It was truly indeed a grand Gran Fondo
It’s one of the fastest growing recreational sports phenomenons in the world and now Cranbrook is part of the craze. I’m referring, of course, to the first Kootenay Rockies Gran Fondo Sept. 8, which exceeded all expectations with 271 registered entrants and putting Cranbrook, Kimberley and the entire East Kootenay on the international Gran Fondo map.
And that’s no small accomplishment for a first time effort in a part of the world far off the international fondo track.
“We we’re looking for a fundraiser that would be a community event, not just for Cranbrook, but the entire East Kootenay region and would highlight the people of the region, support business and provide funding for the North Star Trails and other Rotary charitable ventures,” says Cranbrook Sunrise Rotary member Glen Dobie who along with fellow Sunrise Rotary member Frank Vanden Broek were the main organizers behind the event.
But Dobie was quick to praise the efforts of the “F Force,” the more than 100 volunteers who set up the three courses – Piccolo, Medio and Gran – and also manned the numerous check points and ensured the fondos were what they were meant to be, “a party on wheels.” Adds Dobie; “I think it was an extremely positive cycling event, but just as importantly, it had a real festive atmosphere and that’s what we were aiming for.”
Dobie also had special praise for Western Financial Place, the event’s major sponsor which assisted from the start and provided the incredible swag bags filled with goodies that won praise from many of the participants who came from as far away as Calgary, Kelowna and Colville, Washington.
At the end of the event, weary cyclists chowed down on salads, roast beef , pasta, pizza, incredible desserts and beverages provided by the St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino and were entertained by The Testers and the Good ‘ol Goats, Cranbrook’s renowned, award-winning band. And for those aching muscles, you could even get a therapeutic massage at the end of the race from two massage therapists that did a land office business.
In putting on the event, the Cranbrook Sunrise Rotary Club was joined by the Cranbrook Noon Rotary Club, the Rotary Club of Kimberley, the Mark Creek Lions Club and the Lions Club of Wasa.
What also helped make the event such a great success was the Roving Mechanics, a team of volunteer bike mechanics and technicians provided by Gerick Sports, Funhogz Gear Exchange and Kootenay Cycle Works, who circulated around all three courses with savvy expertise that kept cyclists upright on their machines and pedaling like crazy to the finish.
And speaking of the “finish,” Cranbrook cyclists did extremely well on all three courses with my former colleague at the Cranbrook Townsman, Tim Fix, coming in sixth in the 150 km Gran Fondo with a time of four hours, seven minutes and 46 seconds, just 12 minutes behind Dallas Cain of Rossland who finished in an amazing three hrs, 55 minutes and 46 seconds.
In the 100 km Medio Fondo, Michael Murphy of Cranbrook finished first with a time of two hrs, 49 minutes and 25 seconds and in the 50 km Piccolo, Stephanie Spencer of Cranbrook finished second at two hrs, one minute and 32 seconds, less than four minutes behind the leader.
And yes, yours truly competed as well if “competed” is the right word. I finished a dismal 47th in the Piccolo, and I won’t even tell you my time, but hey, I finished and I believe I beat every other politician and retired journalist in the race. And I didn’t take drugs like a certain former multi-time Tour de France winner. Mind you, I had in mind what it said in big bold letters at the top of the registration form – This Is Not A Race! It’s a “party on wheels,” as they say, and “fun” is the operative word. It also brought hundreds of tourists to the area for the weekend and they spent thousands of dollars.
And race organizer Dobie gets the final word. “From the comments I heard, yes, we’ll do it again and I bet we’ll get more than 500 next year.” So mark it now on your calendar, the first weekend after Labour Day 2014, which happens to be the weekend of September 6.
See you there.
– Gerry Warner is a retired journalist and Cranbrook City Councillor. His opinions are his own.