It’s party time!
Wow. RBC GranFondo Whistler turns 10 years old this September, and that means it’s time to celebrate.
None of this would have been possible without you, the riders, volunteers and supporters, so we’ve put our collective heads together and come up with a special program aimed at giving back this year.
We’ve got 10 weeks of giveaways, contests, premium gifts for all riders, a new volunteer gratitude set up, stories, commemorative crests and medals, as well as a whole host of surprises still to come. You might just want to keep reading…
Prize giveaway: 10 weeks of Fondo
10 weeks of Fondo is simple. We challenged our Gold level sponsors to give us the best prizes they could think of, and each week for the next ten weeks, we’ll draw a name from all registered riders to win one of the following prizes:
|1||June 20th||Nesters Marketplace||5 min shopping spree|
|2||June 27th||Helpforme||Bontrager Wavecel helmet|
|3||July 4th||Kinetix Medicine||Free assessment worth $500|
|4||July 11th||Jakroo||[For 2 people] Custom designed kit for 2 and two entries to RBC GranFondo Whistler 2019|
|5||July 18th||nuun||Bumper nuun prize pack|
|6||July 25th||CLIF||Lavish CLIF prize pack|
|7||August 1st||St. Regis Hotel||[For 2 people] 2 night weekend stay + $150 coupon to Gotham Steakhouse|
|8||August 8th||Volvo||To be announced|
|9||August 15th||RBC GranFondo Whistler||Alta Classe upgrade or extra Alta Classe entry if already registered|
|10||August 22nd||Helijet||[For 2 people] Return helicopter flight to Victoria with stay in Empress hotel|
Simply make sure you’re registered by the dates above to be eligible to win that week’s prize. Already registered? You’ve got 10 chances to win! We’ll be announcing the winners each Thursday on our @rbcgranfondo facebook page, and roughly every 3 weeks via email. Make sure you’re following us on facebook!
The riders who've ridden every year
After 10 years of RBC GranFondo Whistler, very few people can claim to have ridden every single year.
More than 39,000 riders have crossed the famous finish line, but only 29 individuals have registered, ridden and completed every single event.
We think these folks are something amazing. We’ve invited all 28 riders to join the 10th anniversary year with their entries paid for, and they’ll be enjoying a ceremonial photograph at the front of the startline before the event, complete with a golden bike plate that’ll help show the esteemed company you’re in. They are:
Bob Barnett, Donna Begg, Fabrizio Biagini, Sean Carey, Larry Dean, Marcel Gera, Michael Green, Brett Heilbron, Bob Hole, Ken Ingram, Louise Johnson, Stewart Kolenda, Billy Lee, Desirae McGee, Charles Mulder, Mark Pearson, Michel Pelletier, Claudio Pellichero, Stan Potma, Frank Quigg, Gordon Ross, Karen Sherstobitoff, Paul Steiner, Dave Vis, Jack Wickham, Burton Wong, Rob Campbell, Robert Thomas Ross, Antonio Paulino Jr.
It’s almost impossible to cover all the highs, lows, sweat, tears and memories the 28 have been through, but we’ll try and give you a flavour through some of their stories.
Meet some of the riders who’ve ridden every year:
Ken Ingram, North Vancouver BC
‘I convinced the medic at the finish line that all I needed was a beer…’
“In the summer of 2010 I rediscovered cycling after 30 years of being off the bike. Shortly after, I heard the word GranFondo for the first time (or was it Gran Fondo? Granfondo? Grand Fondo?). Cycling was exploding at the time, and all the buzz about RBC GranFondo Whistler convinced me I had to do it. Although the ride was already sold out, a friend found me a spot and, in ignorant bliss, I showed up. That first Gran Fondo was very memorable, mostly for the sense that this was the beginning of something special.
“Since then I’ve done over 30 other Gran Fondos, but none compare to RBC GranFondo Whistler and its sister events [since 2010 there have also been events in Banff AB, Kelowna BC, Niagara Falls ON and Silicon Valley CA]. GranFondo moments that come to mind include the image of a sea of helmets stretching to the horizon along Georgia St. at dawn, my daughter surprising me at the finish line, and riding with the Helijet team. There was also the time I convinced the medic at the finish line that all I needed was a beer. This year I’m hoping to beat four hours (I’ve been saying that since 2011), and qualify for the UCI GranFondo World Championship in 2020.
