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 – after posting the fastest time up in the opening heat – 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.

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