Whistler’s Will Routley was one of almost 600 racers to take part in the three day Elkhorn Classic Stage Race in Baker City, Oregon this past weekend, accompanied by just one of his Symmetrics Cycling teammates and members of the provincial road team.
With the rest of his team away in Quebec, winning the Tour de Beauce, and up against larger teams of riders working together, Routley managed to ride with the leaders from the start, and pull away on the fourth stage to take the win and the overall title.
At one point he found himself more than seven and a half minutes back of the leaders, and rallied the chase group to catch up before the final 14 km climb to the finish. He attacked, and with one rider chasing took the stage win and enough time to win the overall.
“The last race day was 160 kilometres, which doesn’t feel that long but it had three big climbs and a mountain top finish at 7,000 feet,” he said. “It was a nice test race for me, because Baker City is really similar to Bend, Oregon, where I’m racing after the nationals.
“It was phenomenal riding, a smooth highway that rolls along the plains and heads into the mountains and there was no traffic. I managed to put my head up a bit during the race, and I’d find myself crossing over a beautiful river or looking up at the mountains. I want to go back there to train.”
Routley’s next race is the Yaletown Grand Prix on Canada Day, which he will use to get ready for the road nationals in Quebec the following weekend. The nationals are Routley’s main focus this year, and he believes he is riding well enough to win.
“That may seem kind of lofty is some respects because there are a lot of good guys in that race, and guys on my team that could win it, but I feel confident I have the fitness to be able to do it now,” he said. “There’s obviously more to it, there is a lot of tactics, and you never know how the race is going to play out, or how you’ll feel going out on the day. Everybody will be going on all cylinders from the start.”
Despite losing some sponsors, the Symmetrics riders decided to stay together as a group this year and do fewer high profile races.
“It’s pretty frustrating not being able to do the race calendar we originally planned, but we’re still winning everything we do,” he said. “That’s just on account of the fact that we ride well together, we’re good friends and we want to stay together as long as possible. We’d rather find other sponsors, and concentrate on growing the budget and calendar next year.”
Symmetrics is Canada’s top professional team, and has won races all over North America. One rider, Svein Tuft, won the UCI America Tour title last year to earn Canada a third road spot in the Beijing Olympics. Tuft will ride in Beijing with European-based Canadians Ryder Hesjedal and Michael Barry. Symmetrics also continues to be one of the highest ranked teams in North America.