“For those considering the Whistler GranFondo, my advice is do it. Make it your ride.”
Read more 10 year rider stories
‘Each year I feel just as good as I did that first time.’
“My name is Michael Green. I am 51 years old and live in Woodinville, Washington, USA. When I was about 5 years old, my parents gave me an old hand-me-down bike my sister had ridden before me. It was a “convertable” bike where the top “tube” could be rearranged to be parallel to the ground (for a boy) or diagonal (for a girl). While I would have rather had a brand new bike, I was still excited. I couldn’t wait to learn to ride a “real two-wheeler”.
“Unfortunately it was very difficult for me. I had poor balance and coordination and struggled to keep the “rubber side down”. After a long time of trying and failing, I went outside and told my mom: “I’m going to practice riding my bike”. I got on it and rode the whole length of the driveway, something that I had never done before. I was so excited, I finally did it! Ever since then I have loved cycling. I love the feeling of wind in my face. I love the circular motion of my feet. I love hearing the sound of the chain and the whirring of the spokes through the air. It gives me a sense of freedom and it keeps me healthy.
“All through my childhood I rode my bike around the neighborhood. My best friend and I would ride in the park across the street from my house. We’d ride around the baseball field kicking up sand and dirt, or around on the super smooth surface of the tennis courts. We used to ride “off road”, weaving through the trees, jumping off of tree roots, and flying down the hillside. We had those big plastic speedometers and electronic turn signals on our bikes and we would play “CHiPs” while riding around the neighborhood.
“While I was in college I decided I wanted ride more than just around the block. So I saved up and bought my first “real” road bike. Later that year I had a lot of health issues, I lost a lot of weight and didn’t have the energy to ride. Once we determined what was causing my health issues, my bike became a treatment of sorts. I would ride every day, riding a bit farther everyday. Once again, it gave me that feeling of freedom, a feeling of health and well-being, and it helped me get my strength back.
“Since then I have been an avid cyclist. I started out doing 20 – 30 mile group rides and worked my way up to 200 mile rides (over two days).
“I heard about RBC GranFondo Whistler at the Seattle Bike Show and it sounded like a really great ride. I had driven to Whistler many times during the winter and loved the Sea to Sky Highway. What could be better than riding up it? I was a bit nervous about all of the elevation gain but I knew I had to try. It turns out, while it’s not an easy ride, it was a lot easier than I expected. It seems like that for every hill you climb up, there’s a downhill just waiting for you. Gravity always gives back what she takes away. My first year I had such a sense of accomplishment after crossing the finish line. Each year after that I feel just as good as I did that first time.
“The toughest year there was a head wind blowing for the entire ride. Every climb seemed to be much harder than I remembered it. I thought I must have been really out of shape, I was exhausted at the finish line. After the ride I was in Whistler Village going to get some much needed food and I heard another rider say “that was the toughest headwind I’ve ever had”. I instantly felt better – I could blame it on the wind!
“The past two years have been cool and rainy. Last year, my hands were so numb I could barely squeeze my brake levers. Most years though, the weather has been beautiful. The thing is, that no matter the weather it’s an incredible ride. Incredible views, fun downhills and lots of climbing!”
‘RBC GranFondo Whistler is my one promise and gift to myself every year.’
“It was my 59th. birthday. I was fat and sick and to say I was out of shape would be flattering. I hadn’t been in shape for 15 years
“It was time to do something. The attempt at push ups and sit ups was humiliating and dusting off the old bicycle in the garage made me short of breath.
“The long journey started. Riding the bike around the Stanley Park seawall with the tourists was a massive effort. Getting all the way around without stopping was my first milestone.
Weeks turned into months and I could now ride around the park, on the road, with real cyclists. The first time I rode the bike to the park instead of taking it in the car was a big day. Riding the hills in North Vancouver and making it to the top of Mount Seymour gave me back the self esteem that I had let slip away. I promised myself that when I had lost 50 pounds I would treat myself to a new bike.
It was a cold day in January when the scales read the magic number and the shiny new Tarmac SL2 was mine.
It was during the time I was researching bikes on line that I saw mention of the Whistler GranFondo scheduled for September.
