RBC Whistler Gran Fondo 2019
UCI Gran Fondo World Championship Qualifier
Year 3 so we knew a bit of what to expect. What was different this year ?? Our first ever Classic Bike Show. Thanks to Nic & Neil for having faith in the 'classics' and allowing a little more 'show & tell' to happen. The goal, when we chatted about this a few years ago, was to encourage people to ride the route, no matter what bike they have. Some of these steel, classic bikes roll as well or better than modern day bikes and they're always an artistic bonus on any ride.
Gordon from Caps & Fritz both brought some beauties of cycling history to show off. I had 4 from my collection; an Atala, a Legnano, a Bianchi & a Bottechia (yup all Italian steel ;) The conversation prior to coming out was that Simon & Jeremy from Global Cycling Network were going to be there & wanting to ride old steel. Could they qualify on one of these classics ? I had brought a few back-ups as their original contact fell through.
The Velo Spoke Expo is one of my favourite shows based on execution. They have figured out that the booths will be full if they make each participant that has registered and anyone that comes with them walk through the expo. The original number or registration is on one side and the package pick-up with the swag is on the other. Once we were set-up, now it was time to welcome the public. It's always fun at these kinda shows as you never really know who's returning, who's new, who's looking for what. It's a busy & exciting day with lots of stories told, people loving the merino & excitement shared for the next days adventures. After having met some of the other classic riders, lots of attention at the 'bike show' & more people purchasing a little more style for their adventure the next day, it was time to clean up, fuel up & get ready for another day in the saddle.
The roll down to the start line in Stanley Park is always enjoyable. It's early, it's dark, there's a bit of a chill in the air but there are 100's of people on bikes, heading the same direction. Some are there to race, some striving for personal bests & others just looking to finish. No matter what your goal for the event, the course will challenge you.
There's always a lot of excitement at the start as everyone is full of energy and looking to find that perfect spot. The course allows for some quick group seperation, which for safety purposes, is a good thing. There are about 3 good little climbs in the first 15km that allow people to find that spot for comfort & safety. Being on the Legnano, the goal is to find a few others on the steel steeds as we'll have similar gearing & often style of riding. Often there is a more mature approach to the classics which makes the journey often safer with experience. Just like the Merckx fondo earlier in the season, the hill climbs on this one always leave a smile on my face as we would pass the 'high cadence' riders while we were simply trying to just keep rolling.
There were two 'bonus' feed stations that were memorable. The first being around Squamish. Every year a family gets together, cooks a mountain of bacon & than has numerous people on the side of the course 'hand them out' to riders as they pass by. This is usually a knowledge / skill move as you have to know it's coming and than be on the right side of the road. There's just something special about a salty piece of deliciousness that makes you want to time it just right.
The second 'bonus' this year was from a cookie girl, Steph Corker. Now known as Corker's Cookie Corner, the group that gathers both cheer on & fuel that last push into Whistler. Steph Corker is a genuine gem of a human being. An accomplished athlete in her own right (16x Ironman finishes with 3x Kona qualifications!), on Fondo day, Steph makes it her mission to give back to the community.
After 50 hours of preparation stretching over 5 weeks, she’s putting the finishing touches to 5000 cookies for riders, allowing every cyclist who passes her cheer zone to receive a delicious boost of energy for the final push to the finish line.
Not only has she inspired the love of local riders from Vancouver to Whistler but she’s attracted a whole cheer squad including cheerleaders, music and motivational signs to keep the Fondo riders moving to their final destination.
When pushed about what it would cost to bake 5,000 cookies, her heartfelt answer was, “love is free”.
The final push to Whistler, 1800m above where we began, brings some rolling hills & knowledge that an entire village will be cheering you on & there will be plenty of refreshments & stories in the park after. Coming around that last corner as Phil announces your name & a little tidbit about you, fans encourage & you know that your legs can finally take a break.
This event is always a great sociable one that allows for some social time after with new friends & old. There is both food & beer gardens, live music & always a visit to our friends at the Belvedere hotel who share a delicious wheel of Parmesan. Whether it rains & you're cold or it's hot & you've got new tan lines, this adventure never disappoints.