You say gyro, I say giro

15 07 2011

It seems too much cycling is keeping me off my bike.

Nevermind the 5:00 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. alarms so I can wake up to watch Le Tour live in High Definition. Nevermind the interminable lousy cycling-unfriendly weather that continues to deny us a proper summer.

It’s Superweek. Which means there’s some pretty decent bike racing going on locally.

Superweek is the confluence of a number of independent bike races that have all been scheduled in the same week to attract a top field of North American pros and amateurs. Svein Tuft, Chris Horner, Dominique Rollin and even Lance have raced in Superweek.

The first UBC Grand Prix

The races are a mix of criteriums, hill climbs and road races.

Tuesday evening Katie and I headed out to UBC to meet my riding buddies Shanksman and Dan and watch the inaugural UBC Grand Prix, a 50 lap crit in the middle of campus. The field and crowd were small, but there was a great atmosphere with live entertainment on a huge patio at a nearby pub that was also a race sponsor. Of course we indulged.

But the best part was the post-race refreshment on an outdoor patio

Thursday evening I covered the return of the Giro di Burnaby, a crit in the northern neighborhood of the city. It had been absent for a couple of years because of sponsorship issues, but it came back with a vengeance. That area of the city is very multicultural, many from European countries with a rich tradition and appreciation for bike racing. They were out in force, as the crowds along the barrier built through the evening until they were three and four deep in places. They clanged bells and cheered heartily whenever a breakaway or the peloton passed. But the party vibe of UBC’s race was lacking.

The fans cheered and clanged bells at the Giro di Burnaby

There’s no shortage of restaurants along the course’s long straightaway; Italian, Indian, Mexican, Thai, Asian, Fusion. There’s one pub and at least a couple of coffee shops. But few made any effort to open themselves up to the cycling fans who lined the sidewalks in front of their establishments. Perhaps it’s our uptight liquor laws and civic bylaws that discourage lively, open patios, requiring bar and restaurant owners to jump through all kinds of regulatory hoops if they want to spread their business to the open air.

One of my best memories of my trip to Le Tour in ’03 was sitting on a patio a couple times, enjoying lunch or a beer, awaiting the race to pass along the street in front of us. Businesses there decorate their windows and put on specials to celebrate the bike race and the customers it brings rather than draw the shutters and keep them out.

The racing at the Giro was pretty good, even if it lacked the star power of previous years

Nothing like watching bike racing to get motivated to ride.

There are two closed road areas along the main stretch of the Giro that would be perfect for beer gardens with barbeque. Why not create a VIP area in one for sponsors, guests, ViPs etc, and have some of the restaurants on the street team up to manage a beer garden/patio in the other? Keep the menus simple and selection limited, so the grills and coolers could be set up and torn down quickly. And seeing as this main thoroughfare has already been closed through the busiest traffic time, why not just keep it closed for a couple of hours beyond the racing to keep the festive atmosphere going?

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