Saturday, September 12, 2015

2015_09_12 Vancouver to Whistler Gran Fondo (Les Becker's Account)

Author:  Les Becker

I was eager to ride the 2015 Whistler GranFondo since last year I had ridden it on my own and knew it would be much more fun with fellow Cyclopaths. As Mike pointed out (and Leon I believe will give more details), the logistics of transporting and positioning riders, bikes and vehicles was complicated and not w/out glitches. Embedded in my memory is the dark early hours of race day, hunkered down in the Suburban between quiet riders and bikes,  with Tom driving along windy narrow streets trying to get to the starting location. I had finally given up hope of starting on time. Won’t be so bad though; we can still ride together after the masses had left and enjoy the scenery. So I was ecstatic when circumstances fell into place and we found ourselves in position in the 4-4.5 hr corral of the starting line. It was a comfortable 62 deg as the sun was rising over Stanley Park. I suspected we could shave a few minutes off my last year’s time of 4 hr: 39 min.

The racing began as we rode over Lion’s Gate Bridge. Pushing up Hoffman Hill, I’m not sure what grabbed my attention more, the 10% grade or the people lining the street, cheering us and ringing cowbells. It’s a great fantasy to pretend they were there because we were so important. Two lanes of the Sea to Sky Highway were closed to traffic and dedicated to the riders for most of the course and there was never a place requiring us to slow or stop for traffic; very nice! The smooth, steep, sweeping downhills were fast and fun; lots of 45mph+ descending. Of course lots of that was just trying to stay with Dwaine.

We had planned to use only one rest stop on this ride. The salt shed rest stop was approximately one half the way up the final long hill and about 20 miles from the finish, so it seemed appropriate to get water and also visit the Porta Potty if needed. Mike & Leon were up ahead so we were hoping they would stop there and if we could make our stop very quick, might help us to catch up. As the three of us approached we decided the pee-break was not needed. There were a couple girls at the edge of the road with a large water container. So I stopped w/out getting off the bike, holding my uncapped water bottle which they quickly filled with several cups of cold water. As I started moving, I had to close the gap Tom and Dwaine had created (I guess they didn’t stop at all) but was pleased I had gotten the refill so quickly. Sort of like a NASCAR pit stop.

After awhile Dwaine saw Mike & Leon in a large group up ahead so shot up the road to join them. Tom and I eventually also caught up but Dwaine had left that group by then. I started to cramp in my thigh so had to slow down, fortunately didn’t have to stop. I didn’t know how much energy I had left or if the cramps would resume, so my mind was distracted and much of the rest was a blur. Somewhere Dwaine left the group as did Leon, then Tom. I’m not sure where the rest of the group went, I suspect some in front of us but some behind. Anyway I was very happy to ride with Mike and cross the finish line together. More cheering and cowbells! And we all beat the socks off last year’s time since ours ranged 4:03 – 4:06. I was pleased.

Staying at Mike’s condo in Whistler Village (thanks Mike!) made this especially fun. We drank beer at the pub, watched downhill mountain bikers, had dinner at an Irish restaurant, took walks, and saw a black bear on the golf course. We had a great weekend.

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