Thrills, no spills for first Grand Prix

City still has post-race analysis to do, but all signs point to success for inaugural cycling race in New West

The telling sign of an inaugural event’s success is if there’s a second annual one – and the early indications are there will be for the New Westminster Grand Prix.
The latest stop on the B.C. Superweek cycling series debuted Tuesday evening in downtown New West.
At first blush, Coun. Patrick Johnstone, an avid cyclist, believes it’s been good for the city, although he cautioned the final verdict has yet to come in.
“We’ll have to have an analysis after it’s all done as to whether we met all of our benchmarks as far as its success. I’m excited. I think people are excited to be seeing it. I haven’t heard anyone saying it hasn’t been a good idea,” said Johnstone as he rang his cowbell in support of the riders.
Mark Ernsting, whose management company operates the series, was pleased.
“For a first-year effort, the city did a phenomenal job bringing the show to New West. The crowds were spectacular for a first-year event, and they’re only going to see it grow over the next 10 years,” said Ernsting.
GP logoNew Westminster wasted little time distinguishing itself from the other races – there are nine in 10 days – with its topography. The course featured a steep incline on Eighth Street and a long one on Carnarvon Street with a quick descent down Sixth Street and another along Columbia. In the women’s race, only 18 of 61 riders finished because it was too difficult to keep up.
“The crowds down on crash corner (Sixth and Columbia) and down at the first corner (Eighth and Columbia) have both looked pretty good,” said Johnstone.
“You go to the top corner (Sixth and Carnarvon), and that’s where all the cyclists are watching. They know that’s where the real attacks are happening, and that’s where the real suffering is happening. It’s exciting to watch them go fast down the main straight, but this back straight is where the action is,” said Johnstone.
“I’ve heard a few of the racers talk about how it’s the worst course or the best, depending on how you measure it. It’s one of the toughest courses on the Superweek circuit, so that’s exciting.”
Ernsting expected there to be a few spills, especially at Sixth and Columbia, but none materialized in either race. He said he’s never been to a pro race where both races didn’t have an accident or crash.
“I asked several athletes to get their insight about the course, especially after the women’s race because I wanted to be prepared for the men’s race if I needed to be aware of anything, and all of the comments said it was one of the hardest courses they’ve had, but they all liked it and even all the descents were nice and smooth and very, very manageable,” Ernsting said. “It just shows, it’s a well-laid out course and some of the athletes are going to enjoy coming back here year after year.”

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