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The thrill of the hills and much more

Vancouver’s first GranFondo is finished.

Vancouver’s first GranFondo is finished.

And Metro’s cycling MAMIL (middle-aged man in Lycra) is pretty much done, too. Can’t sit down because of these saddle sores I got from spending six hours humping the 10,000 hills along the Sea to Sky Highway.

Can’t stand up because my back hurts from bending over a hot bicycle on the longest ride of my life, 120 kilometres from Burrard and Georgia to Blackcomb Way in beautiful downtown Whistler (?!).

So why am I feeling so smug?

Maybe it’s because Saturday’s inaugural RBC GranFondo-Whistler bike ride was the greatest thing since grilled panini. It was a chance for ordinary people to make like Lance Armstrong and experience the thrills associated with legendary cycle races like the Tour de France or The Giro d’Italia.

And there were plenty of thrills:

Riding across the Lion’s Gate Bridge in the morning sunlight with 4,000 cyclists and no cars.

Conquering Taylor Way — the earliest and probably steepest hill on the course — with ease thanks to an assist from our friend adrenalin.

Experiencing the knockout scenery of the Sea to Sky Highway as it’s meant to be experienced. With the wind in your face.

Staring up long hill climbs with grim determination, knowing that what goes up must come down, and racing down long slopes at 60 km/h, MAMIL heart beating a mad tattoo.

Sharing all of this with my fellow ordinary people, bankers and bus drivers, physiotherapists and postal workers. The actual race, the Giro, may have been fierce and competitive, but two hours further back, everyone was cheerful, polite and encouraging.

Not your usual ride to Whistler.

Organizers added some nice Italian-inspired touches, such as wine, pizza bread and pasta at the Bearfoot Bistro lunch stop in Squamish or the café stop in Britannia Beach, where you could order an espresso. My kind of race.

And along the route, all the flag persons were friendly and encouraging. That wasn’t just a thrill, it was a miracle!

But the greatest thrill — hands down — was the final ride down Blackcomb Way and over the finish line. Andrew Pinfold, who won the race in a ridiculously fast three hours 14 minutes and change, couldn’t have been happier.

Premier Gordon Campbell spent $600 million on the Sea to Sky Highway. He probably didn’t think about it at the time, but it’s the best bike track money can buy. Thanks, Gordon. I’ll get up and applaud.

When I can stand.

 
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