Gran Fondo Whistler: Around 4,500 cyclists participated in this years big ride up the Sea to Sky
Whistler GranFondo marks successful seventh year
It couldn’t have been a better day for a bike ride on Saturday (Sept. 10), when nearly 4,500 cyclists crossed the finish line of the seventh annual Whistler GranFondo.
“From a rider’s perspective, the conditions were nothing less than perfect,” said event co-founder and organizer Neil McKinnon.
Canada’s first GranFondo event, which loosely translates from Italian to “the big ride,” offers participants a choice of several different distances. The signature GranFondo route leaves from Vancouver’s Brockton Point in Stanley Park, taking cyclists on a 122-kilometre route up the Sea to Sky highway to Whistler in a dedicated lane.
“As a community of British Columbians and stakeholders from Vancouver to Whistler to Squamish, they allow us to dedicate one day a year to do something unique and different,” said McKinnon. “No one else closes a lane from start to finish like we do here.”
Other GranFondo events include the Medio, a 55-km ride beginning in Squamish, and the 152-km Forte, which takes participants on a detour up to Cypress Mountain’s summit. The GranFondo also hosts the Giro race, a sanctioned event exclusively available to elite Union Cycliste International (UCI) road racing license holders in categories one, two or three.
“You can ride with your parents, grandparents or be an elite athlete,” said McKinnon. “There’s something for everyone.”
The top 20 Giro finishers in each gender division also have the opportunity to win cash prizes, with first-place finishers taking home $15,000 each.
“The competition is getting a lot better because of the prize money that was introduced last year,” added local cyclist Trevor Hopkins, who’s participated in all seven installments of the Whistler GranFondo.
As usual, the Whistler contingent of cyclists finished strong. While the day’s top riders crossed the finish line in about 3 hours and 15 minutes, Hopkins finished the Giro event in 3:51:51.
“It was my slowest year yet,” said Hopkins. “I’d been sick for about two weeks before the race… so I knew going into it that I was not going to do as well. It doesn’t bother me too much, I still enjoy it.”
Fellow local Chloe Cross had a successful Saturday as well, earning the ninth spot in the women’s Giro event with her time of 3:54:51.
Since 2010, the GranFondo has become an increasingly popular event among the Sea to Sky’s packed calendar of races and rides. “In the last two years we’ve grown by almost 20 per cent,” said McKinnon.
He attributes this success to the GranFondo organizing team’s efforts to make the event more than just a bike ride.
“Most people say they’ve never been to an event as well organized as the RBC GranFondo in Whistler,” he said. “It’s a combination of them knowing they’re going to get an incredible experience because we work hard to make sure all the details are organized, and secondly, we create opportunities for people to celebrate not only during the ride itself, but over the course of the whole weekend.”
Activities held throughout the weekend also included a welcome reception, a guest ride on Friday, an expo, a post-ride celebration and beer garden in Whistler Olympic Plaza and a post-event party.
“Really we take a look at the whole experience and how we can create something that’s really meaningful,” said McKinnon. “It’s about bringing the families together, the teams together, it’s about celebrating the accomplishment of somebody who might not even have ridden a bike at the beginning of the year.”
Jack Burke (Squampton) and Alison Jackson take first place in the sanctioned Giro race Sponsored by Robert J Macdonald
This fully supported ride offered a range of distances, though the majority of riders participate for the stunning views and the thrill of challenge.
Kelly Jablonski (Richmond) was fastest male in the longest distance 152km Forte which included the climb of Cypress with a time of 4:43:38 and for the women it was Dierdre Douglas 5:09:57
Matthew Van Nostrand (Steed p/b Fulgas) was fatest in the 122km Gran Fondo in a time of 3:20:51 and for the women it was Chantalle Hansen (Renegade) 3:35:51
Jack Burke Giro (Squampton) was winner of the Giro sanctioned race in a time of 3:12:52 and for the women it was Alison Jackson 3:54:48.
In the 67km Medio distance Bruce Philippi was fastest male in a time of 1:20:17 and for the women it was Donna Burkhart in a time of 2:12:00.
Again this year is the 1.5 KM “climb to royalty” at Furry Creek Hill - approximately 47 KM into the ride for the Gran Fondo riders and 90 KM for the Forte, riders were encouraged to challenge themselves for the King or Queen of the Mountains. The fastest male and fastest female to finish the climb will receive a polka dot jersey!
Prelimiary reuslts show Gavin Forsyth took the KOM in a time of 4:34 and Ali Onyschuk (AOJO) took the QOM in a time of 4:33
Link to full official individual and team results - http://granfondowhistler.com/news-results/results