In the end, after cyclists jockeyed for position over nearly the full length of the 134-km Tour de White Rock men’s road race, the finish came down to a sprint.
And in the end, it was Bellingham’s Steve Fisher whose final push up Marine Drive was the strongest, as he Travis Samuel for the top spot on the podium Sunday. B.C. rider Nigel Ellsay was third.
Fisher was riding for Hangar 15 Bicycles – one of the larger teams in the BC Superweek field – and the American used the numbers to his advantage, as his team members were able to take turns holding off the field, or zipping ahead to quicken the pace.
“We really had a lot of cards to play today,” Fisher said after being crowned champion. “We just wanted to make the race hard (for others) and hopefully come out on top… and it panned out for us.”
Though he outpaced his competitors to the finish line on the final short-course lap, Fisher did admit that the race’s hilly terrain was getting to him by the end of the day.
“I was definitely hurting on the climbs a little bit,” he said. “Nigel put in some pretty good digs and I think it put us on the back foot. I just knew I had to hang on until the last corner before the finish.”
Fisher crossed the finish line in three hours, 30 minutes and seven seconds, with barely enough time to pump his fist in celebration before Samuel crossed the line behind him.
For the longest time Sunday morning, it appeared Vancouver’s Dylan Davies might roll away with the victory. He pulled away from the group on the opening laps, and the former bike messenger rode nearly all 11 long-course laps on his own before finally being reeled in by the chase group that includes Fisher and other top riders.
“It took us a while to get up there, once we did, everyone kind of set about working to bring Dylan back and he was right in his prime, it took us a long time,” Fisher explained of the pursuit.
Fisher’s victory was enough to give him the Tour de White Rock’s overall Omnium title – and the $1,000 prize that goes with it. The Omnium crown takes into account results from both Sunday’s road race and Saturday evening’s criterium, which was won by Florenz Knauer.
While the men’s road race came down to a one-on-one charge up Marine Drive, the 80-km women’s road race was a one-person victory cruise down the stretch, Montreal native Kristi Lay pulling away from the lead pack on the final lap.
Lay outpaced two others – Margot Clyne and former Tour de White Rock road race champ Joelle Numainville – to secure first place Sunday.
The trio spent much of the latter stages of the race riding together well ahead of the pack – the gap was as much as two minutes at one point – while Clyne, a Boulder, Co. native and UBC student, also spent time alone in the lead, until Lay and Numainville, a 2012 Olympian, reeled her back in.
Lay crossed the finish line in 2:25:48.
“It feels pretty amazing. This course is really fun, and it never lets up so I for sure wanted to give it a shot,” she said moments after the victory.
“It was a really great race and awesome to finish this way at BC Superweek.”
Being from Colorado, a high-altitude state, Clyne was expected to perform well on White Rock’s often steep uphill course, and that expectation proved correct, as the 22-year-old used the hills to gain ground on the competition and eventually pull away.
“I like attacking on the climbs… it’s just attack, attack and attack to see what will stick,” she explained. “Today, it finally stuck and (I was) finally was able to have my race.”
Numainville won the overall Omnium title after finishing on the podium in both the road race and the criterium. The 29-year-old Superweek veteran had a top-10 finish at every event she started this year, including top-fives in the Tour de Delta’s Ladner criterium and the Gastown Grand Prix.
The women’s criterium Saturday was won by 20-year-old Australian Josie Talbot, who proved to be a top short-course competitor this week; her White Rock win came after fourth and fifth-place finishes at Delta and New West criteriums.