Svein Tuft made it look easy, but insisted it wasn’t.
Tuft put on a clinic at the Tour de White Rock Saturday night, lapping the field en route to winning the Maximum Collision Criterium. A Langley native who now races at the world’s highest level on Garmin-Transitions’ Pro Tour team, Tuft finished 60 laps around the 1-kilometer course in one hour, eight minutes and 24 seconds.
“It’s really difficult. There are times on the (uphill) backstretch where you are wondering how many times can I do this,” said Tuft. “That back stretch is hard. Every time up you have to stay concentrated, stay focused and keep on top of that gear, otherwise you crack.”
Tuft last won the White Rock criterium in 2006. Since then he’s set a Canadian record with seventh place at the 2008 Olympic Time Trial and win a silver medal at the 2009 World Championships. But it was his performance at the 21-stage, 3,485-kilometer Giro d’Italia in May that made Saturday’s race feel a lot easier than it really was.
“Those days suffering set you up for this and you think that’s not so bad,” Tuft said of the Giro, which included more than 4,200 meters (14,000 feet) of climbs on the second-to-last stage. “I only have to race an hour here and there are days at the Giro where you feel like that in the first hour of a six hour day. This effort is very concentrated. I’ll never say it’s easy, but there are days in the Giro where you feel like that for six hours, so mentally it prepares you to handle this.”
Jamie Sparling of Total Restorations Cycling and Christian Meier, Tuft’s Garmin-Transitions teammate, also passed the peleton to finish second and third respectively — 22 and 24 seconds off the winning pace.
“Svein is off the front so I wasn’t going to come up with a big group, but Jamie and I got up so if I can get to Svein we are 2-on-1 and our chances are pretty good,” Meier said. “Jamie was rolling strong.”
Tuft was part of an early three-man breakaway that grew to five riders 22 laps into the race through the streets of White Rock. But Tuft took off to win a crowd prime bonus on the next lap and never looked back, building a 20-second lead on the peleton in just five laps. Meier and Sparling took off shortly after that, but never caught Tuft, who lapped the peleton with 13 laps left and added a $920 crowd prime before cruising to victory. For Tuft it’s all part of preparation for more racing in Europe late this summer and the World Championships in Italy.
“I don’t think you get much better training for time trial then a circuit like this,” he said. “So I just came out here to give it everything.”
Joelle Numainville took a similar approach to the women’s race with similar results, though her domination took a different form.
Numainville, a Montreal native who won the Canadian Road Race title last month in Edmonton, won five of six prime laps. But after burning out while setting the pace in her first time up in the Hillclimb on Friday night and settling for third in the second race up, the question was whether Numainville would have enough left to win the Criterium.
The answer was yes, as the Webcor Builders professional won another sprint to the finish less than a second ahead of both Andrea Bunnin, a rider on the local dEVo development team, and Leah Kirchmann of Vancouver’s Trek Red Truck racing, who won the Canadian Criterium championship in a sprint at the Tour de Delta last weekend. 
“Yesterday I was disappointed; I had the fastest time up the hill first time and second time just cracked,” Numainville said after finishing the 30-kilometer race in just 40 minutes and 28.7 seconds. “So I really waned to win this criterium. It’s my thing, the sprinting.”
Like Tuft, Numainville said it wasn’t as easy as it looked.
“I was tired at the end,” said Numainville, who was at a National team track training camp in Burnaby this week, is on Canada’s short list for the 2010 World Championships, and also hopes to race at the 2012 Olympics in London. “At the beginning I had a really big gap and as the race went on, the gap got smaller and smaller. With two laps to go I was red zone and I was thinking `l can do it. One lap and it’s over.’ I had some juice left, but I wanted those primes.”
Numainville will wear the leader’s jersey when the 31st Tour de White Rock wraps up with the Peace Arch News Road Race on Sunday morning. But instead of Tuft, it will be Nic Hamilton of the local Trek Red Truck team that wears the men’s leader jersey on severe climbs at both ends of the scenic start-finish line on White Rock beach.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted,” said Hamilton. “My first race as a cat 2 was this race and that’s always something special for a rider so to be able to be back three years later and don the leaders jersey is quite a good feeling. To me it kind of confirms what I always believed in myself. In this field it creates more confidence in myself.”

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