Local pro cyclist Will Routley took top spot in Saturday’s (Sept. 7) RBC GranFondo Whistler, breaking away once the main pack of riders reached Squamish on the Sea to Sky Highway.
Routley was the first of nearly 4,000 participants to reach the finish line in his hometown, completing the 122-kilometre ride from Downtown Vancouver in three hours, 21 minutes, 11 seconds, holding off former teammate Cameron Evans for the victory.
“It’s nice to get a chance to do an event like this at home,” said Routley, who has spent the season riding for Belgian pro team Accent Jobs Wanty. “I’ve spent maybe five weeks in Canada this whole year, so to finally get to come home and ride my bike with a bunch of old friends was pretty neat.”
Riders were greeted by a dark and rainy morning at the start line Saturday morning, but the sun broke through the clouds just as Routley arrived to a big group of fans lining the finish area on Blackcomb Way.
Routley, who was competing in his first RBC GranFondo Whistler, has spent plenty of time riding up and down Highway 99 in his day. But never quite like this.
“There was a massive group until Squamish — probably still about 1,000 people,” said the 30-year-old. “But from then onward it was all climbing … so very quickly I put my head down and kind of travelled to Whistler.”
Evans, who used to race with Routley years ago on the Canadian-based Symmetrics UCI Pro Continental team, came in 11 seconds behind his old teammate. The two were well ahead of third-place finisher Nigel Kinney (3:23:42), who beat out another former Symmetrics rider, Canadian mountain bike Olympian Geoff Kabush, for the last podium spot.
“I knew (Routley) was kind of the guy to watch since it’s his hometown race,” said Evans. “I picked the right wheel and was lucky enough that he was nice enough to wait for me on the climbs, or back it off a bit so I could make it with him, otherwise I think he probably could have dropped me if he wanted to.”
Leah Guloien, was the top female finisher for the second year in a row and the third time in the four-year history of the event. She hit the finish in 30th spot overall, arriving with the first big pack of riders to cross the line at 3:24:20.
“It always feels good to win,” said Guloien, who rides with the U.S.-based Team Colavita, and was once again part of this year’s Team Whistler crew. “I was a little nervous at the beginning with the weather conditions not really being optimal. There were some crashes and that always make me a little bit hesitant on the bike to be aggressive and confident with my riding, so I’m happy I made it to the end.”
Morgan Cabot (3:35:36) was the women’s runner-up Saturday, while third place went to Team Whistler rider Jenny Lehmann (3:37:47).
Both Routley and Guloien will take home a watch and $500 gift certificate from Keir Fine Jewelry in Whistler for their triumphs.
Routley said he felt a small amount of pressure to take the win Saturday given that it’s his hometown race.
“It’s funny, people were asking me if I’ve ever done the whole thing, and I’ll often do a training ride by riding to Vancouver and then turning back. So today was, in some respects, kind of short,” he said with a grin. “But I really like riding along Howe Sound. It’s gorgeous. I think I’ve raced my bike in over 25 countries now and that’s still some of the best view for riding you can ever have.”
Several other local riders had impressive finishes on Saturday, including Team Whistler members Trevor Hopkins and Michael Boehm. They crossed the line together in 15th and 16th place overall, respectively, with a time of 3:24:17. Whistler cyclist Justin Homewood came through in the same pack to place 22nd, while Greg McDonnell (63rd) and Joshua Stott (71st) also placed in the top 100 overall.
Several other Whistler riders made it to the finish in less than four hours, including Tony Routley, Dave Johnston, John Legg, Tom Laviolette, David Higgins, Jason Shorter, Bob Barnett, Mike Rogerson, Kelly Blunden and David McPeake. Pemberton’s John Davies also broke the four-hour barrier on Saturday.
Amanda Mourant was the first local female rider to cross the line, finishing in 4:24:17. Fellow Whistler riders Cindy Bonnell, Ondrea Ross and Elizabeth Rogerson, plus Pemberton’s Gwendolyn Kennedy, completed the event in under five hours as well.