By GS Women’s Race Team Member Rebecca Cohen
The GS Women’s Race team capped off a successful season by lining up against a field of professional riders night after night during BC Superweek. The events took place from July 7th to 16th and featured nine very high caliber races, including a UCI sanctioned race. This year’s team included Penticton-based climber extraordinaire, Emma Lujan; Vancouver Island’s fastest female (and, let’s face it, pretty much BC’s fastest female), Janna Gillick; our team’s most organized, diligent, and punctual rider, Sonia Taylor; and myself, Rebecca Cohen. Local powerhouses Haley Gill of Pender Racing and Jess Daniels of Steed Cycles also joined us as guest riders for the week.
This year’s Superweek was bigger and faster than ever; teams traveled from all over Canada, the US, and even as far as New Zealand to compete. Not only were the GS women lining up against entire professional teams and Olympic medalists, we were joined by 80 other riders on the start line, roughly quadruple the number of cyclists we race against during our regular season.
However, with over $120,000 in prize money up for grabs throughout the week, who wouldn’t want to race? The $12,000 offered for first place in the Gastown Grand Prix is actually the biggest prize for any North American race.
It was pretty intimidating to be lining up next to riders we knew of from watching the Olympics or by following their pro teams on social media. At one of the first races of the week team Canada parked their team car next to our Glotman vehicle and warmed up alongside us. This was all was pretty nerve racking, but when the nerves wore off I realized it was pretty impressive that we were able to line up and race with such incredible riders. In my 20 plus years of competing in other sports, I was never given the chance to play against Olympians or professionals.
The week kicked off with the MK Lands Delta Criterium. The following day was the fast and furious Ladner Criterium where, unfortunately, Jess was caught in a massive pile-up and fractured her ankle. We wish her all the best with her recovery. Sunday, July 9th was the UCI Delta Road Race, where we really were made to feel like a professional team. The sign in table was placed on stage, and we posed for an official team photo in front of the crowd. Police and media vehicles, motorcycles, and team cars complete with matching team bikes on the roof just like in the Tour de France led us through the winding course. With an average speed of 40 km per hour for two and a half hours, this race really gave me a sense of what it takes to compete at a top level event.
After that came the inaugural New Westminster race, but the Gastown Grand Prix was really what we were all waiting for. Being able to race in downtown Vancouver was an amazing feeling, this event is really one of a kind for our team. We had countless friends and family members come cheer us on, and this was by far the most well-spectated race we participated in this season. Pedaling at over 50 km per hour on the cobblestones and hearing so many people cheer me on was a huge adrenaline rush. I only completed a few laps, but it was one of the most thrilling races of the season.
Next up were the Giro di Burnaby and the Poco Grand Prix and last but not least was the Tour de White Rock. Emma really shone in the crit, breaking away from the pack and setting up Janna to win a prime (a prize for coming in first on a certain lap). The week ended with the White Rock road race, a course known for its grueling hills. Emma led the pack up every climb, and Janna and Haley used some team tactics to get Haley a top ten finish.
Although the week started off with some nerves and questions, it ended with Haley, Janna and Emma working together and executing some teamwork. Sonia and I took this year as a learning opportunity and I can definitely say that towards the end of the week I felt more confident on the start line, and had experienced a major change in attitude. I went from saying to myself "I am not good enough to be here, why am I doing this" to "this is an incredible learning opportunity and I am going to do the best I can." I had so much more fun trying. Not finishing any races was a bit disappointing, but more than anything I am inspired by my teammates for keeping up with the pros, and ready to keep learning and improving.
It was a great week of racing and learning for all of us. Superweek introduced me to a whole new level of fast that I am already excited to partake in next year (after a much needed off season, of course). Racing against Olympians, who have access to the best equipment and intimidating support crews is tough, all while juggling full-time work and other commitments. Superweek is hard both physically and mentally, but it’s also incredibly exhilarating and motivating. Goals for next year's Superweek will keep us going as we train through the cold, wet days next winter.
This much racing takes a serious amount of work “behind the scenes”, and the women’s race team could not have raced this week without tireless support, organization, and dedication from Dave Gillam and Morgan Cabot. They were at nearly every race helping set up and take down tents and trainers, pin numbers, feed us both on and off the course, and give us race strategies and tips. We appreciate the support of our club sponsors, and, lastly, we are extremely grateful for all the other club members as well as our family and friends who came to feed us, cheer us on, and offer moral support when our hearts were pounding with nervousness before a race. Thanks for a great season and see you all next spring!