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Local riders take on GranFondo Saturday

Disabled athletes Phil Chew and John Ryan will be among 4,000 cyclists on Sea to Sky Highway

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Although Canada's top cyclists will be earning points at a new UCI ProTour event in Quebec this weekend, the RBC GranFondo is bringing 4,000 cyclists to Whistler on Saturday. About 200 of them will be racing the 120 km and competing for $12,000 in prize money.

The top riders are expected to take four hours from the start at Georgia and Burrard Street to the finish line on Blackcomb Way in Whistler.

The race version of the GranFondo, the Giro, is only open to 200 riders that are licensed in Category 1, 2 and 3. Several members of Team Whistler are in that group - Gary Baker, Mike Boehm, Trevor Hopkins, Otto Kamstra and Phil Chew.

A below-the-hip amputee, Chew is bound to turn some heads on the course on Saturday. The former Paralympian will rely on one leg to hammer up the long climbs, but anyone who has ever seen Chew in action knows that he's up for the challenge.

"I first bought a road bike three years ago, and that first year I was doing a lot of mountain biking so I didn't get out that much. Then I had a bad crash on the road and ended up getting 10 stitches in my head... That really shocked me and I went back to the mountain bike," said Chew.

Chew was riding his mountain bike the next year, with the odd road ride mixed in, when he had an off-road crash that resulted in a separated shoulder. Concerned that he wouldn't be able to forerun the downhill at the Paralympics in March, Chew pulled back to let himself heal.

This year, however, Chew has been on his road bike a lot more.

"I've been on the road all season and it's going well, and then the opportunity came along to ride in the Granfondo, and I leaped onto that."

Chew has been training with Team Whistler and doing their Tuesday night rides to get ready. He's also trained on longer distances and a few weeks ago went the full 120 km distance.

Chew knows he won't be the only disabled cyclist in the mix, but said he felt a duty to represent his fellow para-athletes.

"I'm a disabled ski coach and I wanted to carry the flag for disabled athletes and get some exposure for what we do," he said.

Chew says he completed his 120 km ride in five hours and 21 minutes, with a strong headwind on the way back from Pemberton. If all goes well Saturday he thinks he might be able to break five hours.

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