A summer full of racing on the local mountain biking scene seemed to prepare Garibaldi Highlands resident Chris Christie for the RBC GranFondo on Saturday (Sept. 7).
Christie was the top local finisher at the 122-kilometre road biking event, with a chip time of three hours, 29 minutes, seven seconds. The time placed him 14th in his 40 to 49 age group and 54th overall at the fourth annual event.
It's been a busy summer on two wheels for Christie, as he also placed 60th in June's Test of Metal, 18th at the Gearjammer in July and he competed at Crankworx in August.
Two other locals finished in the top 100, as Squamish's Nathan McKay completed the race with a chip time of 3:35:04 and finished 80th overall. The other top 100 local rider was Squamish's Stacy Spencer with a time of 3:38:22. Spencer was 99th overall and the fifth-fastest female at the event.
Other locals who finished in the top 500 included: Eric Goodwin (161st), Brandi Heisterman (ninth female, 191st overall), Mike Kleso (353rd), Rob Phoenix (359th) and Paul Sutton (436th).
Whistler cyclist Will Routley took the top spot after breaking away once the main pack of riders reached Squamish on the Sea to Sky Highway.
Routley was the first of nearly 4,000 participants to reach the finish line in his hometown, completing the ride from Downtown Vancouver in three hours, 21 minutes, 11 seconds, holding off former teammate Cameron Evans for the victory.
“It's nice to get a chance to do an event like this at home,” said Routley, who has spent the season riding for Belgian pro team Accent Jobs Wanty. “I've spent maybe five weeks in Canada this whole year, so to finally get to come home and ride my bike with a bunch of old friends was pretty neat.”
Riders were greeted by a dark, rainy morning at the start line Saturday morning, but the sun broke through the clouds just as Routley arrived to a big group of fans lining the finish area on Blackcomb Way.
Routley, who was competing in his first GranFondo Whistler, has spent plenty of time riding up and down Highway 99 in his day. But never quite like this.
“There was a massive group until Squamish — probably still about 1,000 people,” said the 30-year-old. “But from then onward it was all climbing… so very quickly I put my head down and kind of travelled to Whistler.”
Evans, who used to race with Routley years ago on the Canadian-based Symmetrics UCI Pro Continental team, came in 11 seconds behind his old teammate. The two were well ahead of third-place finisher Nigel Kinney (3:23:42), who beat out another former Symmetrics rider, Canadian mountain bike Olympian Geoff Kabush, for the last podium spot.
Leah Guloien was the top female finisher for the second year in a row and the third time in the four-year history of the event. She hit the finish in 30th spot overall, arriving with the first big pack of riders to cross the line at 3:24:20.
“It always feels good to win,” said Guloien, who rides with the U.S.-based Team Colavita, and was again part of this year's Team Whistler crew. “I was a little nervous at the beginning with the weather conditions not really being optimal. There were some crashes and that always makes me a little bit hesitant on the bike to be aggressive and confident with my riding, so I'm happy I made it to the end.”
Morgan Cabot (3:35:36) was the women's runner-up Saturday, while third place went to Team Whistler rider Jenny Lehmann (3:37:47).
Routley said he felt a small amount of pressure to take the win Saturday given that it's his hometown race.
“It's funny, people were asking me if I've ever done the whole thing, and I'll often do a training ride by riding to Vancouver and then turning back. So today was, in some respects, kind of short,” he said with a grin. “But I really like riding along Howe Sound. It's gorgeous. I think I've raced my bike in over 25 countries now and that's still some of the best views for riding you can ever have.”
For more information and complete results from the event, visit www.rbcgranfondowhistler.com.
— With files from Eric MacKenzie, Whistler Question