Cyclists brave rain, hail at Race the Ridge

Maple Ridge bike race had 150 elite cyclists

Zach Renwick (in green) and Emil Marcetta (in yellow) lead a pack of cyclists round a corner on the 10km road course in Thornhill Sunday afternoon during the Category 3/4 men’s road race stage of the 2011 Race the Ridge cycling race.

Zach Renwick (in green) and Emil Marcetta (in yellow) lead a pack of cyclists round a corner on the 10km road course in Thornhill Sunday afternoon during the Category 3/4 men’s road race stage of the 2011 Race the Ridge cycling race.

A record number of competitors took part in the ninth annual Race the Ridge three-stage cycling race around Maple Ridge last weekend, despite foul weather that conspired to delay and postpone parts of the event.

Hail, rain, thunder and lightening greeted the more than 150 elite cyclists who took part in the 22-km individual time trial through Golden Ears Provincial Park Saturday.

Despite the foul weather, the Category 3/4 men’s race was sold out, while the Category 3/4 women’s field was the strongest ever, said race organizer Barry Lyster.

The heavy rains continued throughout the day, however, causing a flood around  Maple Ridge’s Memorial Peace Park, a crucial part of the race’s downtown criterium stage. The 800-metre course, which snakes its way through the streets of downtown Maple Ridge, had to be re-routed as volunteers worked to unclog storm drains and clear the standing water on the course.

“In a lot of ways, it was pretty amazing we were even able to save the crit,” said Lyster. “We had to change the course when it flooded, then change it back when it drained. It was good to have all this unexpected help and the slight break in the weather so we could let the flood drain for the Cat 1/2 men’s race.”

Among those helping to clear the flood was Maple Ridge councillor Linda King, who, equipped with a pair of gumboots, waded knee-deep in water to unclog the drain.

Unfortunately, due to the flood delay, the Category 3/4 men’s race was cancelled.

“The riders made the call due to safety,” said Lyster. “They were standing in the rain waiting to start, and at a certain point, they just got too cold.”

The rain held off for Sunday’s Thornhill road race, which saw cyclists tear around a 10km course in rural East Maple Ridge. However, racers in the Category 3/4 women’s race were faced with a rather unique obstacle, as an errant pot-bellied pig made its way onto the course. Thankfully, neither the pig nor the riders were injured.

The Maple Ridge-based Local Ride/Dr. Vie Superfoods+ elite women’s team made its debut with the full roster and won every one of the three stages in the Category 1/2 women’s event.

Jasmin Glaesser of Coquitlam won the time trial and eventually earned the 2011 Race the Ridge title after placing second in the criterium and third in the 70km road race, which was won by Jenny Lehmann of Vancouver. The team also snagged second place overall, courtesy of Jessica Hannah of Kelowna.

Annie Ewart (Trek Red Truck Racing) of Victoria managed to prevent a complete Local Ride/Dr. Vie Superfoods+ sweep with a third-place finish after three events.

The Garneau Evolution squad swept the top four spots in the Category 1/2 men’s event, with David Stephens taking first overall. However, other teams managed to score the glory in the form of individual stage wins, with Trek Red Truck Racing rider Dave Vukets taking top honours in the time trial, Port Moody’s Scott Laliberte (Westwood Cycle/Cannondale) winning the crit, and Cody Canning, also with Trek Red Truck Racing, out-sprinting Vancouver’s Alistair Howard (Garneau Evolution) at the line in the exciting 100km road race.

Duncan Jordan (Comox Valley Cycling Club) took the top spot in the Category 3/4 men’s event, after winning the time trial by an impressive 39 seconds on Saturday. Teammate Doug Merrick finished second overall.

Karen Birkenhead (CVC Racing) won the Category 3/4 women’s competition after taking top spot in the time trial and road race events.

Sarah Spence (Interior Grasslands Cycling Club) won the overall U-17 girls’ stage race, taking top spot in both the time trial and the criterium, while second place overall, Maple Ridge’s Maggie Coles-Lyster (Local Ride/Dr. Vie Superfoods+), won the road race.

In the U-17 boys’ race, James Grant (Trail Bicycles/Eatmore Sprouts) won two stages to cinch the overall title. Brother Mark Grant finished second on every stage to finish second overall, with Finn Blackburn (Burnaby Velodrome Club) rounding out the podium in third spot. Pete Whalen (Local Ride Racing) of Pitt Meadows finished fourth overall.

“All in all, it was an eventful weekend, and the riders and spectators saw a lot of excitement,” said Lyster. “I’m pleased that so many competitors came out and got to experience just a few of the many fantastic cycling options that Maple Ridge has to offer.”