– Reported by Ryan Clarke –
Rolling from my house to meet the Navigators Insurance Pro Cycling Team, the heavens opened and the rains came down… in fistfuls. I figured to just keep going, as the bunch of seasoned pros, with whom I was set to ride, would be used to a little rain. Or so I thought.
PEZ Joined the team for one of Vancouver’s classic rides to Horseshoe Bay.
The Navigator’s pro cycling team is a fixture at BC’s Superweek, and were back in Vancouver to defend their 2006 Tour de Gastown for the mid-July series of races that also included the Tours of White Rock & Delta.
I got the call en route that the ride was postponed – the boys didn’t want to get wet. I felt betrayed, but then realized – hey, if YOU were getting paid to ride a bike and had the choice when to do it, wouldn’t you wait it out too?
The Wedgewood Hotel – where the stars stay… and the Navigators.
Several highly anticipated hours later, I arrived at Vancouver’s toney Wedgewood Hotel, lodging of choice for the Navigators and other esteemed guests and VIPs for the Tour de Gastown.
Now that’s some good advertising – Lance Armstrong will be here in September for the Tour of Courage.
One-by-one the troops came out. First was Philip Meyer, General Manager of the Wedgewood Hotel. Philip has been instrumental in Navigators’ presence for BC’s Super Week. He’s organized this “ride with the Navigators” as a way to raise awareness for the Tour de Courage (the Cancer fundraiser with Lance Armstrong).
Next out was the Navigators Director, Ed Beamon. As cool a Director as they get, we spoke at length about how things were shaping up for Gastown the following night. He held the quiet confidence of a manager who knew something (okay, a lot of things…) I didn’t.
No rain = smiling faces
Finally, like hibernating bear cubs woken from their slumber, the riders came out, bleary eyed and staggering for our afternoon departure. A few smiles, cordial handshakes, and one group photo later, the boys were uncorked and unleashed on the streets of Vancouver!
After being cooped up in the hotel, the team was anxious to get in a ride, and stop lights like this were more of a ‘suggestion’.
The thing about riding with pros is that it’s like you’re in your own little world. They dodge obstacles – cars, buses, and finger-waving pedestrians alike – as if they’re harmless traffic furniture, inspiring confidence in the most timid journo snapping pics from behind.
Through Stanley Park and across the Lion’s Gate Bridge, the Navs definitely favoured the scenic route.
When’s the last time you had the Navigators train on YOUR wheel?
The pace quickened as the terrain became more undulating on the 30km jaunt to Horseshoe Bay, and my camera was traded for the other side of the handlebars- the last thing you want to do is take down a group of professionals on a busy day in the office. That’s like walking into an accounting office in the middle of tax season and breaking all their pencils.
Kyle Wamsley- one to watch…ride you off his wheel.
I rode through the group, striking up conversation with the newest Navigator, Kyle Wamsley. Last year he rode for Colavita, but is thrilled with the move to a bigger team. The main difference?
“On the Navigators, any guy here can take the win. Earlier this year there were a few of us in the break, and we were discussing who’d take the sprint. Then David (O’Loughlin, Irish National Road Champ) just rides us all off his wheel. It’s just that awesome.”
A lung-searing (for me, that is) 2 hours later we’re back at the Wedgewood Hotel, and just as quickly as they appeared, they disappeared. Back to their rooms to catch the replay of today’s Tour stage, I guessed.
The team is again riding some snazzy Colnagos – note how the rain just beads up on that finish…
After Tuesday’s unseasonable onslaught of precipitation, I remained hopeful that things would dry out. Nothing doing, Wednesday evening I arrived to see all 6 riders crammed into the Navigators team car, looking terribly unimpressed with Vancouver. The rain was falling and the normally treacherous cobblestones of the historic Gastown area would be like a skating rink.
After snapping a few more pics, I opted to follow suit, and sought cover while I waited out the start of the race.
Six Acres – I felt right at home with this view.
Cold and wet, I wandered into a hobbit-looking watering hole called “Six Acres”. This place had it all- 43 varieties of beer, a 2-storey seating atrium, and a giant window over looking “crash-corner”. Perfect.
Apple flavoured-beer. The bottle was pretty sweet too.
I hunkered down with my notes and a bottle of Ephemere, an apple-flavoured brew that my waitress Sahara recommended as a surefire way to combat the dreariness of the downpour.
True to her word, I surfaced freshly scented and tarty like a barrel of MacIntoshes, and continued on my way.
Into the final laps and the break is well ahead, lead here by Navigator’s Oleg Grishkin.
The lovely Bott sisters- Lindsey & Carmen.
Next I came across the Bott sisters- Carmen and Lindsey. Carmen was a strength coach with humanmotion.ca (shameless plug), and looked to be peddling her professional wares as she readily handed me a business card. After looking at her impressive credentials, I felt her talents would be wasted on my back-of the-pack talent, and probably better suited for the guys on the bikes.
The winning break.
As I looked at the drying sky, I heard a bell, and realized there was still a race going on. Navigator’s former Russian Road Champ Oleg Griskin had made the leading the 4-man break and was poised to take back-to-back Navigator Gastown wins (Aussie Hilton Clarke won the 2006 edition).
2nd- Griskin, Navigators. 1st- O’Bee, HealthNet. 3rd- Tuft, Symmetrics.
But it was not to be, and Griskin claimed a hard-earned silver behind North Van’s Kirk O’Bee.
Beamon had earlier remarked that he’s been happy with the Navigators racing, given the unseasonable conditions.
I’d say that simply getting on a bike in this rain is a victory in itself.
• Thanks again to the team for letting us join them, and be sure to check out their website at NavPro.com
• For an excellent place to stay in Vancouver see the WedgewoodHotel.com