Cycling Fever hits Vancouver ahead of Tour

Cycling enthusiasts on the Lion’s Gate bridge.
Cycling enthusiasts on the Lion’s Gate bridge. – Photo by Itza Findday, Flickr

As you gaze down Vancouver’s streets and bridges, it seems that each year there are more bicycles on the road then the previous year.

The city is trying to lure reluctant cycling commuters out of their cars by constructing dedicated bike lanes.

The number of weekend family cycling expeditions is slowly increasing as one can safely ride along cycling trails to adjacent cities with infrequent connections to the roadways.

Another group of riders appears to be increasing in even greater numbers. Racing cyclists are seen throughout the city, usually cycling at a fast pace, often times in single file or two by two and wearing their brightly coloured cycling clothes.

One reason for the increased popularity is that cycle racing in Europe such as the Tour de France, has its cycling ambassadors, including new Canadians who are bringing the sport to our city. Newspapers, magazines and television coverage of the 98th race spread the news of this 3 week race which encompasses 22 teams with riders from 32 countries.

The energy and excitement of this type of racing is also evident by the spectators who watch the Tour de Gas Town in Vancouver along with the Tour de White Rock.

And for the rest of us who don’t plan on being a professional rider but would like to be involved in a fun race – similar to runners who enjoy the Vancouver Sun Run – there are options.

Again from Europe, another race called the GranFondo has invaded our part of the world and involves 1,000s of amateur racers ranging from teenagers to 80-year olds. GranFondo means ‘big ride’ and covers distances over 100 km in scenic areas such as in the mountains, valleys and lakes. Although some riders are in it for the competition, most riders just want to challenge themselves and have fun with their friends and family.

Last year was Vancouver’s first introduction to the GranFondo which started in Vancouver and ended in Whistler (120 km). This year two more races have emerged in B.C.: in the Okanagan, Penticton (160 km) and Kelowna (140 km).

If you’re not up to pedaling that long distance, each race has a ‘Medio’ designation in which you only have to race one half of the total distance. If you’re tired, need more water, a snack or repairs to your bike, support is there to help you during the entire race.

Training for a GranFondo is relatively easy as numerous bike shops in Vancouver have ‘after-hours’ rides. Meeting at a bike shop in the early evening, you join other cyclists and ride on routes that vary with distance, altitude and speed. It’s easier and more fun to train with others and you meet new friends and cycling ambassadors at the same time. See you among the group of riders.

The 98th Tour de France takes place from Saturday July 2nd to Sunday July 24th. The Vancouver to Whistler GranFondo takes place on Saturday, September 10th