Eight Time U.S. National Champion Justin Williams wins inaugural PoCo Grand Prix
2009 Australian Junior Female Road Cyclist of the Year Kendelle Hodges Wins Women’s Race
Port Coquitlam, BC – In front of a raucous crowd excited about professional cycling coming to its city, American Justin Williams, riding for Cylance/Incycle p/b Cannondale, streaked across the finish line to make history as the first winner of the $15,000 PoCo Grand Prix p/b Dominion Lending Centres.
Williams, who is an eight time U.S. National Champion including the 2008 U23 Criterium title, sprinted just ahead of Aussies Michael Rice from Garneau-Quebecor and Subaru NSWIS & MS rider Scott Law to claim the $2,200 first prize. With the 1.3 kilometre course being new to all riders, it didn’t take long before the pros figured it out, pinpointing the corner of Elgin Avenue and Shaughnessy Street as one to watch.
“We knew it was a race to the corner and Scott, who has been phenomenal over the last month, went in front of me and said, ‘You know what, let’s go!’,” said Williams. “We trusted each other into the corners, I went around Scott a little before that final corner and I knew I had to win that one. I’m a little bit faster in corners, so I decided to take the front and it worked out.”
With the second place finish, Rice now has three podium appearances at BC Superweek this year after also being third at the Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix on Wednesday as well as last Saturday’s Brenco Criterium.
“I’m slowly climbing up the steps and there’s one more to go. The last few laps were pretty crazy, we all knew it was going to be a race to that last corner as we saw with the women, and the Garneau-Quebecor guys looked after me all race. The last lap was up to me and Justin was just a bit too strong a racer after that left hander (corner),” said the 20 year old native of Ainslie, Australia, who was the 2013 U19 Australian Road Race Champion.
With his Cylance team riding well so far during BC Superweek, including his own second place finish at last Saturday’s Brenco Criterium, Williams noted that they had to adjust the way they were riding heading into the Port Coquitlam race.
“We started off just grabbing the races by the neck and just riding from the beginning on some of the tighter courses, but then we think it started to get a bit predictable so we decided to change it up and put guys in moves, bring really important moves back and then hope it comes down to a field sprint and then take the front a little bit later. It worked to perfection today,” he said.
For a while during the race, it looked like Law’s teammate Ayden Toovey would take the win after going away off the front, but despite falling back into the peloton and ultimately finishing 87th, the 20 year old played a big role in his Subaru NSWIS & MS team making it onto the podium.
“It worked really well for us, Ayden did an awesome job, he’s a strong little boy and he definitely gives us a good run for our money out on the road, but it was awesome to see and all the boys rode awesome, I can’t thank them enough,” said Law. “We only had four of us in the race, and when you’re going up against the likes of Silber and Rally, and six man teams, it’s pretty hard to compete. We just had a game plan to go out there and be aggressive, have a bit of fun with it.”
Fun was the name of the game for all involved in the first ever edition of the PoCo Grand Prix, with the community attending in droves and cheering on all the riders in an event that appears to have won a place in the hearts of all in Port Coquitlam.
The BC Superweek Aussie domination continued on the women’s side as well at the inaugural PoCo Grand Prix p/b Dominion Lending Centres as riders from Down Under took two of the top three spots on the podium for the second time in three races.
In the end, it was independent rider Kendelle Hodges from Melbourne building on her third place finish at Wednesday’s Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix to take the win in Port Coquitlam, sprinting ahead of countrywoman Kimberley Wells (Colavia | Bianchi) and Team Canada rider Alison Jackson.
“I knew whoever was first around that corner was going to win today, I went for a couple of early primes, I didn’t want to go for any later ones and it worked every time,’ said Hodges. “The sprint was really to that corner, so we went early and Kimberley went to come around me and I knew I had to beat her around there so I did and it worked out well.”
Wells won the Giro di Burnaby on Thursday night and now has three straight BC Superweek podium appearances after also being second at the Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix. The 30 year old recognized the tactics of both Hodges and Jackson on the final lap.
“I didn’t get the timing right today, I knew that Kendelle was working with Alison, so I was very aware of that. They were playing 1-2 along the back straight so I was forced to the front and had to control Alison and then Kendelle jumped the inside,” the two time Australian National Criterium Champion explained. “It’s only a hundred metres from the final corner to the finish so pretty much however you see the people coming through the final corner is how they’re going to end up by the finish line, so I knew 150 metres out that I hadn’t quite done that one right.”
Hodges rides for the High5 Dream Team in Australia, but is on her own without a team at BC Superweek yet acquitting herself quite well. She used her previous experience riding with Wells in her favour on the final lap.
“Kimberley is one of the top Aussie sprinters, we’ve been on a team before back home so I knew her riding style and I knew when she was going to go so that kind of helped. It wasn’t just purely the sprint, it was getting to that corner first today,” said the 24 year old Hodges.
For Jackson, who’s an alternate for the Canadian Olympic Cycling team competing next month in Rio, it’s the third time she’s been third at a BC Superweek race this year, also achieving the placing at the White Spot | Delta Road Race on Sunday and at the Giro di Burnaby on Thursday. When it came to the final lap of the PoCo Grand Prix on Friday, the former triathlete just ran out of gas.
“The last lap is always a lot more fighting, it’s faster, and I knew I had to be first out of the final corner. My opportunity came a couple of corners earlier, I went for it and I’m still happy with the third,” said the 27 year old former Abbotsford resident who now makes her home in Vermillion, Alberta.
And when it comes to being an Olympic alternate, it’s something Jackson couldn’t have fathomed when she started her career.
“I didn’t get my first bike until I was 19, and actually BC Superweek was the first set of races – two years ago – that I came to, tried to race against the pros and see how I did, and ended up winning some races, got a pro contract, and now just two Superweeks after, I’m on the Olympic team,” she said with a proud smile.
BC Superweek continues Saturday night with Steve Nash Fitness World presents Tour de White Rock Choices Markets Criterium. inaugural PoCo Grand Prix p/b Dominion Lending Centres. The youth race starts at 4 pm, the pro women at 5:30 pm, and the pro men at 6:30 pm.
BC Superweek is Canada’s biggest professional cycling series and features more than $125,000 in prize money available during eight races over ten days. BC Superweek runs from July 8 – 17, and is made up of the Tour de Delta (July 8, 9, 10), Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix (July 13), Giro di Burnaby p/b Appia Development (July 14), PoCo Grand Prix p/b Dominion Lending Centres (July 15), and Steve Nash Fitness World presents the Tour de White Rock (July 16, 17). For more information, visit www.bcsuperweek.ca.