Gearing up for a tour

Organizers hope to draw bigger crowd with new criterium

The 11th annual Tour de Delta will roll through all three Delta communities July 8

Some 200 cyclists are gearing up for the 2011 Tour de Delta, which this year is introducing a new race in North Delta in hopes of attracting more bike-enthused spectators.

The three-day, three-race annual cycling competition runs July 8, 9, and 10 and, for the first time, the former MK Prologue in North Delta has been changed to the MK Delta Criterium. The Friday evening race features a 1.2-kilometre loop around the heart of North Delta, giving onlookers the chance to see the athletes more frequently as they pass by 40 to 50 times. The route includes a fast downhill section going into an open lefthand turn where riders can hit speeds in excess of 70 kilometres per hour.

“We wanted to continue to enhance the entertainment of the event for the community,” said race director Mark Ernsting. “The riders didn’t mind either way.”

Friday’s event will also feature family-oriented activities and entertainment such as Dhol Nation drummers, arts and crafts, and a mountain bike stunt show.

Day 2 of the races takes place Saturday evening in Ladner with the Brenco Criterium. Thousands of people are expected to watch riders handle the tight corners of Ladner Village.

“Historically, our biggest night is on the Ladner course with approximately 5,000 spectators that come out,” Ernsting said. “We hope that, in short order, we can achieve that as well on the North Delta course.”

The three-day event culminates Sunday with a sprint to the Tsawwassen finish line after the endurance-testing White Spot Road Race.

Ernsting expects 200 male and female riders to compete this year for more than $25,000 in prize purses. It might just be the most experienced group of riders to date.

“The field is going to be really strong as far as the depth of pros that are going to be in attendance,” Ernsting said.

He said cycling enthusiasts planning to cheer on the two-wheeled competitors can expect to feel a real “buzz” on the streets. And organizers continue to build an entertaining show around each day’s race as the “great tradition” of the Tour de Delta enters its 11th year.

The Delta event kicks off BC Superweek July 8 to 17, which also includes the inaugural UBC Grand Prix, the return of the Giro di Burnaby and the 32nd annual Tour de White Rock.

Surrey North Delta Leader

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