Registration may have been down for the third annual RBC GranFondo Whistler last Saturday, Sept. 8, but organizers are still enthusiastic about the future of the bike ride/race from Vancouver to Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway.
"Registration was down a little bit this year... but the good news is that out-of-province visitors in the ride were up from 16 per cent to 22 per cent, and that's a trend we're paying close attention to, and that is good news for all of us," said Kevin Thompson, co-director of the event.
"We have more people travelling to B.C. just for the race, which means we have to change our strategy a little bit by reaching out more. Before, we just said 'we're open' to all the local riders in the area to come and do this, but they've done it now and now is the time to reach out and draw other people in. It's the natural evolution of these things, and the right time to make that happen."
In the end just over 6,000 registered for the event out of a possible 7,500. Roughly 4,500 finished the event.
Thompson said the organizers are hosting a series of post-race meetings this week and next to discuss the event and plan for the 2013 edition. He expects that they will open registration for next year in the coming weeks.
Every race is a learning experience, said Thompson adding that the first two events paved the way for this year's race and various improvements like closing more lanes to riders at the start of the race.
"I would say that we've managed the logistics very well, and now we understand what needs to get done," he said.
"We've improved the route, we've been able to communicate to people living in those communities that it's happening, so vehicle traffic isn't as prevalent on the roadway. Those communities are now supportive. We're hitting our volunteer numbers. And we've been able to add a lot of new things, like the Mercedes VIP shuttle and other things for riders that make it a better value proposition.
"That's the feedback we've been getting, anyway. Sometimes we get a mix of good and bad, but so far it's been nothing but good, which tells us that we're getting this thing exactly to where it needs to be.'
On that front, Thompson said the mandate is to continually drive up the value, "and give riders a memorable experience through route design and features along the way, and the experiences at the finish line and at the festival before the race. That's what we're going to continue to enhance and improve through new sponsorship activations. Every year we see more energy and enthusiasm for this event, and that's what enables us to do more."