Back-to-back wins by Ken Hanson and Optum Pro Cycling at BC Superweek may be more impressive for what happened off the course than on it.
Hanson followed up Wednesday’s bunch sprint victory at the Gastown Grand Prix with another late burst to win the Giro di Burnaby Thursday night.
It was a notable repeat, not just because of a deep field of top pros the California native bested both nights, but more so how hard he celebrated the $15,000 first win with the rest of the Optum presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies team.
The evening included a bachelor party for Vancouver-based teammate Sebastian Salas, and rolling into bed at 5 a.m. Less than 16 hours later, Hanson rolled across the line holding two fingers up after another perfect lead out from Alex Candelario to beat Australian pros Tommy Nankervis of Competitive Cyclist, and 2006 winner Hilton Clarke of UnitedHealthcare in a bunch sprint.
“I think my teammates suffered a lot more than I did today, they were doing a lot of work,” Hanson said after finishing 45 laps of the 1.3-kilometer circuit along Hastings Street in one hour, 19 minutes and 48.08 seconds. “I did very minimal work to cover any breakaways and was able to stay fresh for the sprint.”
For a while it looked like the 58.5-kilometer race wouldn’t come down to a group sprint. A solo break by former Pro Tour rider Dominik Roels of Germany 17 laps in became 11 riders strong by the midway point, and included representatives from Optum, as well as big names like Canadian strongman Svein Tuft.
Without much cohesion up front, though, the break was whittled down to two with 16 laps left, and then it was just Joseph Cooper of New Zealand’s Pure Black Racing, who collected five lap preems before being reeled in with 10 to go.
“The group that got away was large but I don’t think they were organized. Hanson said.
That set up a second-straight bunch sprint, and once again Alex Candelario provided a perfect lead out for Hanson, who surged more than a bike length ahead of Nankervis, who moved up a spot on the podium from Gastown, and Clarke.
“Winning any race is amazing, the crowd tonight was great and winning two days in a row is extra special,” Hanson said. “We’re really happy. We came here and knew we had a chance to win and everyone is stepping up and doing their job and I’m happy I can give it back to them and finish it off an do my job.”
In some ways it was harder – in others, easier – to do it on consecutive nights.
“Winning took a lot of pressure off of us,” Hanson said “We got that off our backs, we got one in the bag, so we said have fun. Last night we had a lot of pressure on ourselves and we really wanted it. Today was a little more relaxed.”
Not so for Clarke, who was knocked out three laps into Gastown after breaking his bike in a crash, and had to scramble for repairs Thursday morning.
“Third lap I was about 20 wheels back and a rider just fell straight in front of me and I went down,” said Clarke, a top sprinter who won both Gastown and the Giro di Burnaby in 2006. “I thought it was pretty trivial but today I felt the effects of it.”
The broken bike forced him out of Gastown. Getting over it almost kept Clarke, who took off his shoes and walked to the hotel Wednesday, out of Burnaby.
Given all that, finishing third wasn’t bad for a guy used to being on top.
“To tell you the truth I just had to say ‘it’s just one of those days’,” Clarke said. “I felt the effects mentally a bit more at the start of the race to put it past me.”
Like the men, there was also a familiar feeling to the 30-lap women’s race – at least in terms of who finished on top, if not the way it played out.
After a bunch sprint in Gastown, the Giro di Burnaby came down to two riders, with veteran American pro Laura Van Gilder beating impressive Australian rookie Loren Rowney by more than a second in a final-stretch sprint to the finish line – a reversal of their finishing order in the Gastown Grand Prix the night before.
“To come back here in Burnaby and get a win after duking it out with Loren last night in Gastown, I knew she was a strong rider and I knew if we got way we could really put the power to the pedals,” said Van Gilder, who continues to collect trophies at age 47, after more than 20 years cycling.
Despite that resume – she could only say with certainty the win was in the “380-something” range – Van Gilder had never been to BC Superweek.
The Pennsylvania native, who changed her travel plans at the last minute and flew in Tuesday, doesn’t plan to wait that long to come back again.
“The event has been amazing,” said Van Gilder, fourth in Tuesday’s UBC Grand Prix on a borrowed bike after hers got stuck in transit until Wednesday. “I’m very pleased with results and already looking forward to coming back next year.”
Van Gilder, riding for Mellow Mushroom along with teammate Kristen LaSasso, finished the 39-kilometer race in one hour and 25.73 seconds.
Rowney, a 23-year-old in the midst of an impressive first pro season with the same Specialized-Lululemon team as Canadian Olympic legend Clara Hughes, echoed those sentiments after finishing on the podium in all three races she took part in at BC Superweek, starting with second place at the UBC Grand Prix.
Thursday’s third place finisher wasn’t as eager to come back, however.
Jean Ann Berkenpas, born in Valemount, B.C, but living for the last eight years in Maple Ridge, was only passing through the road cycling crowd between stints on the mountain bike that include time with Canada’s National Team.
On a two-week “mental break” from mountain biking on the advice of her coach, Berkenpas actually bridged up to the early break by Van Gilder and Rowney, and managed to stay with them until getting dropped with eight laps left.
That’s when things really got tough.
After failing on a couple of hard attempts to join the lead duo, Berkenpas was caught in no-man’s land, with no help, and had to worry about getting caught by a chase that was picking up speed. She hung on to finish alone – 84 seconds behind the winners, but less than 14 ahead of a hard-chasing peleton.
“My coach gave me two weeks off mountain bike for a mental break so I signed up for BC Superweek and I’m guest riding with my local bike shop,” Berkenpas said of the Local Ride / Dr. Vie Superfoods team she was representing.
“It’s something different, I feel like there is something to learn in every discipline and there’s always things that cross over. It’s a change and I am training.”
Despite competing at the Canada Cup level, and working towards the World Cup on the mountain bike, Berkenpass knew she was a level behind on the break.
“They were in a class of their own,” she said “I was happy to stay with them.”
Once dropped, however, Berkenpas’s focus shifted quickly
“Oh my gosh. I was worried about getting caught,” she said. “I’m used to riding at threshold but not usually that over the red zone effort. It was survival and I was able to pull it together the last two laps and keep third.”
Despite the impressive performance, Berkenpas plans to stay on the mountain bike.
She may get to both as BC Superweek continues with the 33rd annual Tour de White Rock, a three-stage race that starts Friday night with the leg-melting Hillclimb and continues through Sunday morning’s historic Road Race.
Top 10 Women Results
1. Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom)
2. Loren Rowney (Specialized Lululemon)
3. Jean Ann Berkenpas (Local Ride/Dr. Vie Superfoods)
4. Joanie Caron (Colavita-espnW Pro Cycling)
5. Stephanie Roorda (Local Ride/Dr. Vie Superfoods)
6. Nicky Wangsgard (Primal/MapMyRide p/b BH Bicycles)
7. Kate Finegan (independent)
8. Rhae-Christie Shaw (Exergy TWENTY12)
9. Shoshauna Laxson (Trek Red Truck Racing p/b Mosaic Homes)
10. Kristen LaSasso (Mellow Mushroom)
Top 10 Men Results
1. Ken Hanson (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)
2. Tommy Nankervis (Competitive Cyclist)
3. Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team)
4. Ryan Anderson (Spider Tech)
5. Dominik Roels (Team HED p/b Staps)
6. Dana Williams (Team Mike’s Bikes)
7. Roman van Uden (PureBlack Racing)
8. Cody Canning (Trek Red Truck Racing p/b Mosaic Homes)
9. Alex Candelario (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)
10. Adam De Vos (Trek Red Truck Racing p/b Mosaic Homes)