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Ebikes Welcome at RBC GranFondo Whistler's Medio Fondo

Ebike owners will be able to participate in the RBC GranFondo Whistler for the first time in September and experience riding the Sea to Sky Highway

Cyclists will be able to sign up for the 55-km Medio Fondo with the intention of riding an electric assist bike but they will not be permitted to take part in the overall timing.

“We embrace that change in technology. What we want to do, as we’ve done with everything else, is stay at the forefront and create an opportunity for people to cycle,” Neil McKinnon, GranFondo Whistler co-founder told the Squamish Chief. “We don’t think the introduction of e-bikes is dissimilar to any other category of cycling.”

The organizers hope the inclusion of ebikes will encourage riders to participate. Ebike participants will be able to line-up at the start line and enjoy the experience of riding the Sea to Sky Highway with thousands of cyclists.

The inclusion of ebikes will probably be contraversial, with those in favour saying ebikes allow for more riders to take part and those against will question whether they belong in at a prestigious event like the RBC GranFondo Whistler.

“I think the purists would probably say that there’s no place for e-bikes in an international event like the gran fondo. We agree with that, that’s why we’ve limited it to the Medio portion of the event,” McKinnon said. “Other people have said they welcome it because it allows for more inclusion.”

The RBC GranFondo Whistler has three distances participants can choose from. The 55km Medio Fondo which will allow ebikes, and the 122km GranFondo and 152km Forte which will only allow cyclists with normal bikes.

Pinarello's Nytro Ebike

The Medio Fondo is billed as the family-friendly ride option out of the three ride lengths, which has a controlled start that limits the speed of riders for safety reasons.

“We wanted to keep the Forte and the GranFondo as those physical challenges, those aspirational events that people put in their calendar. But the Medio, and what ebikes represent, is allowing people of different ages or different athletic abilities to participate,” McKinnon said.

Even with the addition of e-bikes, RBC GranFondo Whistler organizers aren't expecting a huge number of electric bicycles to hit the Sea to Sky this fall.

"Though the industry of ebikes is growing quite significantly, it still represents a small percentage of bicycles on the road. A lot of people use e-bikes for transportation and commuting purposes," McKinnon said. "I think the first year we'll probably see a small percentage, but I suspect as word gets out and people feel comfortable being on their e-bike in an event, it will probably grow over time."

McKinnon said the 55-kilometre route has five times more cyclists registered than last year's event, which already saw twice the amount of riders from the previous year.

So far, 1,500 cyclists have pre-registered for the RBC GranFondo Whistler, and organizers are expecting over 4,500 cyclists to ride along the Sea to Sky Highway this fall. 

Ebikes are gaining popularity with many people who otherwise might not take up the sport. They are also used as an alternative to the car for commuting to work.

The 2019 edition of the RBC GranFondo Whistler is a UCI Gran Fondo World Series qualifier for the 2020 UCI Gran Fondo World Championships which will be held on the Whistler course. The RBC GranFondo Whistler takes place September 7, 2019.

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RBC GranFondo Whistler early bird pricing ends Tuesday January 29th at 2pm PST.

Ebike owners will be able to participate in the RBC GranFondo Whistler for the first time in September and experience riding the Sea to Sky Highway