Jasmin Glaessar caps multi-medal Pan Ams with another cycling gold

TORONTO — Jasmin Glaesser's Pan American Games had golden bookends.

The Vancouver cyclist opened with a gold medal at the velodrome in team pursuit and closed winning a thrilling sprint in Saturday's road race.

Glaessar was Canada's ironwoman of cycling in Toronto with four medals in four events over nine days. Glaessar, 23, also took track silver in the omnium — the decathlon of cycling — and silver in the road time trial.

So her five-foot-four, 127-pound frame holds a big engine and deep gas tank.

"I'm definitely exhausted, but this has been an amazing experience and a fantastic way to cap off an amazing two weeks here in Toronto," Glaesser said.

She and teammates Allison Beveridge of Calgary and Kristi Lay of Medicine Hat, Alta., followed a wolf-hunt strategy Saturday by pushing the pace and chasing down any riders who broke off the front.

Those three women and Calgary's Laura Brown had combined to win the team pursuit at the track.

Glaesser rocketed away from the pack and Cuba's Marlies Mejias followed her on the fourth of five laps along the Lake Ontario shore and through High Park.

They opened up a minute's lead on the peloton and prepared for the final charge, which Glaesser won by half a wheel. Beveridge provided a bonus thrill for those watching from Exhibition Place lawn with a dash to the finish line for bronze.

Glaesser's time over 82.5 kilometres was two hours seven minutes 17 seconds. Beveridge was 34 seconds behind.

"I think we set it up quite well," said Lay.

"The Cubans have so many sprinters. We didn't want to be stuck with a bunch sprint. Jasmin has such an engine on her. We knew that if she could get up the road, she's crafty enough that she can probably outsmart the Cuban."

With the men's road race still to go Saturday night, the Canadian cycling team had collected a combined 19 Pan Am medals in mountain, BMX, track and road, including 11 gold.

The track team accounted for 10 medals and six gold at the new velodrome built for the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games in Milton, Ont.

"The bar was definitely set high here pretty much from Day 1 with BMX and mountain biking," Glaesser said.

"All the athletes rose to that pressure. All the track cyclists won medals out on the track really proving what having a facility and having that little extra support does for a program. That's the kind of momentum we're going to build on in the next year going into Rio."

Canada's cyclists produced one medal — a women's team pursuit bronze — at the the 2012 Olympics Games in London. Glaesser was a member of that team alongside Gillian Carleton and Tara Whitten.

Glaesser has won team pursuit medals at the world track championships as well as silver and bronze in the points race, but Saturday's victory she believes was her first international gold medal in an individual race.

"I was trying to remember the last time I won a bike race, crossed the line first, and I can't tell you when that was so it's the first race I've won in a really long time," she said. "I couldn't think of a better place to do it than right here in Toronto in front of a home crowd.

"The biggest thing to take from this is really being able to showcase what we do in front of our home crowd."

Track cycling's omnium is six races in which results are converted to points. Glaessar might have won gold in Wednesday's road time trial if not for a flat tire on her front wheel midway through the race.

Born in Paderhorn, Germany, she moved first to Seattle at age eight and then on to Vancouver with her family. Glaesser began bike racing at 17 when she bought herself a road bike for her high school graduation.

She could pursue both road and track cycling because there's a velodrome in Burnaby, B.C.

Glaesser obtained her Canadian citizenship in time to race for her new country at the 2011 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, where she also won gold in team pursuit.

Her powers of recovery evident at the Pan Am Games, Glaesser now heads to Europe to compete with her Optum Pro Cycling team to compete in a seven-day stage race Aug. 9-15 in France.

The Canadian Press