From the rider’s perspective, the portion of the GranFondo Whistler road cycling ride/race that blazed its way through Squamish on Saturday (Sept. 8) for the third time was a breeze — uncomplicated and dotted with crowds of cheering onlookers.
This writer — one of approximately 180 Squamoleans among the more than 6,000 who made either the 122-kilometre Vancouver-Whistler trek or the 55 km Squamish-Whistler jaunt — appreciates the support, not to mention the patience of locals who had to change their Saturday morning plans or remain holed up in their neighbourhoods because of the two-plus-hour closure of east-west highway crossings.
Yes, it’s not fun having your life disrupted for an event that’s equal parts a celebration of healthy lifestyles and a profit-making enterprise. It’s tempting, of course, to compare the GranFondo to other events of similar size and scope — the Test of Metal or the B.C. Bike Race, for example. While those other two events result in minor inconveniences to a few, there’s little doubt that because it uses our town’s main transportation artery, and not merely recreational trails, as its race course, the impact of the GranFondo is far more significant.
And let’s face it: Some of the disgruntlement with the Fondo, especially in its first two years, was a result of Squamites’ historic disdain for everything Whistler. Gritty logging-town-in-transition that we are, we’ve always shaken our heads in mock disgust at our upstart, hipster, party-hardy neighbours to the north — and it matters little that most of us either work or regularly enjoy recreating there.
Having to endure a bit of hardship while we nibble on a few crumbs of economic benefit (um, $650,000 worth of them annually) while Vancouver and Whistler consume the main course is just part of what it means to be Squamish.
But really, folks: It’s only a couple of hours. Life goes on, even for those “trapped” in Valleycliffe or Garibaldi Highlands. Grumble if you will, but really, all British Columbians paid for the recent upgrades to Highway 99, and it belongs to all of us. Being a gem of a growing town embedded smack-dab between Canada’s most beautiful city and its top four-season resort, we’re bound to be visited by an event such as the Fondo every so often. And that’s not such a horrific predicament to find oneself in, is it?
— David Burke