Cycling from Vancouver to Whistler sounded impossible so I registered online and started the training plan that guaranteed anyone could do it if they put in the work. I followed the plan without exception till I broke my collar bone. After some adjustments to the plan I was confident I could finish.
“The morning of the ride was amazing. Standing on Georgia St. and having thousands of riders fill the road as far as you could see in front and behind was exciting, scary and satisfying to know I wasn’t the only one who thought this was a good idea.
“This was my first ride with other people, I did all my training by myself, so having thousands of others close by had its moments.
“I have four hours and fifty minutes of stories and memories of that first event and the one that means the most is that it gave me a wonderful feeling of accomplishment for taking on a challenge, staying focused and completing it.
“Each year since that first one I have told friends and family that I am doing it again next year. Thus assuring I will keep up the training and the nutrition to avoid the humiliation of not being able to do it.
“There were years of faster and slower times. Warmer and colder conditions. Greater and lessor conditioning.
“The two that stand out are 2014 when I had a bug. My chest was plugged, my head aching and I was more concerned with the location of Jiffy John’s than the finish line.I was short of breath riding from the parking lot to my corral. However, six and a half hours later I was very pleased to have not failed.
“2017 was going very well with training. I had discovered Zwift during the winter and fell in love with the indoor racing. I had never ridden so much and was in the best shape of my life.
“The first event I entered as a warm up for Whistler ended in a crash that left me with a major concussion and fifteen separate fractures. The entire right side of my body was broken. This looked like the year my streak would be broken as well.
“The human body really is amazing, my wife really is amazing and with a lot of work from all corners I was able to start and finish and keep bragging about never missing an RBC GranFondo Whistler.
“RBC GranFondo Whistler is my one promise and gift to myself every year. I hope to be lining up for another 10 years.
“Thanks for taking the time and acknowledging all of us who have been there every year.”
‘I was ecstatic about signing up.’
“My name is Claudio Pellichero. I am 60 years old and have been riding bikes for over 45 years. My first road bike was a 10 speed Peugeot. I got more serious about riding in the 90’s when the mountain bike era was taking off. For the last 20 years I’ve entered various cross country races such as the Test of Metal, Ore Crusher, Kettle Mettle, Spakwus, and others.
“I became more serious about road riding around the same time I started mountain bike racing. It seemed to go hand-in-hand for training purposes, and now I do far more road riding than mountain bike riding.
“I was ecstatic about signing up for the very first RBC GranFondo Whistler in 2010, and that was probably my favourite year due to a number of factors: the excellent weather, the rider participation, the amount of volunteers and spectators, and the novelty of the first ever Whistler Fondo.
“Just the love of road riding was the only motivation I needed to sign up every year, even though there was some questionable weather in the last 2-3 years. I don’t know about other riders, but the toughest year for me was 2017, probably because the weather was so cold and wet that I’m certain some people suffered from hypothermia that day.
“My friends are not surprised that I sign up year after year. They are very much aware of my passion for road riding. Considering this year is qualification year for the 2020 UCI Gran Fondo World Championships, I was hoping this year I would be able to qualify because I can usually end up finishing in the top 15% overall, and in my age group.
“I hope all participants of this year’s Whistler Fondo have a safe and fun ride. We’ll see you there!”
Desirae McGee, Vancouver BC
Desirae McGee went on a night out with friends – and had no idea it would change her life.
“As a kid I never knew there was more to riding a bike other than learning to ride without training wheels. 10 years ago a friend of mine surprisingly showed up to a dinner with a broken foot. She had a stress fracture from training for a local triathlon. As the night went on and more and more adult beverages were consumed, I agreed to take her place in the triathlon, being held the following weekend. Who knew there was a difference between a mountain bike and a road bike, or that I would have to wear tight fitting spandex and tap-dancing-like shoes! The very next morning she showed up with her road bike and those funny shoes, and said I had to practice “clipping in “?!
“Ignorance was bliss. 5 days later I showed up at the park just outside of Indianapolis where I was living at the time for my first big-little race. As I watched everyone around me, who to me at that moment in time all looked like professionals, I started to panic; I do not belong here. The race announcer called for everyone’s attention and the first thing he said was, “who here is doing this for the first time?” Hesitant to put up my hand, I noticed I was not the only one. As more and more people put up their hands the crowd started to cheer. I decided not to pack up my things and give it a go.
