Hanson, Kirchmann win Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix in Vancouver

Ken Hanson and Leah Kirchmann claim sprint victories in downtown Vancouver criterium

Ken Hanson and Leah Kirchmann, who both ride for the Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies team, won the men’s and women’s races at the Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix Wednesday night.

The race, held in downtown Vancouver, took the men’s field through 50 laps of a 1.2-kilometer circuit around the city. The women’s race consisted of 30 laps on the same course.

The men’s race ended in a tight sprint finish, with Hanson just edging his teammate Eric Young at the line. Placing third was Florenz Knauer (Baier Landshut).

Zach Bell (Champion System) chased down Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEdge) early in the race to take a commanding lead over the peloton. It appeared he might win until Optum, which had six riders in the field, led the chase to reel him in.

“It really was an Optum team effort the whole day, we kept it controlled and we wanted it to be a sprint,” Hanson said in a press release. “We had a lot of confidence that Eric and I could have a really good finish and I’m just really happy to finish for the team, the guys were amazing for us.”

The win was the second for Hanson at B.C. Superweek, as he triumphed in Saturday’s Brenco Criterium.

In the women’s race, Kirchmann easily took the victory by three bike lengths over Gillian Carleton Victoria (Specialized-lululemon) and Robin Farina (NOW and Novartis for MS).

One of Optum’s leadout riders had a mechanical problem with three laps remaining in the race, which caused some anxious moments for the team. But the squad was able to reorganize in time and deliver Kirchmann to the victory.

“I have to give a huge thanks to my teammates Denise [Ramsden], Grace [Alexander], and Amber [Gaffney],” Kirchmann said. “When you have a domestique helping out, it means that when other teams start talking, they can cover those attacks so I can sit out of the way and do the least amount of work possible, so they make the sprinters job a lot easier.”

Kirchmann has three straight victories at B.C. Superweek, having won the UBC Grand Prix on Tuesday and the Delta Road Race on Sunday.