Astana's Chris Horner will be the star attraction in Vancouver on Wednesday as the USA Crits series heads north for the BC Cancer Foundation's Tour de Gastown. Horner has just come from a solid week of racing at the Cascade Cycling Classic and says he's eager to display the form that helped team-mate Levi Leipheimer claim the overall victory (see separate story).
"I hope to put on a show; I'm going for the win," said Horner, who hails from San Diego, California, but now calls Bend, Oregon his home. "That's why I'm going up there. Crit racing is very fast, intense, and demands a lot of speed in the legs and a different kind of fitness. It's a good opportunity to keep racing and keep my legs in good condition."
Horner, a former winner of the Athens Twilight, is also attracted to the huge crowds that make the Tour de Gastown such a popular event. At least 30,000 cycling fans are expected and without his posse of impressive Astana teammates, Horner's going to need all the encouragement he can get.
When asked how he's going to fend off teams like Toshiba-Santo, Toyota United, Jittery Joe's and HealthNet, the man who only moments before had joked that he would be "a one-man wrecking crew" laughed. "I'm gonna have to get lucky, I guess."
The race will be the centrepiece of BC Superweek, British Columbia's most prestigious week of bike racing, with a total of $15,000 in prize money on the line. Some of Canada's 2008 Olympic team will also be there, including recently crowned national champion Christian Meier, Zach Bell, Svein Tuft and Cam Evans (Symmetrics).
In the pro-women's lineup from Canada will be 2008 Olympians Erinne Willock (Webcor), who is also the Tour de Gastown's defending champion; and Gina Grain (Webcor), a former women's Tour de Gastown champion. Jennifer Wilson (Vanderkitten Racing) holds the overall lead in the USA CRITS Series followed by Kelly Benjamin (Cheerwine).
"These are two fantastic fields for both the men's and women's contests," said USA Crits managing director Ravi Rajcoomar. "There's no telling who will emerge the victors in what's shaping up to be two of the most closely contested races in the USA Crits Series to date."
For more information, visit www.usacrits.com