The race is back on for the RBC GranFondo Whistler this year, and organizers are putting up a pretty penny for the top finishers when the event returns for a fifth year in September.
The annual ride, which sees thousands of cyclists pedal their way from Vancouver to Whistler up the Sea to Sky Highway, hasn't included the Giro pro class since 2011. Thanks to a new sponsorship agreement with Robert J. MacDonald, the Giro will be back for this year's GranFondo, which will take place Sept. 6.
In total, the combined prize purse will be nearly $24,000, to be divided amongst the top-20 men's and women's finishers. That includes $10,000 to be split between the two winners.
"Cyclists and spectators were telling us to bring it back," said GranFondo Canada founder Neil McKinnon in a release. "We also felt it was important to provide competitive licensed riders with a spectacular end-of-season race experience."
The Giro will follow the main 122-kilometre route, with cyclists involved in the racing division leaving the start line before the rest of the peloton. The Giro is open to any licensed Category 1, 2, 3 or masters riders.
Past Giro winners include Andrew Pinfold and Leah Guloien in 2010, and Zach Garland and Jenny Lehmann in 2011.
Unfortunately for Will Routley, the return of the Giro comes one year too late for him. The Whistler pro cyclist, who reached the finish line first in 2013 while riding the event for the first time, won't be back to shoot for the win this year, as he'll likely be racing in the Tour of Alberta the same weekend.
"It's killing me — I would love to come back and do it," said Routley, who won a stage and the King of the Mountain jersey at the Tour of California earlier this month.
"It's a decent chunk of change, particularly for the Fondo. You don't see that kind of winnings all the time — it was five grand to win a stage at the Tour of California, and that gets distributed amongst the team.
"Someone's going to do well for themselves."
The return of the Giro is one of many notable changes to this year's GranFondo.
Organizers have also introduced the Forte — a 30-kilometre route extension, limited to 500 cyclists, who will take on the extra challenge of riding to the summit of Cypress Mountain before re-joining the main course.
Also, the start line has been moved from downtown Vancouver to Stanley Park this year, taking off from near the 9 O'Clock Gun.
Registration for the Giro and all other GranFondo classes is open at www.rbcgranfondowhistler.com.