It’s not often the fourth-place finisher of a race upstages the victor, but that was the case Sunday at the Tour de White Rock’s Peace Arch News Road Race Sunday morning.
Cyclist Svein Tuft’s gutsy comeback from a mechanical issue nearly eclipsed teammate Christian Meier’s victory.
Tuft, who also captured Saturday’s criterium in a rout – he nearly lapped the entire field – ran into trouble on the second lap Sunday when a mechanical issue with his bike caused him to stop for repairs.
The fix left him nearly four minutes back of the leaders, and the 35-year-old Tuft, a Langley native, admits he considered not finishing the race.
“There was a moment I knew I was like four minutes down, where I thought maybe I’ll pack it in for the day, just ride home,” Tuft said after the race, explaining a lock ring that holds the back wheel on came loose.
When the Tour’s bike mechanics took the ring off, “every gear blew out all over the road,” making for a long repair.
“First time it’s ever happened,” he noted.
Tuft, who won the road race in 2010, slowly but surely reeled in the rest of the field, eventually finishing in fourth place – 14 seconds behind third-place finisher Ken Hanson.
Once the 130-km men’s race moved to the shorter 3.8-km course for the final six laps – after 11 laps of a 10.1-km circuit – Tuft was gaining on the leaders by nearly 30 seconds per lap.
“A few more laps and I could have maybe caught them,” he said.
Meier, meanwhile, rode in a three-cyclist lead group once the race moved to the short course, and on the final lap, outpaced Hanson and Joseph Cooper and rode down Marine Drive, toward the finish line, alone.
Meier finished the race in three hours, 34 minutes and 26.16 seconds. He rode the final stretch of Marine Drive without a fellow rider in sight.
“I attacked straight from the bottom of the hill,” Meier said. “As soon as I attacked Hanson, (he) was straight out. Cooper came with me until half way up, and finally he cracked and I turned on the screws and gave it everything I had.”
Tuft was happy to see Meier, his longtime teammate – first with now-defunct Symmetrics and now with Orice-GreenEDGE – finally finish first in White Rock after twice previously finishing lower on the podium.
“It’s great because he’s been knocking at the door so much and it’s important to come and win in your hometown,” Tuft said.
In the 80-km women’s race, Kristine Brynjolfson sprinted to the finish line on the Marine Drive home stretch to capture the road race title ahead of Megan Rathwell.
The pair of cyclists broke free from the pack early in the race and spent most of the race alone, eventually building a gap that reached more than three minutes.
Brynjolfson, 42, admitted after the race that sprinting is not her forté, but was thrilled with the win.
“I’m not a sprinter so I haven’t won many bunch races so this is a big win for me,” she said. “Typically (Rathwell) has a little better sprint but I knew she was hurting.”
“It means a lot, my parents came out and they were excited to see me win.”
The women’s omnium title – awarded to the rider who claims the most points in the Friday hill climb, Saturday’s criterium and Sunday’s road race – was won by Carrie Cartmill, who won the hill climb and finished fourth Sunday.
She narrowly edged Rhae Shaw, Canada’s reigining criterium champion, for the title. Shaw won the women’s criterium Saturday but was beset by mechanical troubles Sunday – she had two flat tires and eventually finished sixth.
The men’s omnium crown was won by Germany’s Florenz Knauer, who won the hill climb and was seventh in Sunday’s road race.