Sports

Tour de Delta enters lucky 13th year

White Spot Road Race winner Steve Fisher crosses the line in the men
White Spot Road Race winner Steve Fisher crosses the line in the men's competition in Tsawwassen in 2012.
— image credit: Jim Kinnear photo

The annual Tour de Delta is a sure sign that summer is in full swing with the sights of cyclists filling Delta’s streets riding by in a colourful blur.

This is Delta’s 13th year of the event and given that it’s also the year 2013 event organizers said they wanted to do something special by making the men’s road race 13 laps.

“If you do see somebody with an upside-down 13 on their jersey please don’t think that that’s being disrespectful to the organization or any other group, but that is trying to turn it around so that it becomes lucky,” said race organizer Mark Ernsting, smiling.

A former elite cyclist, Ernsting is excited about the fact that this year’s men’s race in Tsawwassen is a UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) sanctioned event, which will be recognized by the international body that governs professional bicycle racing.

“That is quite important because it is the only one in B.C., and also for the future as a consecutive event,” said Ernsting, adding he’d like to see the Tour de Delta become a permanent home for the international cycling tour.

“Tour de Delta came about to provide the opportunity for provincial-level athletes to experience world-class competition,” said Ernsting, who was himself a competitive cyclist from 1993 to 2004 and a six-time Canadian national champion.

Making this a UCI event is the “next step” in that process, since it allows cyclists and their teams to earn points toward international rankings. This can be especially important for determining how many riders will be on the starting line for each country at the Olympics. Canada only had one rider on the starting line in London because there weren’t enough Canadians competing in UCI events.

“This is a very good opportunity for us to gain these points as Canadian athletes because we’ll have a higher percentage of Canadian athletes being in this international event,” he said.

The event has attracted significant international interest for its first year. Two German teams will compete, including their national team which was ranked ninth in the world in 2012. Riders from dozens of other countries are also registered.

Spectators can look forward to seeing many of Canada’s top cyclists, including Zach Bell, a two-time Olympian who recently finished first at the Men’s Elite Canadian Road Championships in St-Georges, Que. on June 22. Curtis Dearden, Canada’s national time trial champion, Christian Meier, coming off the Giro d’Italia event last year, and Will Routley from Whistler, a former Canadian champion currently riding with a Belgian team, will also race.

For the women, Joelle Numainville, the current national time trial champion, will be in the White Spot Delta Road Race on July 7, a seven-lap, 81.41 kilometre circuit.

Ernsting is hoping the UCI event will be so successful that it will be offered to the women as well for 2014.

“It would be the only UCI women’s event in North America,” he said, adding that would bring tremendous attention and coverage to Delta.

Those who are used to the Tour de Delta circuit are in for a treat. It’s been redesigned to engage the community more by making it visible to families living in residential areas. The route will no longer run along 56th Street, instead staying west of 54th Street, and spanning the breathtaking vistas along English Bluff Road.

Tour de Delta kicks off on Friday (July 5) in North Delta with the MK Delta Lands Criterium, featuring a women’s and men’s pro race, a non-competitive Kids Criterium, and a community festival at nearby Richardson Elementary.

Then on Saturday (July 6) the Brenco Criterium in Ladner features a Youth Race for 12- to 15-year-olds, a men’s amateur race (category 3/4), and a  women’s (professional 1/2/3) and men’s (professional 1/2) race.

The event concludes Sunday (July 7) in Tsawwassen with the White Spot UCI Delta Road Race.

Don't forget about the beer garden

If Sunday's UCI Delta Road Race gets unbearably hot, fear not. The Tsawwassen Rotary Club will be hosting a beer garden at Dennison Park from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with Red Racer craft beers and Betty's Vodka Iced Tea provided by Central City Brewing.

There will be seating inside the beer garden for 250 people and family seating outside with good views of the action.

"It's basically the best place in the house to watch the race," said Shane Todhunter, a Rotary member who came up with the beer garden idea. "It's right on the start/finish line right up against the road right when the racers are going to be going by.

Free popcorn will be available in the beer garden, while White Spot will have a food truck nearby for those feeling a little peckish.

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