Alison Jackson celebrates seconds after crossing the finish line in first place at Sunday’s Tour de White Rock Road Race. (Scott Robarts/BC Superweek photo)

Rhim, Jackson win Tour de White Rock road race

Riders deal with warm temperatures during gruelling ride Sunday

On one of the warmest days of the year, about the only thing hotter than the sun that beat down on the Tour de White Rock cyclists last weekend was American rider Brendan Rhim, who beat the heat and the competition, cruising to victory in the 134-km men’s road race Sunday.

Rhim, 22, broke away from the pack with about 50 km left in the race, eventually crossing the finish line alone in a time of three hours, 28 minutes and 35 seconds. The young cyclist finished more than a minute ahead of the second-place rider, German Christopher Hatz, who clocked a time of 3:26:59. Thirty-two seconds behind Hatz was his Hermann Radteam Cycling teammate, longtime BC Superweek competitor – and multiple Tour de White Rock podium finisher – Florenz Knauer.

“This is a pretty hard course, I’ve never done it before, so I was a little unsure I could stay away. Especially the short laps on the finishing circuit, I knew they were going to be hard with the short little hill,” explained Rhim, a native of Vermont who rides with Holowesko/Citadel Cycling.

“I measured my effort, everybody in the group looked pretty tired when I went up the road, so I was just calculating and it was good.”

Rhim gave credit to his teammates for helping him secure a podium spot, and said it was the team’s plan from the get-go to have him race out in front of the pack, with his fellow Holowesko riders doing yeoman’s work in the peloton to keep competitors at bay.

“We knew this day would be our best shot at getting a win, so (teammate) Joe Lewis was in the group, I think we had Morgan Schmitt and some of the other guys making the race hard,” Rhim explained.

“Once it was down to about 20 guys, we knew it was just taking down one or two individuals and getting separation.”

Though Rhim and his teammates’ plan was executed to perfection, Hatz and Knauer effectively swapped roles during the race; after the event, Hatz said he originally figured he was be the one helping to get Knauer on the podium.

It was no cakewalk, however, for the first-time Tour de White Rock competitor.

“For the first three or four laps I thought, ‘Whoa, this is going to be a hot day today’ and I saw (Knauer) was doing quite well so I thought I was going to help him, but my legs kept getting better even though I counted all the laps. It was so hard and the hill on that big lap is so steep, it was a bit too steep for me, but I managed to get to the final six laps and I was dying,” Hatz said.

Hatz, who was also third in Saturday’s men’s criterium in uptown White Rock, was the Tour de White Rock’s overall omnium title winner, taking into account results of both days of racing.

Saturday’s men’s criterium was won by Ryan Roth, who edged Eric Young for first place. Young has been BC Superweek’s breakout star over the course, finishing with a slew of podium finishes from White Rock to Gastown.

While Rhim was a new face atop the podium in the men’s competition, the victorious rider in Sunday’s 80-km women’s road race was a familiar one – Alison Jackson. She also took top spot in Saturday’s criterium, edging Quebec’s Ariane Bonhomme.

With the road-race victory – in a time of 2:28:28 – the 29-year-old native of Vermillion, Alta. has now finished on White Rock’s road-race podium in four of the past five years. It’s the first time she’s won it, however.

Jackson edged second-place finisher Gillian Ellsay of Courtenay, B.C. for top spot after making a break for the finish line with about 400 metres to go. Third place went to another B.C. rider, Victoria’s Megan Rathwell, who won the White Rock road race in 2014.

“My fitness is usually really good, and so when we get to the end it’s really hard. I’m willing to suffer in the heat and the climbs,” Jackson said.

“A lot of times people think, ‘Oh, she’s a sprinter and that’s about it’ but you can’t drop me on these climbs. I love a really hard race and White Rock has always been that for me.”

Jackson’s double-gold performance in White Rock gave her the overall omnium title, which she has now won four times in her racing career.

Jackson’s win caps off a memorable week for her TIBCO/Silicon Valley Bank racing team, which finished with a rider atop the podium seven times over nine races at BC Superweek.

Though she races for an American team, and has a slew of top results on her resume, Jackson is appreciative of the role BC Superweek and the Tour de White Rock have played in her career, and said she does her best to push the event’s younger riders, who are in the position she was once in.

“I think it’s such a good series of races for locals to get a chance to race with the pros and I’m particularly really excited about someone like Elizabeth Gin, a junior rider hanging in there and making it today with the second group,” Jackson explained.

“That’s a great ride for a young girl. You can only have that experience when you have a great race series like this, so I think it’s really good for local racing and developing Canadian athletes.”

This year, prior to the men’s and women’s pro races, a youth race was held for the first time, which gave youngsters the chance to pedal the same course as their more experienced colleagues.

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