Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies continued their incredible tear through the British Columbia yesterday, delivering two more victories at the 40th anniversary of the Gastown Grand Prix, the crown jewel of BC Superweek. Some of North America’s greatest cyclists have attacked the cobbled, fan-packed course in downtown Vancouver, no doubt encouraged by some of North America’s biggest prize purses.
Ken Hanson, defending his 2012 win at the race, and Kirchmann coming off back-to-back Superweek wins at the White Spot | Delta Road Race and UBC Grand Prix, continued the rich Gastown tradition by delivering the Orange and Black to the top step of the podium once again in Vancouver. Hanson’s teammate and leadout man Eric Young took the second spot, and Ryan Anderson finished fourth in the sprint, narrowly missing the all Orange and Black podium. Once again a full team effort was imperative to delivering the wins for Hanson and Kirchmann.
“It really was a full team effort the whole day, we kept it controlled and we wanted it to be a sprint,” Hanson said. “We had a lot of confidence that Eric and I could have a really good finish and I’m just really happy to finish for the team, the guys were amazing for us.”
“We were a little disorganized at the top of the course, but then Ryan Anderson did a really good job of getting us organized and back up to speed,” continued Hanson. “Eric (Young) decided to take the front just before the second-to-last corner and just keep the pace really high and that allowed for me to get a really good sprint for the finish.”
Hanson’s win placed the coveted $15,000 dollar check into the hands of his and his teammates for the second consecutive year. A fully formed Orange and Black leadout train delivered Hanson and Young safely through the final corners, where it was time for the two sprinters to do what they do best.
“We were just planning for me to go out on the last corner, but felt the surge coming on the back stretch so I went a little bit earlier and just soft pedaled it through the last straightaway and then onto the last corner just put my head down and gave it everything I had,” Young said. “I knew Ken was right there and no one is going to beat him to the line, so I gave it everything I could to give him the best chance out of that corner and I was able to get second, which is really the icing on the cake for us.”
Former Kelly Benefit Strategies standout Zach Bell made things interesting late in the race, attacking the peloton with a perfectly timed solo flier. It was up to the powerful six-man Optum p/b KBS team to chase down the former Olympian and Canadian Road Race champion.
“Hats off to the Optum guys, I’ve ridden with that team before,” Bell added. “I have all the respect in the world for those guys, they are the greatest guys and it’s awesome to see them take home another one.”
Kirchmann Continues Hot Streak With Third Straight Victory in Vancouver
Winnipeg native Leah Kirchmann used her teammates to full effect in front of the thousands of screaming fans (and screaming performance director Rachel Heal and mechanic Mike Gavagan, as seen here) to claim her third straight victory at BC Superweek.
Beginning her sprint with 300 meters to go, Kirchmann won the 30 lap, 39 kilometer by a comfortable margin, beating Robin Farina (NOW and Novartis for MS) by over three bike lengths. Her efforts captured her and her teammates the largest women’s criterium prize in North America, totaling $8,000.
“It was definitely a very aggressive race, Team NOW and Novartis for MS has eight riders here and they definitely used their full strength,” said Kirchmann, “Luckily I have an amazing team behind me and they covered attack after attack.”
An untimely mechanical caused some havoc inside Kirchmann’s leadout train with just three laps to go, but she stayed calm and in the hunt for another Superweek win.
Kirchmann’s Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies was down a lead out rider with three laps to go, which caused some anxious moments, but they were able to persevere for her to get the win and claim the $8,000 top prize, which is the largest for a women’s criterium in North America.
“I was a little bit worried after the mechanical, but then another teammate was able to string it out with two to go,” Kirchmann explained. “I have to give a huge thanks to my teammates Denise (Ramsden), Grace (Alexander), and Amber (Gaffney). When you have a domestique helping out, it means that when other teams start talking, they can cover those attacks so I can sit out of the way and do the least amount of work possible, so they make the sprinters job a lot easier.”
Kirchmann has made in impressive run at the criterium series, doing so while proudly displaying her red and white Canadian national champion colors.
“We’ve had such an amazing time so far at BC Superweek,” she said. “I really want to say a huge thanks to all the volunteers, all the sponsors, all the fans, it’s just been incredible.”
See a special Greg Descantes gallery from BC Superweek at optumprocycling.com.