18-year-old Brandon Etzl Wins Homelife Realty Hill Climb to Open the Tour de White Rock

Team NOW and Novartis for MS Sweeps the Women’s Podium

Anyone who asks why someone would voluntarily try to ride a bicycle up a 700 metre, 16 percent grade road hasn’t seen the calibre of cyclists taking part in BC Superweek.

The Hill Climb is the first stage of the Tour de White Rock, which is celebrating its’ 34th edition this year. It’s an exciting dash to the top of Buena Vista Avenue in the heart of White Rock. The grueling climb takes brute power and strength.

That brute power and strength is something St. Catherine’s, Ontario’s Brandon Etzl (Jet Fuel Coffee/Norco Bicycles) found out he had on Friday night as he finished first in the Homelife Realty Hill Climb ahead of last year’s winner Florenz Knauer of Germany (Team Baier Landshut) and Germany’s Yannick Mayer, who also rides for Team Baier Landshut.

“It was a tough race,” Eztl noted right before being presented with the Tour de White Rock leader’s jersey. “I thought if I eased into the first climb while the other riders took off, then maybe I’d catch them and it just so happened that my punch pushed me right past them so it worked out well for me I guess.”

Knauer, who was in the last pair to do the men’s first ride, had to race immediately after finding out his time was good enough for the top five and the second race.

“I hope that if we come back next year, I get to do the first ride earlier and have a little more recovery time,” Knauer said. It’s the 24-year-old’s fourth straight appearance on the podium at BC Superweek after winning the Giro di Burnaby on Thursday in addition to third place finishes in Wednesday’s Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix and Tuesday’s UBC Grand Prix.

Mayer, who was second in Sunday’s White Spot | Delta Road Race actually didn’t think he’d done well enough to be among the top five men to compete for the podium.

“I even thought my first run was too slow,” Mayer shrugged. “When they asked me to volunteer to hold Lex Albrecht at the start of the women’s final race, I said ‘Well, the day is over for me’ then they told me the numbers for the final and I was among them.”

BC Superweek has been good to Team Baier Landshut thus far, as the German-based team has six podiums through seven races. “I think I’ll forget the pain of this hill climb for the next year,” Mayer chuckled. “We’ll be back in 2014.”

Women’s Race

Once the results were announced for the first ride by the women at the Homelife Realty Hill Climb, it became clear that the event would likely be won by a member of Team NOW and Novartis for MS, which was co-founded by Phil Keoghan, Host and a Producer of “The Amazing Race” on CBS – namely because they had three of the five best times on Friday night in White Rock.

First place finisher Lex Albrecht, who won the MK Lands Delta Criterium to open BC Superweek seven days ago, lead the NOW and Novartis for MS charge. Teammates Lauren Rauck Komanski and Olivia Dillon were second and third respectively.

“This is my first time riding the events at BC Superweek and it was really important for me to bring my team to come and ride and show them what it was all about,” Albrecht claimed. “I’ve heard a lot of great things about it and we’re all super impressed, the organization is great, I love the crowds that come out and support us and cheer us on, I think that it’s a fun event not only for us, but for everybody else.”

“BC Superweek’s been fantastic and we’ve had a lot of fun up here,” Rauck Komanski said confidently. “We’re looking forward to the entire Tour de White Rock – this was a great way to kick it off!”

The grueling climb was difficult for some spectators to walk up, let alone race a bike, but the riders took a bit of morbid pleasure in pushing themselves to the limit.

“It’s a good ‘suffer-fest’, we loved it,” Rauck Komanski said in all seriousness. “It’s only 700 metres, so it’s not too long, it’s about a two minute effort and it’s something completely different than what we typically do.”

Albrecht went on Twitter earlier in the day and proclaimed, “Pre-rode the BC Superweek Tour de White Rock hill-climb race course: 700m 16% grind!”

“We did come up earlier today for a pre-ride and I’m not sure if it was a good or bad thing to know what was coming because it was intimidating,” smiled Rauck Komanski.

“I definitely give credit to Lex Albrecht, she’s the Canadian on our team and she really pushed for us to come to this,” added Rauck Komanski. “It’s been a really great time, we appreciate her getting this together for our team and really encouraging us to come, it’s a fantastic event.”

BC Superweek and the Tour de White Rock continues on Saturday with the Choices Market Criterium and wraps up with the Peace Arch News Road Race on Sunday.