Change is coming to next year’s Tour de White Rock cycling weekend.
For the first time in the 35-year history of the event – which is held every July – there will be no Friday evening hill climb, and just two days of racing will be staged, as opposed to three.
The changes were made late last month when organizers of BC Superweek – the weeklong series that includes the Tour de White Rock, Tour de Delta, Giro di Burnaby and both UBC and Gastown Grand Prix events – released the 2015 Superweek schedule, and the new two-day format was further discussed at White Rock council Monday evening.
With the hill climb cancelled, the Choices Market Criterium race – in which cyclists zip around a short course in uptown White Rock – has been moved from its usual Saturday afternoon spot to the evening of Friday, July 17. The Peace Arch News Road Race will also move – from Sunday morning to Saturday, July 18.
“We’ve noticed declining participation in the hill climb,” Eric Stepura, director of leisure services, told council. “The original intent of the hill climb was to include local riders in the Tour de White Rock, and it’s been our experience that we really aren’t attracting local riders, and professional riders choose not to participate or they really don’t give it their best.”
Stepura noted that by re-allocating the resources from the hill climb to the other two races, the change could attract more participants for next year’s event.
“We feel that what we should do is focus on the two races that we can do better than anybody else,” he said.
Coun. Dave Chesney agreed with disposing of the hill climb, but did express concern about the change in dates.
The move to Saturday – which he said is a busier day in the city than Sunday – could mean an increase in close calls with cars and riders.
“We may have a very grave problem trying to control that traffic on a Saturday,” he said.
Also recommended by Stepura was the establishment of a select committee of council that would oversee the organization, marketing and fundraising of the Tour de White Rock.
He noted that in Delta, for their Super Week events, a strong board of directors raises much of the necessary funds and handles the marketing aspect of the event.
“It’s certainly a model we feel would be a right fit for White Rock,” he said.
After the 2013 Tour de White Rock, Baldwin called on the city and local business community to band together to help fund larger prize pools for future events, in order to keep interest high among competitors.
“It would appear that in order to keep people in the race, we’re going to have to have more prize money. A lot of (the cyclists) jus said ‘to heck with it, it’s not worth it,'” he said at the time.
The Tour de White Rock’s total prize pool is among the lowest on the Superweek slate. Last year, it was $20,000 for three events, compared to the Tour de Delta’s $25,000 purse for the same number of events. The Giro di Burnaby paid out $15,000 for just one race, while the Gastown Grand Prix’s prize money totals $50,000.
“We’re certainly falling well behind,” Stepura confirmed.
– with files from Nick Greenizan