Canadian Cycling Magazine

Looking Ahead

RBC Granfondo Whistler September 12, 2020


Before the sun rises, 5,000 anxious and excited cyclists gather in a dark and quiet Stanley Park on the first Saturday after Labour Day. They’ve been doing so since 2010. At 6:50 a.m., riders begin travelling north. “You’re crossing Lions Gate Bridge at sunrise, traffic-free. It doesn’t get better than that,” says Neil Mckinnon, founder and chief enthusiast of the rbc Granfondo Whistler.

The event was born from the desire to connect downtown Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., utilizing the Sea to Sky Highway, a stretch of road that saw immense improvemen­t leading up to the 2010 Olympic Games. “We took the hardest possible choice of routes that you could imagine, and turned it into something iconic,” Mckinnon gushes.

The 122-km gran fondo route tackles 1,900 m of climbing on its way to the after-party in Whistler Village. Near the beginning of the ride, as soon as riders are finished admiring the view from Lions Gate Bridge, they’re hit with a 10 per cent climb up Taylor Way before the Sea to Sky Highway. “You always want a good, stiff hill at the start of a race. It spreads everyone out, and away you go,” Mckinnon says.

Riders are treated to beautiful coastal views and rolling terrain on their way to Squamish. Most of the elevation comes as the road carves its way along Mount Garibaldi and Cloudburst Mountain, finally delivering tired legs to a fanfare finish line. “We hand out 5,000 cowbells. It’s a roar of a sound that makes people feel like rock stars,” Mckinnon says.

For 2020, Mckinnon’s event will host the uci gran fondo world championsh­ips. He’s eager to spotlight the human experience, not just race results: “The ride is about getting that 72-year-old cyclist to cross the finish line, and have her grandchild­ren inspired for the rest of their lives.” ( rbcgranfon­— Jakewillia­ms

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