Updated: Jan 14, 2020
Our second year with a pop-up booth, meaning more people now knew we existed & were looking for merino. I had a little better of an idea what to expect, what to prepare & how to tweak the booth (like bringing some jelly beans & having a little draw)
The ride was also going to have an added challenge this year. I had talked with Nick from the Velo Spoke Expo about it & he had watched me complete a few of the Eroica's already & wondered how this type of a category would be received in Vancouver. A few posters went out & now to see who was up for the challenge.
At the expo, a part of my display now is always some type of an Italian steel bike. This pop-up had the one that I was going to ride up to Whistler, a 1967 Legnano. It attracted some attention & sparked some conversation but most that saw it didn't think it would actually be the bike of choice for the big ride. Several of the other 'classics' riders had stopped by & we chatted about what they were on, comparing vintages & gear options. All the riders in this category received an additional swag bag from us as well.
The expo was better than the previous year & as long as we're growing in that direction, than we're going the right way. One of the highlights of the expo for sure was the introduction of (FIND THE GUys NAME) who founded Safetti. Being from Columbia, I know there are hills for sure there.....& some great coffee,it was exciting to hear about his passion for the classic bikes. He said he has a great little collection & staff can ride them in the area. It's funny what draws people together.
As the expo began to wrap up, the mindset now began to change. It was time to start thinking about powering this Legnano up to Whistler. You'll see in a previous blog post that I knew I could climb the elevation as the Alpe de Grand Blanc had been a test earlier in the season. Now it was time to stretch that elevation into double the distance & add in some Rocky Mountain weather. With everything packed up, a little Italian style pre-ride meal of pasta & red wine was to be enjoyed.
The next morning I rolled to the start line & Pam (my girlfriend) was there to see me off. I mention this as it was not a common thing for me in the past to have someone waiting with me at the start & also to know she'd be at the finish (probably with a beer in hand).
It was comforting to find other like minded people for the 'classics' category this year. Several of us congregated around one of the starting gates, sharing stories of where our bikes were from & who's gearing combination gave them the best chance for success on this adventure. We started as a little group, however with 1000's of other people on the road, it slowly broke into groups of 2 or 3 staying together. That first climb as you begin to leave Vancouver begins to separate the masses. This year though, with a few good riders who were on the classics, there would be a chance to enjoy a little more of the surroundings.
As we rode, we told some stories of past adventures, had many compliments as people passed us on the uphills & smiled, knowing the challenge we were a part of. Funny thing with the classic bikes & gears is that you only have so many options so if you want to go up the hill, you've got to pedal. There were multiple times throughout the day that we would be surprisingly passing people going up hill. You would think we were some kind of strong, power monsters but really we were in our easiest gear also, just that it was a more challenging gear to be in.
Rest stops were always welcomed on a fondo. It gave a chance to re-group, re-fuel and decide who's wheel you could possibly stay on for the next segment. The 'bonus' stations on route that spectators provided are always a treat. A favourite now is the 'bacon station'. You have to know that it's around the Squamish area, usually near the end of the town by the little bridge / walkway. Be sure to be in the right hand side of the group if you're in one. I like to either speed up or slow down & gain a proper position to maximize that salty, delicious treat. It's funny for new riders who don't know about it until after we pass it and they realize what they missed.
The climbs turn a bit more into grinds and the beauty is that with a few other riders in the classic world, we're all going through the same anguish. The last few kilometres became a bit of a challenge to try and line up 3 of our fellow enthusiasts to cross in about the same time. The goal was to push a little more emphasis onto the category & hope that it would grow a bit more the following year. As we rolled around the corner, the crowd cheered us on as the announcer shared a bit of our story and called out each rider in the group. It was a challenging ride to say the least and an accomplishment for the season. Sitting amongst the participants after the event and hearing stories of how people expected it to go and than the actual ride was entertaining. Again it was great to have Pam at the finish line, anticipating the time to now enjoy this adventure & take in the atmosphere we were surrounded by.
The Whistler Gran Fondo will always be a memorable event for me. Watching the clothing line continue to grow & gain traction every year and with the continued interest in the classics world, there will stories in the future for sure. I look forward to what the next one will bring.