“With a background in swimming, I knew I would not drown – and anyone can ride a bike, right?! I survived the swim and was the only one who took 5 minutes to get my fancy new shoes on before starting out on my first road bike ride. The family, friends and local community support out on the side of the road course was something I had never experienced before. Although they were likely cheering for their own family and friends, in my mind they were cheering for me. And every single rider who passed me, which was almost everyone in that race, said something encouraging as they flew by me like I was standing still. I had the time of my life. I left that event, went straight to the bike store and bought my first road bike. Apparently riding bikes as an adult is a thing.
“During a ski trip to Whistler that following winter, I saw an ad for the first ever RBC GranFondo Whistler . Ride your bike from Vancouver to Whistler, on the most scenic highway I have ever been on in my life, closed to traffic…..I was in! I convinced a few of my local Vancouver friends they should sign up and in September 2010 I flew from Indianapolis to Vancouver to spend the day riding bikes with my friends from Vancouver to Whistler. Suddenly, another ignorance is bliss moment: riding 122km up a mountain was not the same as riding 122km in the cornfields of Indiana! The new goal? Finish before they take down the finish line. That goal was achieved and that overwhelming feeling of accomplishment when crossing the finish line every year since 2010 has never dimmed.
“Now here we are 10 years later, I have since moved to the most picturesque city in Canada, and have ridden my bike every year with my friends from Vancouver to Whistler in September. Our group of 6 in 2010 has grown to 37, from all over North America. My most beloved friendships are those I have gained through the common love of riding bikes. Vacations are now always with these same friends, exploring the world on bikes and this ride from Vancouver to Whistler started it all.
“My advice to anyone considering taking up cycling either to challenge yourself to ride in the RBC GranFondo Whistler or simply for the physical and mental health benefits of cycling is to grab your friends, get outside, and ride bikes like we did when we were kids.”
‘My goal is to ride it every year until I’m 90.’
“I started riding the Fondo with a several others from work. It gave me a great motivator to stay fit… and still does. My goal is to ride it every year until I’m 90. (My wife’s comment to that: “Why stop there?”)
“Attached is a picture of my wife and I after completing the ride in 2013. For me it was probably the most memorable year.
“It started off by the 2 of us missing the start time. We crossed the start line just as they were “rolling” it up. The police actually stopped traffic for us along Georgia, we passed the end-of race car and sag-wagon on the Lion’s Gate bridge, and got a great trumpet blast from the band at the bottom of Taylor Way as they were all leaving.
“Then we had the privilege of being the only people on the Upper Level’s highway. That was something I will always remember. We finally saw our first cyclists at the first rest area above Horseshoe Bay. Why were we so late? Well the weather was a little iffy, so Margaret asked me to carry various layers for her. This meant changing my bike over from the road bike to my touring bike and adding a panier. I didn’t have my best “time” as the 2 of us stopped at every rest area and, but did have my best time.
Happy riding! And thanks for all the great memories.”
‘Carb loading? I eat like that every day…’
“Before I start with any of this I should mentioned my wonderful and supportive wife who has been at the finish line at the same spot every single year. The Fondo weekend is on or near our wedding anniversary (Sept 10, 1994) so for the past 9 years, she’s helped me recover from a grueling day exhausted and not in the mood to do much after the ride. This year is our 25th and she’ll be there again, no matter how I do. She rocks!!!
“As you may have figured out by my name that I come from an Italian family. I’m Canadian born but apparently my first language was Italian. Although, I have grown up in Vancouver, it’s been a very, very Italian upbringing, including watching the Giro d’Italia with my father. All of which is only relevant because I love everything Italian. Of course I ride a bike and have for a very long time, but I also play soccer and bocci ball, and I love carbs…all carbs. I remember reading one of our sponsors, Spud (I say “our” as I feel like I’m part of the the RBC GranFondo Whistler), talking about carb loading before the big day and I said to my wife, “but I eat like that every day”.
“Anyway, I have ridden a bike my entire life. As a kid, my friends and I were on our bikes all the time. Later as an older teenager and young adult, I started riding a road bike. Rewind back to the 80s and 90s in Vancouver and I can tell you I was one of the few guys riding a road bike with tight bike shorts and an Italian jersey. People would look at me like I was a freak.
