Kessler steals win in women's race at PoCo Grand Prix

Dutch rider Nina Kessler edged out her Team TIBCO - Silicon Valley Bank teammate Kendall Ryan in a bunch sprint to win Friday’s women’s race at the fourth annual PoCo Grand Prix.

It was Kessler’s first win in her first appearance at the BC Superweek series of professional bike races that barnstorms the Lower Mainland with nine events in 10 days. She also denied Ryan her third victory in the PoCo race. 

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Not that Ryan was complaining, with three appearances atop the podium already tucked into her bib shorts after victories at the Ladner Criterium last Saturday, the Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix on Wednesday and the Giro di Burnaby on Thursday.

Kessler said, in fact, the team was leading Ryan towards that fourth victory on the week as the peloton turned onto the long northbound straightaway up Shaughnessy Street — a reverse of the Grand Prix’s first three editions in which the race went counter-clockwise — but when Ryan saw she was able to hold her position, she raised two fingers and Kessler was able to poke the air with one indicating her win.

“We trust each other and we work together so well,” Kessler said of her teammate.

Holly Break, of InstaFund La Prima, finished third.

In the men’s race, Team New Zealand’s Campbell Stewart reprised his PoCo victory in 2017 by outsprinting a pack of four other riders who had broken away from the peloton earlier in the race.

Marcel Franz of Heizomat Rad-Net finished second and Elevate-KHS Pro Cycling’s Samuel Bassetti was third.

Stewart said when the breakaway formed, he sensed it could be a winning move and he wanted to ensure he would be a part of it.

“Once we got there, we all started working together,” he said of the five-pack of riders. “I just had to play my time. I wanted to get that sprint in the end.

He did just that, nipping Franz by about half a wheel length.

The 23-year-old German, who also finished second to Stewart in Thursday’s Giro di Burnaby, as well as third in Wednesday’s Gastown race, was happy with his result.

“This time I was a little closer to Campbell,” he said. “I’m very proud.”

As Superweek’s only nighttime event, Stewart said the gathering darkness worked to the breakaway group’s advantage by chasing the taillights of the leading pace cars.

“That gave us a good incentive to keep on going,” he said.

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