As pro tour riders, Svein Tuft and Christian Meier compete at the highest levels of cycling in Europe. They are coming off an impressive Giro d'Italia, and a 1-2 finish at the Canadian Time Trial Championships.
And they are both genuinely excited to be home to race B.C. Superweek, starting tonight with the Tour de Delta. The local events that helped both get started on impressive careers in the saddle still hold a special place for two of Canada's top professional cyclists.
"Quite honestly it's some of the best and most enjoyable racing around - always good courses, good crowds, and the riders are really highly motivated," said Tuft, an eight-time Canadian Time Trial champion who got his big break riding for the old Symmetrics team based out of his hometown of Langley.
The 12th annual Tour de Delta gets underway tonight starting at 6: 30 p.m. with the MK Criterium in North Delta. The tour then shifts to Ladner Saturday night for the the Bronco Criterium, through the village streets, beginning at 6: 15 p.m. The weekend concludes with the Whitespot Road Race. The 140 kilometre men's race starts at 9 a.m. at Sungod Arena in North Delta and concludes on 56th Street, in front of Winskill Park in Tsawwassen. The women's 88 km trek takes place entirely in Tsawwasssen.
Tuft, 35, returns to Delta for the second time since 2008, having just won his latest Canadian Time Trial Championship in Quebec, and coming off an impressive showing at the Giro d'Italia. In addition to Tuft finishing ninth on a final-day time trial, he and Meier helped their new Australian-based team, Orica-GreenEDGE, post its first Grand Tour stage win.
"We really look forward to B.C. Superweek because our cycling roots are here, our best memories have always been this type of racing, and it's a chance to race in your hometown in front of friends and family," Tuft said. "We don't get that opportunity much in Europe, so it's a real treat to come back and race."
Superweek also includes the UBC Grand Prix (July 10), the Gastown Grand Prix (July 11), the Grio di Burnaby (July 12) and concludes with the Tour de White Rock (July 1315). With $105,000 up for grabs over nine races, and Gastown back for the first time since 2008 with a history that incudes winners like Lance Armstrong, Alex Stieda and Brian Walton, Meier expects a great field.
"B.C. Superweek has always has some of the best atmosphere around," Meier said. "I've talked to a few former teammates, and it's really caught the attention of a lot of people. They're trying to make a big push to come for B.C. Superweek."
Competing against riders from North America's top teams is a great chance for local cyclists to test their mettle against seasoned pros. Tuft experienced it first hand, and is proud to be a part of the ongoing cycle for younger riders.
"Some of the hardest lessons I learned was racing against (Canadian Olympic medal winner) Brian Walton, (three-time Canadian Olympian) Eric Wohlberg and (three-time New Zealand Olympian) Graeme Miller at Superweek," Tuft said. "I remember the Delta Road Race one year, being in a break with Wohlberg and Miller, and those guys were just one-two on me and taught me a real lesson. At the time it's hard to take, but it's professional racing and the lessons you take from it can really set you up for what's to come. It gets a lot harder but it's a very similar game."