“Fast forward to about 10 years ago, I was invited to ride the first RBC GranFondo Whistler (as a client of RBC) Alta Classe. Up to this point, I really hadn’t ridden very long rides and certainly very few big hills so I was nervous, very nervous. I started riding with some friends and we all agreed that we would ride the Fondo; not for the time, but just to see if we’d survive. The first year of training is what got me hooked. I didn’t realize how great it was to spend hours with friends riding, sometime hard, mostly not, having a coffee some place, and most importantly, the social aspect of this sport.
Our first Fondo was awesome. We ate and drank at every stop – including wine! – and stayed together the entire ride. Speed was not the issue.
“It was that feeling of crossing the finish line that made me sign up for the next Fondo. During the first few years, my friends who were good athletes and in great shape but were not “bike riders”, started dropping off and I started trained on my own. One of those years I conquered my first Forte (my first and last). I had never trained this hard and I was very happy with my results; however, I mostly did it on my own and almost didn’t sign up the following year. As much as it’s a great physical experience, the social aspect is what is vitally important to me.
“After that year, I rekindled a relationship of an old family friend who was a bike rider (and had cycling friends) and that’s when I got serious. I still enjoyed the spirit of friendship and community, but now riding with those who were clearly better then me inspired me to increase my commitment and spend more time on my bike. In fact, my time has improved almost ever year. After year 8, the group I was riding with started talking about breaking the 4 hour mark. At this point, my best time was about 4:20, so this was a real challenge and although I was not at all confident, I committed to try and stay with the group. I was so thrilled to actually make sub-4 hours last year. Not by much, but I did it in 3:58:26 (which is now my facebook photo).
“As a side note, I’m not sure how many guys do this, but I do act like a winner when I cross the finish line. I’m just so happy to have completed the ride and it always makes the crowd laugh, so what the hell. I’m the guy who is nowhere near the winners, but still celebrates like a winner. It doesn’t matter what time I have, I cross the line with my arms in the air and blowing kisses to the crowd like I just won the Tour de France. (I’m very safe by the way as I let riders around me go ahead so I have space to myself).
“I’m certainly most proud of the year 9 finish, when it was not great weather, and I was able to achieve my objective.”
‘My leg muscles would start to spasm around Squamish…’
“My wife and I were runners when we met in 1984. I had a mountain bike. We bought one for her. We took them to the Alsace for a touring honeymoon in 1987, rode them up to Mont Sainte-Odile Abbey (760m). Roadside workers applauded as we went by because mountain bikes were not well known in Europe.
“We decided touring was our thing so we got touring bikes. Took them to the Grand Canyon, as well as some trips closer to home. Eventually we decided road bikes were better for us because we were finished with panniers.
“We started riding the Ride to Conquer Cancer in 2009, and I started the Whistler GranFondo in 2010.
“I can ride to Squamish and back on my own, and do so. This GranFondo gives me good support from Squamish to Whistler, with (very important) traffic control and a dedicated lane all the way.
“I ride it every year because doing so is a privilege. Last year particularly, I was struck by the fact that I could ride my bike to Whistler that day, if I felt like it. And I am a creature of habit.
“My advice to people thinking about getting into cycling is: learn and grow into it, no one else has all the answers, find your own, respect the privilege and the freedom, be sensible, do the training. Don’t act like a racer unless you are one.
“My most memorable year was 2017. Prepared to ride down to the Seabus, and along to the Start, I locked myself out of the garage without helmet or gloves. My wife was already in Squamish. My neighbour with a key was not home. Eventually he came home, I got my needed items, and considered just riding out the Upper Levels to join the course. I knew that would not be the full course and, perhaps to punish myself, I did the Seabus to the Start. I got there about 7:45 and they were already tearing it down. Someone saw my number and gave me a 7:00 start time. I was in last place. Without that kindness, I would not have had an official time.
“My toughest years were back when my leg muscles would start to spasm around Squamish. I like to figure things out and I can now get really close to the Finish, or even beyond, before they hit. Managing my pace has always been a challenge. In the first year 2010, I was riding my steel touring bike but thought I was fit. There were two young women riding together and chatting like they were in Starbucks. I could not drop them, and they eventually dropped me. As Bob Roll said the year that he did it, this is a serious ride. If you finish, you should be proud.
