Giro goes big

German Florenz Knauer (left) sprints to the finish, to win the Giro di Burnaby on Thursday. - Chris Relke/Contributed
German Florenz Knauer (left) sprints to the finish, to win the Giro di Burnaby on Thursday.
— image credit: Chris Relke/Contributed

The Giro di Burnaby went big last week, offering its largest crowd of spectators races featuring much-expanded fields of cyclists.

Florenz Knauer, a 24-year-old from Germany, won the men's race, his third podium finish at this year's BC Superweek events, while Denise Ramsden of Yellowknife, who competed for Canada at the 2012 Summer Olympics, took the women's race.

Giro organizer Rainy Kent said the crowd, which she roughly estimated at 5,000 to 8,000, was the largest ever for the Giro and started filling the streets in the Heights just before the women's race at 6 p.m.

There was a significant jump in the numbers of cyclists participating, largely due to another BC Superweek event, the Tour de Delta, being a UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) sanctioned race which allowed participants to earn points towards their international rankings as well as vie for prize money.

While the men's field was at 118 riders, up from about 100 last year, the women's field about doubled from 2012 to 63 riders this year, Kent said.

The business-sponsored prize money totalled about $15,000 while the primes—where cyclists who win specific laps get cash prizes—collected from the crowd totalled over $1,700. Of that, 10 per cent will go to support the Aboriginal Youth Cycling Team, which trains out of the Burnaby Velodrome, whose members were out collecting funds from the spectators.

The Giro's volunteers, most who live in the community, set a record in putting up the 8,000 feet of fencing, hay bales, banners and stage in about 35 minutes, Kent said. Taking it all down took about 45 minutes, but due to delays with taking down the truss that holds up the start and finish banners, Hastings Street wasn't reopened to traffic until "almost 10 p.m. on the nose," she said, noting it will be an issue they'll seek to address for next year.

Gradually the event is seeing more area businesses taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the large crowds being drawn to the Heights, she said. Restaurants are doing well while some merchants sponsor primes to have their business mentioned over the speaker system.

"Little by little, people are taking ownership for the event in Burnaby. People are embracing it and owning it … I think that's what makes it so successful."

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