August 29, 2006 – The recent 2006 USPRO National Criterium Championship in Downer’s Grove, Illinois was the final NRC race in the long and illustrious career of the winningest North American rider in recent history: Gord Fraser, of Team Health Net.
After a brief anxious moment in June, when it appeared USA Cycling would bar non-American riders from the event, the path was cleared for this last special race. Fraser was introduced first among all the riders by the race announcer to strong cheers from the large crowd. He and his Health Net teammates put on an excellent display, eschewing the prime sprints in favour of solid positioning, always monitoring the front of the pack and placing several riders in all serious breaks.
The peloton came together with a handful of laps remaining, and with two to go the Health Net leadout took control of the race front, Fraser in tow… only to have a crash wipe out their efforts entirely, and condemn Fraser to finishing well back in his final race. That’s bike racing, and that’s sprinting, and if it was bad luck for Fraser this time it’s safe to say that it’s a game that has treated him better than most over the years.
A special highlight of the weekend was the presence of Gord Fraser’s mother, Joan Fraser, who accepted an invitation to join friends for this last North American race. All who have known Gord over the years have seen the tremendous support, particularly in his early career, that Gord’s parents Joan and Ian brought, and it was only fitting that Joan should be at this final race.
Fraser will race one final time, as a guest at an exhibition race in Bermuda. As far as North American pro racing goes, Gord Fraser leaves with great memories of his many accomplishments, of a tremendous career, and the applause of the Downer’s Grove crowd as the race announcer capped off the event with one last interview from the retiring star.