as hard as I can and see how they react.”
Kirchmann, who won the Canadian Criterium championship at the Tour de Delta last weekend, came closest to clipping her at the line, while Kay came from the back of the pack on the last climb to finish third.
For the 35-year-old United Cycle rider from Sherwood Park, Alberta, it was nice to finally make a podium in the historic road race after a handful of top-10 finishes in the past, and third-place in both the Criterium and Hillclimb at last year’s 30th Tour de White Rock.
“I’m thrilled to podium,” said Kay. “Joelle is an amazing sprinter. There was no chance I could get around her, but it was a great finish.”
It was also a great conclusion to the $40,000 BC Superweek.
BC Superweek is pleased to welcome back the popular Giro di Burnaby for 2011, pushing the total number of races to seven for next summer, and the total purse to $55,000, making it one of Canada’s biggest weeks of bike racing.
The Giro di Burnaby, a fast-paced evening criterium through Burnaby Heights, will take place in the middle of BC Superweek вЂ“ between the $25,000, three-race Tour de Delta and the $15,000, three-race Tour de White Rock.
The Giro di Burnaby, which ran from 2006 to 2008 before running into funding problems, has a minimum three-year commitment through 2013, with a purse of $15,000, thanks to renewed title sponsorship from local businesses Embassy Development, Appia Development and Palladio Jewellers
Andrew Pinfold, a long-time pro from North Vancouver who now rides for US-based United Healthcare Pro Cycling, was excited to hear the news вЂ“ and not just because he finally gets to defend his 2008 Giro di Burnaby title.
“This is awesome news,” said Pinfold. “Having a race midweek between Delta and White Rock anchors the series as it makes BC Superweek even more attractive for professional teams to send riders up for the entire series.”
Pinfold hopes the return of the popular Burnaby race will spur on others to add races вЂ“ and lead to another rebirth of the prestigious Tour de Gastown, a race that listed Lance Armstrong among its alumni before folding in 2008.
“This proves that bike racing is as popular as ever in the lower mainland and I hope encourages other municipalities to put on races,” he said. “With the addition of Burnaby there are still three nights available for races. I think everyone would love to see a return of Gastown, and perhaps a race on the North Shore or Kits.”
Born from the idea of city councilor Pietro Calendino, the Giro Di Burnaby вЂ“ named as a tribute to the area’s Italian community and to the world famous Giro d’Italia вЂ“ made its debut in 2006, attracting 7,000 spectators to the historic area of Hastings Street known as Burnaby Heights. The following year it joined the BC Superweek series, attracting more than 200 riders to the next two races, and producing a list of winners that includes some of North America’s best.
In addition to Pinfold, there was 2006 US Criterium champion Hilton Clarke, three-time US champion Kirk O’Bee, Canadian Olympian Gina Grain, and future US Olympian Kelly Benjamin have all won at the Giro di Burnaby.
“The Giro and BC Superweek races are not only embraced by their communities, the public and the businesses, they have become wonderful annual events that bring out big crowds and support for the racers,” said Giro di Burnaby organizer Rainy Kent.В ”As a spectator,В feeling the wind of theВ riders as they race by in excess of 60 kilometres per hour is an experience that leaves you respecting the hours of training the athletes invest in being the best they can be. The Giro is a celebration of exceptional athletic talent, community involvement and spirit and we are delighted to be back on the race calendar for 2011.”
The 2010 BC Superweek continues with the 31st Tour de White Rock this weekend, with the Homelife Hillclimb on Friday night, the Maximum Collision Criterium on Saturday, and the Peace Arch News Road Race on Sunday.