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Routley gains experience in SF Grand Prix

Whistler cyclist in tough race against some of the best in the world on hilly course

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Officially, Whistler’s Will Routley didn’t finish Sunday’s Barclays Global Investors Grand Prix, a 108-mile bike race through the hilly streets of San Francisco.

Routley is listed as DNF, as was Italian Ivan Basso, runner up in this year’s Tour de France, Chris Horner, a stage winner in this year’s Tour of Switzerland, and more than 80 other professional cyclists from a field of 160 starters.

But Routley did finish the course, a minute or two behind the last official finisher, Kirk O’Bee, and after several hundred spectators had made their way onto the final mile in front of San Francisco’s ferry building on Embarcadero. His performance hardly registers on the official results, but the 22-year-old is gaining valuable experience as he goes head-to-head with some of the best cyclists in the world. Later this month he will be in Madrid to compete in the UCI Cycling World Championships.

The San Francisco race, billed as America’s Toughest Bike Race, was the latest big race Routley and his Vancouver-based Symmetrics Cycling Team have been invited to since they joined the professional ranks this year. In the spring Symmetrics was invited to the Tour of Georgia, where Lance Armstrong and his full Discovery Channel team, and several top European teams, competed in the biggest stage race in North America. It was at the Tour of Georgia, which was drenched with rain for several days, that Routley caught a bug that disrupted much of his cycling season. An extended rest period several weeks ago got him back on track, but it also cut into his training.

Still, Routley was with the main pack in San Francisco for most of the day, which included nine climbs up the 18-per cent Filmore Street hill and 14 times up the 17-per cent Taylor Street hill. It was only in the last 12 miles that he lost contact with a main group of about 50 riders, which included Dicsovery Channel’s George Hincapie.

The race itself was won by German Fabian Wegmann of the Gerolsteiner team. Wegmann, with the help of Italian teammate Andrea Moletta, closed a gap of nearly two minutes on Discovery Channel’s Jason McCartney and John Lieswyn of the Health Net team in the last 20 miles of the race. Wegmann didn’t have the strength to go straight up Taylor Street the final time, weaving back and forth across the width of the street before catching McCartney and Lieswyn just two miles from the finish. Surprisingly, the German had enough jump left at the end to win the spring from the two Americans.

Lieswyn, in his last professional race, claimed second place while McCartney, who appeared to be the strongest rider for much of the day, claimed third and the King of the Hills title.

Symmetrics rider Eric Wohlberg, a three-time Olympian and the veteran of the team, finished 16 th , 5:02 behind Wegmann.

Now in its fifth year, the San Francisco Grand Prix draws more than 100,000 spectators, and some of the top bike racing talent in the world. Routely and his young Symmetrics teammates aren’t at the same level as the best European-based pros, at least not yet. But they are getting closer.

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