Great year predicted for Giro di Burnaby
The Giro di Burnaby is more than just a pack of lean athletes in tight spandex risking life, limb and serious road rash as they speed their lithe carbon fibre bicycles around a tight 1.3 kilometre course on unforgiving pavement.
If that’s not enough to get your adrenaline pumping, the Giro is also a celebration of the Burnaby Heights community and its rich Italian heritage.
Burnaby councillor Pietro Calendino, one of the race’s original exponents, says it’s a chance for some of the neighbourhood’s longtime residents to reconnect with their homeland.
“It’s a great sense of pride and reconnecting with childhood memories,” says Calendino who recalls endless debates with his friends as to who was the greatest Italian cyclist, Fausto Coppi or Gino Bartali, as the country was riveted by the annual three-week spectacle of the Giro d’Italia.
“There’s an attachment to the sport. It’s a passion inside you that you can’t describe.”
That attachment has taken on a new dimension this year, as Victoria’s Ryder Hesjedal became the first Canadian to win the Pink Jersey that is awarded to the champion of Italy’s grand tour.
“When I’m walking down the street, people are always asking me ‘when is the Giro?’” says Calendino of the excitement and interest generated by Hesjedal’s historic victory.
“This will be the best year ever for the Giro.”
Even if tomato sauce doesn’t course through your veins and a photo of Fausto Coppi doesn’t have a place of pride on your mantle, there’s still plenty to be excited about, says Rainy Kent, the Giro’s organizer.
The countdown to the Giro kicks off with a screening of The Hard Road, a film about the hardscrabble existence of a North American bike racing team, at the Confederation Seniors Centre on July 5.
Kent’s also working with HUB, a non-profit cycling society, to create events for kids prior to the race.
Local merchants in the Heights are also being encouraged to throw open their doors and contribute to the party; many are sponsoring “primes” which offer special cash bonuses to the winners of specific laps and some of the restaurants are contributing to the volunteers’ dinner.
“It’s fabulous to have this event in our neighbourhood,” says Kent.
The Giro returns to the Heights on Thursday, July 12. The women's race starts at 6 p.m. and the men's starts at 7:15 p.m.
For more information, visit www.girodiburnaby.com.