Otto Kamstra: Team Whistler's road race guru

Veteran rider looking for another great GranFondo finish

(Editor's note: This is the first in a series of profiles on Team Whistler riders who will be participating in this year's GrandFondo Whistler, which takes place on Sept. 10. The Question, which is sponsoring Team Whistler in the event, will feature a different cyclist each week leading up to race day. Profile subjects will also share their favourite training rides and a GranFondo race tip.)

He'd pick a road bike over a mountain bike any day of the week and perhaps that makes Otto Kamstra a rare breed in the Sea to Sky corridor.

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But it also makes the local resident one of Team Whistler's road experts, meaning he's able to provide some of the squad's greener riders plenty of experience to draw from as they all prepare for the second edition of the GranFondo Whistler.

"I've been riding for almost forever," laughed the 51-year-old Kamstra. "I grew up with some old Europeans (teaching) me, I did some road racing and just loved it. I never got into it too heavy so I never burned out on it and I've always dabbled in it a little bit just for the enjoyment.

"Some of us guys that ride together, you talk to them about some of the more subtle things," he continued. "We have road rides every Tuesday night and you slowly help people. Guys come up and ask for some advice."

Tony Routley, another one of Team Whistler's more experienced riders, said Kamstra's influence on the rest of the team has been great.

"He's the one who's spearheaded those Tuesday night rides," said Routley. "He's the one out there talking to people, training the people, giving them road advice. That's not necessarily just to racers but also to recreational riders coming out and that's a really big contribution he makes to the team."

Since Kamstra devotes his time to pedaling the pavement, it comes as no surprise that he's thrilled to see how successfully the GranFondo has been received in the province, as the race from Vancouver north up Highway 99 is already one of B.C.'s premier road cycling events.

"You saw last year 4,000 people and that was pretty phenomenal," he said. "It's really driven the renewal of road cycling and made people more aware of the joy of riding. Just this last Saturday, I've never seen so many roadies out on the highway as I did."

While the GranFondo is a timed event with a pack of top riders that will be vying for the quickest time up front, Kamstra said he hopes many entrants take the opportunity to enjoy the ride on Sept. 10 like it was any other Saturday.

"That's one of the most beautiful highways along here," he said. "I do it about eight or 10 times a year all the way and it's such a fantastic ride without a time on it.

"If you want to go for the time, go for the time, but if you don't want to feel like you have that pressure, just enjoy the ride and atmosphere."

Kamstra himself intends to record another impressive time this year after his great showing in 2010. At three hours, 33 minutes and 14 seconds, he was the first 50-plus competitor across the line in the Giro Division for elite riders.

"It's not necessarily about your time because there are tactics that come into play," said Kamstra, 70th overall in the Giro last year. "But sure, it would be nice to get a better result and a better time."

Favourite training ride: "It's over in Europe," laughed Kamstra. "I try to mix it up. The more variety you can do, the better.

"If there's one local ride I like better than all, (going to) Whistler Olympic Park is really good. The pavement's in good shape and there's not much traffic. If I had a two-hour window, that's the direction I would head."

Race Tip: "Try to stay out of the wind. Stay in the draft of riders in front of you and measure your efforts. It's not how hard you go in the first nine-tenths of the race. Once you get to Function Junction, that's where you want to have a lot of energy left."

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