Tour de White Rock, softball championships set for weekend

Semiahmoo Peninsula sports fans should get ready for the busiest sports weekend of the summer.

Semiahmoo Peninsula sports fans won’t have much time to catch their breath over the next few days, with the biggest sports weekend of the summer on the horizon.

This Saturday and Sunday, some of the world’s top pro cyclists will clip into their pedals at the annual Tour de White Rock, the last stop on the BC Superweek event schedule.

And beginning Friday and running until July 24, the long-anticipated 2016 Women’s World Softball Championships will be staged at South Surrey’s Softball City, with more than 30 international teams – including Canada – set to vie for a world title.

First on the Tour de White Rock menu is the popular criterium on Saturday afternoon, which will see riders pedal multiple laps around a one-kilometre course in uptown White Rock – a route that includes Fiver Corners, Johnston Road and White Rock Elementary.

A Kids Bike Race opens the festivities Saturday at 3:30 p.m.; followed by an under-15 criterium race at 4 p.m.; the men’s category 3/4 riders at 4:30 p.m., and then women’s and men’s pro division riders hit the pavement at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m., respectively.

On Sunday, the Peace Arch News Road Race begins along Marine Drive at 9 a.m., with the men completing a 134-km race – 11 laps on a 10-km course, followed by a handful of short-course laps – and the women racing for 80 km.

Last year, the grueling men’s race was won by Nova Scotian Garret McLeod, while Shelley Olds capped an impressive 2015 BC Superweek performance by winning the women’s road race. Olds finished last year’s weeklong series with eight podium finishes and three victories.

Superweek began last weekend with the Tour de Delta – a three-race series – and continues with today’s Gastown Grand Prix (Wednesday), the Giro di Burnaby (Thursday) and the PoCo Grand Prix (Friday).

As is the case nearly every year, the BC Superweek cyclist roster is an impressive one. Longtime fans of the series will recognize more than a handful of names, including Fraser Valley resident Will Routley – who has more than his share of White Rock podium finishes through the years – and top U.S. professional rider Chris Horner, a 2012 Olympian who won the Tour de White Rock Road Race in 2008.

Joelle Numainville, who won women’s division of the Delta road race last weekend – her third straight win in Delta – has a successful history in White Rock, having won both the criterium and the road race here in 2010. However, despite her success on White Rock streets, the Delta race is her lone Superweek competition this year.

The men’s winners of two of Delta’s races – Scott Law and Ryan Roth – are both registered to compete in all eight Superweek races, including in White Rock, and should be podium contenders in both the criterium and road race.

The key to a criterium win, Law said, is to “just keep our wheels up at the front and (keep) ourselves out of trouble.”

Just a few blocks north of Sunday’s road-race finish line, the top women’s softball players will be on the field, with play beginning Friday morning and not stopping for more than a week.

Teams began arriving on the Peninsula this week – some of them from their own countries, and others like the United States, Canada and Japan, straight from Oklahoma, where they were competing at the World Cup of Softball.

Japan comes to South Surrey as the World Cup champs, having defeated the United States 2-1 in the championship game last weekend. Canada, meanwhile, finished fifth after beating Puerto Rico 5-0 in the fifth-place contest.

The Canadian squad was led by the pitching duo of South Surrey’s Sara Groenewegen and Edmonton’s Karissa Hovinga. Groenewegen – a former White Rock Renegade and a key member of Canada’s pitching staff – struck out six batters in four-and-two-thirds innings of work.

The first game of world championships is 8:30 a.m. Friday with Peru taking on Italy, with opening ceremonies set for that evening. Canada’s national team will hit the field following the opening, and will take on Ireland at 8:15 p.m.

Other games of note during the tournament’s opening few days include the United States taking on Israel at 3:30 p.m. Friday, and Japan squaring off against Venezuela at 5 p.m. Saturday.

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