With temperatures hovering near 30 degrees, the 36th annual Peace Arch News Road Race proved to be as gruelling as ever for the more than 100 riders who took to the streets of White Rock for one of North America’s most historic and prestigious races.
With two laps to go, Vancouver’s Garrett McLeod, who’s originally from Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and his H&R Block Pro Cycling teammate Adam de Vos of Victoria each took turns attacking and it was McLeod coming away ahead of the rest of the field. Even then though, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to maintain the lead – but he did, and won the race after finishing third a year ago.
“I wasn’t super confident that I was going to stay away, but I knew if I came back, then Adam was gone, so it was perfect for the team,” he explained. “The team rode great today, and Adam is riding amazing, so I knew we just had to be aggressive and be the ones initiating the moves and getting away.”
Cycling veteran Francisco Mancebo, the man they call ‘Paco’, sprinted ahead of de Vos to place second in a photo finish. The 39-year-old Spaniard, who was third at the 2005 Tour de France and sixth in the 2004 Tour de France, was well aware that he didn’t have any teammates in the chase behind McLeod.
“It was eight riders – two from H&R Block and two from Silber. The H&R guys attacked one time, then another time, and finally Garrett went alone and I stayed behind,” said the three time USA Cycling National Racing Calendar champion. “With second place, I’m really happy.”
In the chase with two to go, de Vos was happy to let Mancebo do most of the work, but definitely felt the push from the other teams and riders.
“Paco was doing a lot of work and Silber had a few guys in there so they had the onus to do a lot of work, and Will Routley, he was the only guy for Optum in there, but certainly did his turns and cooked himself a bit. I know he doesn’t like racing for second, so it was a good ride by him as well,” he added.
The fact that the Peace Arch News Road Race combines 130 kilometres of long steep climbs, sharp turns and quick descents – and is the final of eight races in nine days as part of BC Superweek – definitely took a toll on the riders.
“It’s a bit tough because it comes right at the end of the week, everyone’s a bit cooked and we knew Silber had a lot of strong guys so we wanted to make sure we weren’t pushing the pace in the front group if we were too outnumbered. I think once we got that group established, we had good numbers for us and Silber had good numbers, so it rolled pretty well and then at the end, Garrett and I were both feeling really strong. We were taking turns attacking and eventually Garrett got away after I got brought back on one, and it was an easy ride for me to the finish,” said de Vos. “White Rock Road Race is definitely one of my favourite races on the calendar and consistently it’s the most challenging race I do all year, so I can’t wait for next year. We’re going to repeat next year, that’s the plan.”
After a second place finish at the MK Delta Lands Criterium eight days ago and at the Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix on Wednesday, McLeod doesn’t hesitate in calling BC Superweek a success for himself and the H&R Block Pro Cycling Team.
“It’s nice to finally get a win!” he smiled after completing the road race in three hours, 28 minutes, and 35 seconds.