Gord Fraser, Ottawa-born and at 37 still number one in the US, has this season been steadily adding to his record total of more than 200 victories on his way to another National Racing Calendar (NRC) title. The Tucson-based star of Health Net is also on his way back north to try to add to his winning record in BC Superweek for the third straight year.
In 2003, he won the Tour de Gastown with one of his trademark final lap sprints out of the pack. In 2004, he helped teammate Tyler Farrar finish second in Gastown and win the White Spot Road Race in the Tour de Delta. Fraser also picked up another BC Superweek victory in Delta's Lehigh Cement Criterium with a rocket-launched sprint to the finish line. This year he's won nine of 40 races and is dueling with teammate Chris Wherry for the NRC title as king of the US Pro circuit - a title he won in 1999 and 2000.
Despite his success in BC Superweek, Fraser finds it tougher to win each year he comes to Vancouver. He loves the variety and toughness of each of the courses and the time off between the three big races in Delta, Gastown and White Rock. "I'm super excited to get up there each year," he says. "It's so well organised. The crowds are great and really get you pumped up in Delta and Gastown, and the course in White Rock is so tough. So is the competition. The top US teams come up there and think we can relax. It's a real shock to the system to find how fast the Canadians are and how motivated they are each year. We (Health Net) think we can do it again this year but it won't be easy. There are a lot of other good US teams and Symmetrics is going to be really tough."
Health Net has near home course advantage, with 21-year-old Farrar living in Bellingham, Washington and considering Vancouver a home away from home. "We come up there all the time," he says. "I feel comfortable and familiar with everything around there. Gastown is a cool place and a cool race but my favourite is Delta. I love the crit in Ladner and they've got an awesome road course. White Rock is one of the hardest courses we do all year. I tell everybody that BC Superweek is the most fun two weeks of racing of the entire year."
He credits his phenomenal success in last year's BC Superweek to a few training and tactical tips from his mentor, Gord Fraser. They turned his season around. Inspired by his victories in BC, Farrar added to his reputation as the best young rider in the US by winning the criterium and road race at the US Under-23 championships. He went to Europe and won twice in France and Belgium. This year he's won four times despite breaking his collarbone twice; the first time after being hit by a car in a training run and then going down in a pileup during a race. He's healthy and peaking in time for his third straight BC Superweek.
Health Net is one of several top ten US Pro teams that will be racing in Delta, Gastown and White Rock. They include Navigators, led by Kirk Obee who finished fifth in the 2005 US Pro Championships, Jittery Joes, with their man Tim Johnson, who finished ahead of Fraser at the US Pros, and Subway Express, starring Aussie Cameron Hughes, who is one 'tough son of a gun' according to Fraser.
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