It is back.
After two years of being virtual, on Sept. 10, the RBC GranFondo Whistler returns to the Sea to Sky.
As locals know all too well, the “big ride” takes thousands of cyclists along a partially closed Highway 99 from Vancouver to Whistler.
This year, 7,000 registered cyclists are expected to zip through our town. According to organizers, this is a record attendance.
The total attendance, including riders, supporters and partners, is anticipated to be 14,000.
It is a race locals love to hate because of the royal pain (pun intended) in the backside it becomes trying to get around all morning.
Because the highway cuts through the heart of Squamish, we are essentially trapped in our neighbourhoods until it passes.
And it is traditionally held the same weekend as the Brackendale Fall Fair, dwarfing that homegrown event, causing traffic headaches and stealing volunteers from it.
Some folks likely don’t patronize local businesses to avoid traffic chaos because it is on.
How dare they shut down our highway for a morning, right?
Hold up. Are we being fair to this event, or are we projecting all our transportation angst on it unjustly?
Were it not going through Squamish, it would sound like a pretty cool event. It attracts worldwide participation, with 48 countries represented, organizers say.
It is a legacy of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, which includes recreational cyclists of all abilities.
So far, 248 riders from Squamish have signed up.
Miller Capilano is employed for traffic management again.
Other local businesses are involved as well.
“We make strong efforts to source our food from Squamish-based suppliers and local grocery stores,” spokesperson Oliver Cartmell told The Squamish Chief.
The GranFondo is also a relatively environmental gig.
It isn’t like — say — a bunch of fancy cars speeding up and down our highway.
Also, the GranFondo raised over $41,000 for Food Banks Canada, Feeding America and Cycling BC youth programs just with its virtual 2020 and 2021 events.
If we had efficient public transit and effective traffic management to the point we could travel the highway without stress the rest of the year, we would likely embrace this ride.
But often, the rest of the year, we sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic waiting to get where we are going or across the dang highway to the other side to get home, work or the store.
So maybe that is where the focus of our anger is better placed — on those in power who keep adding to our communities and inviting the world to visit, but who don’t provide the infrastructure to absorb them?
Even if this event disappeared, it wouldn’t take our traffic problems with it for the rest of the year. RBC will have a cheer station at the Garibaldi Highlands pedestrian overpass, where locals are invited to head to cheer on riders. See you there?