Breakneck race pedals into Burnaby

Various riders off the starting line at Giro di Burnaby 2014 | Photo by Chris Relke

Various riders off the starting line at Giro di Burnaby 2014 | Photo by Chris Relke

As the FIFA Women’s World Cup comes to an end, Burnaby locals can look forward to another world-class sporting event right in their own backyard as pro cyclists take to the city streets July 16 for this year’s Giro di Burnaby.

The proliferation of cycling clubs, races, tours and other biking events now includes everything from the B.C. Bike Race, a seven-day single-track mountain ride from Victoria to Whistler, to the fast-paced B.C. SuperWeek, a multi-event road race through neighbourhood streets.

Giro di Burnaby

We’re told that our event is one of the fastest and most challenging,” says co-organizer Greg Dion about the Giro di Burnaby, meaning “tour of Burnaby” in Italian, one of the SuperWeek races.

Riders reach up to 60 km/hour on the enclosed 1.3 km course along Hastings Street by staying behind other riders to take advantage of the group leader’s draft, like Nascar racers.

The Giro is a ‘criterium’ racing event and takes place on Thursday, July 16th with Burnaby Mayor, Derek Corrigan, set to fire the starter pistol for the men’s race.

The winner is the first to complete 45 laps, but team strategies differ markedly. Faced with the prospect of a ‘prime’ lap, some riders go all out for cash prizes while others pace themselves for a strong finish.

Now in its eighth running, the Giro attracts professional riders from across Europe and North America. The Colombian national team featured in last year’s race.

“What some people don’t realize is that we’ve got some of the top professional cyclists from around the world racing in our own back yard- on the level with the Tour de France,” says Dion.

Besides the main spectacle, there are plenty of other activities for the community and avid cyclists alike. There is the Girolino Kids Zone, which kicks off at 3p.m. on race day, and introduces youngsters to cycling safety and skills. At 5:30 p.m. is the youth race, the Giro Breve, Italian for short or brief, followed by the women’s pro event at 6 p.m.. All are opportunities for young riders to meet and greet world-class athletes right in the comfort of their own backyards.

Giro heroes

Laura Van Gilder waves to the crowd after her 3rd place podium finish

Laura Van Gilder waves to the crowd after her 3rd place podium finish

Rainy Kent, a runner and event organizer, has been with the Giro since its inception in 2006, even before it became part of the larger B.C. SuperWeek. Her expertise in event planning, with the help of the local Parks and Recreation department, brought the vision of Burnaby Councillor Pietro Calendino to life.

Calendino moved to Vancouver from Italy in 1959, studied languages at UBC and worked as a teacher for 30 years. He is strong believer in community involvement, and has volunteered for numerous multicultural and professional organizations. In 2002, he was elected to the Burnaby City Council and continues serving today through his post as a city councillor.

“Near and dear to [Rainy’s] heart” are the affectionately named Giro heroes, a team of 250 volunteers who raise over 8,500 feet of fencing around the course within minutes of closing Hastings Street to traffic at 4 p.m.

Appropriately, the logistics has become a race of its own as the volunteers race last year’s time to clean it all up again after the men’s podium presentation.

Encircling the action, roughly 5,000 spectators will be treated to the new Steamworks Brewing Company beer garden and the Giro Expo, exhibiting sponsor and local vendor products, ice cream shops, like the Glenburn Soda Fountain & Confectionary and local retail stores.

“To your left”

So what does the future of the Giro hold? The race organizers hope to bring more of the community out to watch – Dion hopes to see the attendance climb towards 10,000. The added visibility will attract sponsors, greater prize money and more international teams.

“For what can seem like a small community event on the streets of the Burnaby Heights, we’re always very proud to see participation by pro cycling teams from around the world,” Dion says.

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