Saturday, September 12, 2015

2015_09_12 Vancouver to Whistler Gran Fondo (Tom Peterson's Account)

Author:  Tom Peterson

I don’t know how it is possible to keep this blog post about the Whistler Gran Fondo ride short as it seems like so much happened in just 3 days.  Thank goodness I am not a great writer and I have a bad memory so that will help keep it shorter.

I met Mike, Leon, Dwaine, and Les at McDonalds in Federal Way at 9:30 on Friday morning and we were on our way to Vancouver.   Our mission was to drive to Vancouver where we were meeting at a storage facility.  Leon had been told that we could keep our bikes and one of our cars there overnight at no charge and that we could pick them up in the morning at 5:00am.  When we arrived the manager of the facility decided that he wanted to charge us for this and we were worried that he would not be there at 5:00am  when we needed to get our bikes.  We were stuck!  We had the option of paying for the storage and our ride completely depended on this guy waking up in the morning and letting us in at 5:00 when he normally does not open until 9:00am on Saturdays.  We stood in the parking lot for a while and tried to figure out a new plan of action.  It was suggested by someone that maybe we could put all 5 bikes in the suburban and if this could work then we could all ride in the suburban from Whistler to Vancouver the next morning – 5 bikes and 5 people.  We accomplished this crazy task and decided to not use the storage unit and to leave for Whistler where we were staying the night. 

Upon arriving at the amazing town of Whistler (if you have not been there before, it is a must that you visit) we headed to Mike’s condo.  This condo was plush and was such an amazing place to stay (Intrawest Resort Club).  Thank you Mike!  We unpacked and headed to dinner at the Old Spagetti Factory.  After a great meal, we walked back to the condo and discussed the plan for Saturdays ride and the logistics of getting there.  We found a hotel close to Stanley Park (race start line) that had a parking garage and we knew the car would be safe and we would be close to the race start.

Saturday morning I woke up at 3:45 in true Cycloplath fashion.  I had some cereal, dressed and chatted with the others.  This was a big day and I was a little nervous having been told that the team time depended on the 5thperson on your team crossing the finish line – ugh.  That seemed to be me.  We had loaded our bikes in the back of the suburban the night before and we were ready to hit the road at 4:35.  We had all 5 bikes in the back of the big rig and Les was sitting on the floor of the second row in between the 2 bucket seats.  This was super nice of Les to take one for the team by sitting on the floor for the ride to Stanley Park in Vancouver (no seat belt either). Two thirds of the way on our drive to the start, we were diverted to a side street with a speed limit of 30 mph and traffic.  It was at this time that I began to worry that maybe we would not make the start of the race in time.  All this work and we would be late.  We eventually made it to the hotel, parked the car, and rode to the start line.  I checked the time once we got in place and it said 6:51.  Wow, we still had 9 minutes to spare.  This was a little stressful and it seemed like we had been doing a lot of planning just to get to this point, but thank goodness, the Cyclopaths had arrived and were ready for the race to start. 

It was an absolutely beautiful morning with the temp around 60 degrees and clear skies.  As I waited for the race to start, I started to look around at all the other cyclists which was a little intimidating as they seemed to all have expensive bikes and everyone looked to be in really good shape and strong.  This was starting to look even more like a serious race than I had anticipated.   The race soon started and finally we were on our way.  We all stayed together for quite a while even though the pace seemed very fast to me for the first few miles.  Many riders seemed to be already looking to push a fast pace.  On the first big hill my chain came off and I was behind our group by one hundred yards – ugh – it had begun.  I was worried this was the start of me riding alone and trying to keep sight of the Cyclopaths.  I think they slowed for me or maybe in my panicked state I had gone faster to catch up than I realized.  The race was intense in that I felt like I was not able to look around much at all and that we were often working really hard to go up hill or we were riding downhill at a fast pass.  It was difficult to grab anything to eat and when I did, it had to be ultra -fast.  There were a lot of girls/women riding also which was awesome to see and many of them were serious and tough.  Leon and Mike pulled ahead of Les, Dwaine and I and it seemed like we might never see them again.  Dwaine kept us on a good pace for the first half so that we could maybe have the energy to go a little faster in the second half of the race.  Just over halfway my chain got all goofed up again on a big hill and I fell way behind – ugh again – I was somehow able to catch back up to Les and Dwaine though.  Soon after this while riding up another hill, my bike handlebar bumped Dwaine’s seat as we rode next to each other and this bump caused his seat to break.  The left side of his seat was way lower than the right side.  Dwaine had to ride (sorry) with this weird seat position for the rest of the race.  With maybe 20 miles to go (Best guess for my memory), we spotted Mike and Leon way up ahead.  Dwaine took off like crazy and was sure to bridge the gap between the groups we rode in.  Les and I just looked at each other and thought wow – that was awesome.  Les and I rode on for a little while longer and then I think we began to feel like we had to try to make the leap and see if we could accomplish what Dwaine had done and try to make it to the next group with Mike and Leon and Dwaine unless he was already way ahead.  Les and I made the jump and rode like crazy to catch up to for what seemed like a long time.  We did catch them and both of us were completely dead at this point.  The Cyclopaths were back together again except for Dwaine who was a few hundred yards ahead.  The four of us rode together until the last couple of miles when Leon pulled ahead and I was next with Les and Mike not far behind.  We all finished the ride within 2 minutes and 47 seconds of each other which is amazing with almost three thousand riders and so many good riders.  The finish line made me feel like I was a professional rider for a few seconds with all the people yelling and the grand set up. 

This was truly an amazing ride, experience and weekend.  I had the best time with my fellow Cyclopaths.  What a great group of guys.  I laughed so much all weekend and enjoyed every second of our time together.  The stories and memories are special.  I cannot wait until next year’s ride – hope we all do it again. 

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