The RBC GranFondo Whistler will have a different look for the next couple of years.
With the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships coming in 2020, the marquee event—the Giro, a 122-kilometre race attracting several top professionals—is being postponed until 2021. In its place this year, on Sept. 8, will be a team event, the St. Regis Cup, that GranFondo founder Neil McKinnon hopes will attract more local riders to the worlds in two years' time.
"We have to start gearing up towards that, because we wouldn't be able to have a pro event that year anyway in 2020. What we decided to do is create much more of an opportunity for our local riders in the Sea to Sky and the Lower Mainland to start to get together practicing," he said. "These guys can get geared up towards the 2020 World Gran Fondo Championships."
There will be three categories: men's, women's and mixed. Teams will be comprised of between five and eight riders, with the top five finishing times counting for the team score.
There will be $13,500 in total prizing, with the winners of each category receiving a $2,500 gift card for Gotham Steakhouse. The second-place teams will get a $1,500 gift card for Hy's Steakhouse and the third-place teams will receive $500 for Red Truck Brewing.
Teams will need to submit qualifying times for their riders from either a prior RBC GranFondo or a comparable event. The cumulative average for men's teams must be four hours and 15 minutes (4:15) or lower, while for mixed, it is 4:45, and for women, 4:55.
McKinnon added that there will be a time trial on offer at the 2019 race.
"What we're doing now is creating an opportunity for more people to ride in a competitive environment versus just the Giro, where you had to be a (Category) 1, 2 or 3 rider," he said.
Another change for this year's event will see the 55-kilometre Medio ride will now start and end in Whistler, with the route taking riders from the village to the Callaghan Valley and back again.
"The objective there is to create, first and foremost, an incredible experience so that we can offer the GranFondo experience to people who might not have the capacity, or feel intimidated, to do the full distance," McKinnon said.
The Medio has, at times, struggled to create the full desired effect for riders, McKinnon explained. When it starts in Vancouver and ends in Squamish, participants get a great start but a bit of an anticlimactic finish; when it starts in Squamish and finishes in Whistler, though, the start is underwhelming but the finish is ideal.
"We created something completely new, which we think is beneficial for new riders and families," he said. "When the GranFondo starts in Vancouver, the Medio will start at 9:15 in the morning in Whistler."
With the addition of some southbound riding in a race that had been exclusively northbound, McKinnon explained there will be some added traffic impacts on raceday, though he anticipates they will be minimal.
"There will be slight disruptions, just delays, but nothing that closes anything," he said.
As well, McKinnon said there will be childcare offered for families with parents who both opt to ride.
McKinnon added another benefit for Whistlerites is those who ride the Medio can pick up their race packages here in the resort instead of having to schlep all the way to Vancouver.
For more information, visit rbcgranfondo.com/whistler.