Tonight, the streets of Gastown, Vancouver will be seized and transformed for just a few hours from a tourist and shopping attraction, to one of the most prestigious criteriums in North America: The Gastown Grand Prix, BC Superweek’s premier event. A race of rumour, legend and prestige.
Lance Armstrong won this race in 1991 (hmm), the same year that Alison Sydor, multi-time world champion and Canadian Olympian won the women’s race.
The past few years have seen repeat victors in the women’s and men’s elite fields, with Tibco’s Kendall Ryan taking the top step in ‘17 and ‘18, and Rally’s Eric Young winning the last three editions of the men’s race.
The electric energy will be felt in the buzzing crowds of over 20,000 spectators, whose cheers fuel racers as they fight for the top prize of $13,000. This is Canada’s richest criterium.
Fortunately, for those looking to compete for the top step, I won’t be lining up at the start to foil their plans. Instead, I’ll be happily slapping the boards as they ride by, contributing my fair share of decibels to the crowd’s roar. My victories at Gastown remain on the sidelines, such as sneaking myself, my sister and her boyfriend into the VIP tent (much to my team manager’s surprise when we bumped into each other at the bar), or sneaking my way into the Fluevog Shoes after party.
Simply having the privilege of starting at Gastown is enough for some riders, who line up with the goal of completing only a few laps without any intention of making it to the end. Other’s challenge themselves to finish, without any concern for a result, as finishing is an accomplishment in itself.
Criteriums are dangerous. That goes without saying. However, with the added motivation to push just a little more for that extra large purse and to match the energy of the crowd this particular event is known to be on the riskier side. Elbows and headbutts will land on many a rider today, and the cobblestones and hairpin corner add to the excitement.
With rain in the forecast for today, we hope to see it dissipate by the evening, as those cobbles are slick enough without any water!
Will this year’s edition crown new victors? To find out, and to try and spot me in the crowd (the dude with long curly hair screaming at Trek Red Truck’s riders), tune in to the live stream to catch the action.
The women race at 6:15 p.m. PDT for 40 laps, and the men begin their 50 lap race at 7:30 p.m. PDT! Enjoy, and best of luck to all the racers.