“My goal for this year is to set a personal best. I have always felt I could do it half an hour faster if I managed my pace, nutrition and rest stops. This summer, I am training to do that. Sounds like many cyclists, right?
“My friends think it is great that I have done them all. Many think it is a bit odd, since I am neither fast nor getting faster. But my friend who has done every GFNY understands. It is the only big, organized ride he does and he is ready again for this year.”
Paul Steiner, Delta BC
‘The interface between my butt and saddle has always been a sore point…’
“I am Paul Steiner, a member of the Floppy Cranks Cycling Team and, along with two other Floppy Cranks, will be participating in my tenth consecutive RBC GranFondo Whistler in 2019. We’re all around 70 years old and have been riding together for about 20 years. Every year the Fondo is both a challenge and an adventure. The challenge is to finish and be safe. The adventure comes from unexpected events that can result in a DNF and/or injury. I start out with a plan which I modify during the ride as circumstances dictate.
“In pouring cold rain last year, I was going to stop once at the 88 km. Salt Shed for refreshments. Three kilometers before the 73 km. Alice Lake stop, my rear derailleur cable snapped after slipping in and out of gears since the 51 km. Britannia Beach stop. With no tension left in the cable my chain automatically shifted to the smallest cog sending my cadence from a comfortable 75 rpm to an impossible 15 rpm. Standing on the pedals to keep the bike moving forward up a gradual incline, I soon realized I wouldn’t be able to do this all the way to the next stop.
“‘Are you OK?’ is a very common question in cycling and it is usually answered by “I’m fine, thanks”. That’s what I said when I was asked after I recognized the finality of the situation. I was going to have to walk three kilometers to the service stop and hope they could fix it. To my surprise a very generous, seasoned rider stopped to offer assistance. Luckily he had a spare cable that fitted the exact model of my derailleur, which he gave me, along with a mighty ‘Tour de France’ style running push to get me going fast enough to get clipped in. Charged with the warmth of a fellow competitor’s kindness and encouragement, I stood on the pedals to the service stop. Not only did the mechanic fit my ‘new’ cable, but, he adjusted the rear derailleur and it has never worked so well. Filled with elation, and recharged after a 30 minute break, I rode on to the finish very thankful for this experience.
“The interface between my butt and saddle has always been a sore point! On our first Floppy Cranks long-distance, over-night event, it was the first time our wives had joined us and we were all staying in a lone RV parked in a farmer’s field. Not feeling comfortable to apply butt cream in such close proximity to virtual strangers, I ventured outside to the damp early dim of dawn. The RV was parked next to a very rustic, dark brown barn with its sagging door invitingly ajar. The silence inside the pitch-black cavern was deafening and, as I carefully applied the cream, my eyes gradually adjusted to the gloomy interior. A strange sense of ‘not being alone’ came over me. I slowly turned around to see what looked like hundreds of tiny white eyes blinking in time to a very gentle rhythm of whispered clucking!
“Gravity’s clutches force me to ride on the right as most riders pass me going uphill. I push hard over the top of a hill to take full advantage of gravity’s pull. To my fellow riders, please leave a lane open on your left, no matter how fast you may think you’re going, because there’s always someone faster than you. Have a safe and adventurous ride!”
Free casual tee for every rider
We’re delighted to confirm that every rider will be receiving this soft-spun casual tee in their swag bag this year.
New for 2019, we’ll be giving every rider a gratitude badge specifically for one purpose: to gift to volunteers.
Each year, over 600 volunteers allow the event to happen and support more than 4000 cyclists achieve their goals along the Sea to Sky highway. Without them, RBC GranFondo Whistler simply couldn’t happen.
If a volunteer makes your day or even makes you smile, give them your gratitude badge to show how much your value their efforts.
Badges will be given out at package pickup.
Official poster design contest
We’re running a contest for the cycling community to design the the official RBC GranFondo Whistler 2019 poster. We’ll choose our favourite submission – and it could be you!
All you have to do is send your poster design before August 15th.
Simply follow these instructions:
-Dimensions: 17.5′ x 24′ (300 ppi)
-Submit before August 15th to [email protected]
-Make sure you own the rights of the picture, sketch or design.
-Include the 10th anniversary crest and/or RBC GranFondo Whistler logo.
– Submit your design as a PDF file
Vector download here: