The last few months of sunshine have been more than welcome and great timing for budding Fondoists intent on surviving and finishing the RBC Whistler Gran Fondo. Just as we were wondering if summer would actually arrive, the sun came out in force and the lily white legs started pounding the roads, highways and, more to the point, hills, in preparation for the Big Ride. All too soon – September 8th was here and we were in our corrals in Georgia Street waiting for ‘Oh Canada’ – a cross-section of people of all shapes and sizes, although the target market of 40-50 year old guys was still evident. We need more girl power on this ride! For some reason the ladies are few and far between in the Whistler Gran Fondo (at a ratio of 5:1 it seems).
And then we were off … a rolling start of licensed riders, followed by Alta Classe (VIP), then those aspiring to ridiculously fast times and hoping to draft each other in big packs, all the way back to the ‘undertrained’ riders who don’t like riding in groups .. climbed up Georgia Street onto the Lionsgate Bridge (a unique moment – cycling over the bridge without any cars).
If you have the energy to look up and enjoy the scenery, it’s well worth it … the Sea to Sky highway is stunning! Few rides can boast the views over the inlet to the islands, and the snow-clad peaks – and cyclists come from far and wide to participate. Twenty percent of cyclists are from outside of the province, and I met several people from Ontario, California, the UK and other parts of Europe. Few rides can also lay claim to so many hills. Tip of the Day: pace yourself to Squamish as the elevation is relentless from there on.
It was truly motivational riding neck to neck with Phil Chew along the way. Phil is an amputee, who rides faster with one leg than most people with two.
Fantastic day – great weather, great people, great atmosphere, and an extremely well organized event. Aid stations are plentiful, and the wine at Alice Lake is a nice touch and numbs the pain! Don’t drink too much, though, or you won’t get back on your bike! It’s great to see the local communities in Squamish and Whistler come out to cheer you on, and loved the drummer and the brass band along the way.
The Beer Garden and the concert in Celebration Plaza were the highlights of the festivities in Whistler, and the war stories and bragging became better as the beer and sun worked their magic. I am sure most riders were not out partying until the wee hours, but they were all out at breakfast the next day to replace those lost calories.
There are several Grand Fondos to do in this part of the world, but somehow the Whistler ride keeps drawing me back.