February 8/10 13:04 pm - Tour de Gastown in Jeopardy
Posted by Editoress on 02/8/10
With the Winter Games right around the corner, organizers are working frantically to restore another big Vancouver sporting event with a long Olympic tradition.
The Tour de Gastown, an internationally regarded cycling race with a history that includes Lance Armstrong and a long list of Canadian Summer Olympians, was cancelled last summer due to a sponsorship shortfall. Now cycling stakeholders, including organizers of the BC Superweek races that also include the Tour of Delta and Tour de White Rock, are working together with Gastown's Business Improvement Society to bring back a race that attracted 30,000 spectators.
"The Gastown race is an important part of BC Superweek and has a strong history in the sport dating back over 30 years," says Mark Ernsting, a former national team cyclist now working as the events liaison with BC Superweek. "Many of the world's top cyclists, including Lance Armstrong, have won this race, and almost every top Canadian cyclist has at one point raced in it. The energy that this event creates among the spectators is electrifying."
In addition to the return of the Tour de Gastown, which was also formerly known as the Gastown Grand Prix, the organizers of BC Superweek are also working to expand their series with the addition of an event in North Vancouver, and bring back the Giro di Burnaby after a one-year absence from the racing calendar. But with the Winter Olympics set to take over Vancouver, the March 31st deadline to save an event with so much Summer Games history is much closer than it appears.
"The goal is to bring back the Gastown race for 2010 and continue a long tradition of hosting one of North America's renowned Professional Cycling events," adds Ernsting. "There is also an effort being made to begin a new event for 2010 to Lower Lonsdale, and both events will be part of the current BC Superweek structure that includes Tour de Delta and Tour de White Rock. These events are an incredible platform for corporations to market their brand as events such as the Tour de Gastown historically attracts over 25-30,000 spectators."
It's all part of a July week of racing that continues to attract some of the top pro riders and teams on the North America circuit, a popular series that has also provided inspiration and a jumping off point for local riders that have gone on to represent Canada at the Summer Olympics. The list includes past Olympians like Brian Walton, Alison Sydor, Eric Wohlberg, Gord Fraser, Alex Wrubelski, Gina Grain, Warren Sallenbach, Roland Green and Alex Stieda, as well as more recent Olympic competitors like Zach Bell and Svein Tuft, who was seventh at the Time Trial race at the 2008 Games in Beijing and now races in Europe.
"These are the most important races in Canada for amateur guys coming up, for sure," said Bell, who followed up Tour de Delta wins with silver on the track at World Cup and World Championships after the Beijing Games. "It's the best exposure you can get to some of the best pros in North America. For me BC Superweek was the benchmark for what I needed to do to get to a pro level."
Sydor, who won Olympic mountain biking silver in 1996 and was 4th in 2004, concurs.
"I last rode the Tour de White Rock in 2004 as my final race before heading off to my last training camp before the Athens Olympics," Sydor wrote in an e-mail from Europe. "It's an event all the riders value no matter what their level. For the public its always the best opportunity to see the current Olympic level athletes meet with those aspiring to get to that level. And the race is so selective there is never a lucky winner, so year after year a new name to watch is often uncovered."
That history of bringing present and future Olympians together is not lost on the Canadian Cycling Association.
"Gastown and BC Superweek bring together top Canadian and International cyclists which is critically important from several different aspects," said John Tolkamp, president of the CCA. "It provides an opportunity for Olympic and professional cyclists to compete at the highest level, and allows developing athlete to showcase their abilities, which leads to Olympic and professional opportunities. It also raises cycling's profile, attracts new fans, sponsors and inspires the next generation of cyclists."
To get involved with Gastown, please contact Mark Enrsting directly at 604-760-7373 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.