Tour de Gastown

Yesterday evening was the Tour de Gastown. Lots of guys in outfits with crazy speed-enhancing colours, a bunch of kids doing stunts on thier bmx bikes, and more than a few bewildered tourists. This is the kind of thing Gastown needs more of: events that give people a reason to come down and just hang out; events that put people in the resaurants, in the shops, on the street eat ice cream cones and donairs (well, perhaps not in that particular combination).

They called it the world’s smallest bike race. I don’t know much about bike racing, but it did seem pretty small. Here’s a map of the route:


7 Comments so far

  1. keith lim (unregistered) on July 20th, 2006 @ 1:23 pm

    The Tour de Gastown is a great race for quite a few reasons:

    1. Very short, as you said. For spectators in particular, it’s great as riders zoom past every minute or so, and developments over the course of the entire race can be seen as they happen. For the riders, the short course makes the crowd dense and the the noise loud. Does it boost their morale, when a huge crowd of spectators are a constant throughout the race?

    2. The 165 degree hairpin turn going from Water to Cordova, where the riders all but reverse their direction of travel.

    3. Cobbled streets. Extra challenge.

    The women’s race was exciting enough, with last year’s winner retaining her title. But the men’s race was amazing, as the top three riders broke away, increased the gap, and eventually lapped the rest of the field. (Technically, this eliminated everyone from fourth place on down.) And everyone was able to see it happen as it happened, lap by lap.

    For the play-by-play details, the Tour de Gastown site has the official race summary up now.

  2. Man Kong Chan (unregistered) on July 20th, 2006 @ 1:49 pm

    Good followup post Keith.

    Emphasis on your #2 and #3 points

    I’m like the worst, most unexperienced cyclist in the world. I am at awe at how those pros do it with such grace.
    Point #4 90%, if not 99% of those pros in that Tour get paid Good followup post Keith.

    Emphasis on your #2 and #3 points

    I’m like the worst, most unexperienced cyclist in the world. I am at awe at how those pros do it with such grace.
    Point #4 90%, if not 99% of those pros in that Tour get paid

  3. Ryan Cousineau (unregistered) on July 20th, 2006 @ 4:34 pm


    As the unofficial Vancouver Metblog cycling champion (road edition; I’m pretty sure Jenny Lee would stomp me in downhill), let me note that the Tour de Gastown features a couple of teams (Healthnet, Navigators, Symmetrics) who pay their riders well enough to do it full time (and in North America, we’re talking about major junior hockey salaries, at best), and a large field of mostly local, mostly amateur riders. The Tour de France is a different story, but even there a surprising number of riders are likely not earning six-figure salaries.

    By pro sports standards, even elite cyclists are not well paid, outside of perhaps 5 or so top riders. I suspect that Lance Armstrong was making several times as much money as the second-best-paid bike racer before he retired, and doubt that anyone is making what he did last year.

    But I have to take issue with the idea that any pro athlete, even a baseball player, is “undertrained.” They don’t strain for the insane body-fat minimalism of cyclists, but on the other hand baseball is an extreme-skill sport, relying on a very specific set of physical skills (seeing and hitting a baseball, fielding, et cetera), and athleticism is a part of that skill set, too.

    For that matter, one reason that baseball players probably avoid extreme bodyfat numbers is that by the time you get there, you’re very vulnerable to all kinds of illnesses, bad days, and it’s hard to maintain perfect form for more than a month or so (thus the concept of “peaking”). A baseball player should probably have a little extra fat just to keep them healthy through the long season.

    As for the disparity in salaries, well, all pro sports are a subset of the entertainment industry. Athletes are paid according to the audience they attract, just like movie stars. There’s no right or wrong about it, and I don’t think the level of training necessary should matter: it’s a business expense, so to speak.

    Besides, I like amateur sports (and especially cycling) on their own merits. As a participant, volunteer, and spectator at local races, I suspect I enjoy this sport more than a lot of the pros. After all, I only have to do it as hard as is fun for me.

  4. Ryan Cousineau (unregistered) on July 20th, 2006 @ 4:42 pm

    Oh, as regards the “world’s smallest bike race” claim, I think that’s a neat slogan. The 1.2km course is probably among the shorter criterium courses used by pros, but I believe a crit course as short as 800 metres is generally allowable. It’s probably not the shortest pro criterium course in the world, in other words.

    But for really small bike races, the champion will always be velodrome racing. The Burnaby Velodrome is a very small 200m oval, but the shortest functional velodrome on the planet is probably in the 100-130m size.

    Match Sprints and Chariot Races on velodromes may be the shortest regularly-run mass-start racing events. They typically feature two or three riders at a time, competing over a distance of a few laps; maybe 1 km total. In women’s velodrome racing, they run a standing-start time trial that is 500 metres, certainly the shortest distance for any regularly-run event.

  5. Man Kong Chan (unregistered) on July 20th, 2006 @ 5:03 pm

    Hmmm … my comment somehow got chomped off on my last post. Meant to write: “90%, if not 99% of those pros in that Tour get paid ‘poorly'”
    So we are in agreement theses cyclists aren’t paid well.
    I AGREE on that.

    I do like to defend my comment on the BF composition. Personally, I’m super fat and slow. But I can’t see how an athlete can claim to be an athlete with a belly in any sport besides sumo-wrestling. Its true that you’re more vulnerable to certain illnesses, but that only applies if you’re sub 5% BF. A pro athlete in baseball or basketball or any sport should be sub 12% IMHO. There are definitely a handful of NBA players with BFs higher than that. Likewise, baseball players can run a few milliseconds faster if they shave off a few pounds.
    Its ‘sad’ that they are not and an insult to their sport. To each their own on what they consider and how they evaluate an athlete.

    About your salary follow-up comment on salaries. I sadly agree – supply and demand. I wonder if cyclist’s salaries would change if the 35% of north americans weren’t obsese. I guess I shouldn’t speak as I’m having problems seeing my feet. I should really bike more.

  6. Gord (unregistered) on July 20th, 2006 @ 11:27 pm

    Um, it’s Canada’s Fastest Bike Race. That’s their slogan. Not smallest.

    And the Pro Cat 1/2 race last night averaged 44kmh, with peaks around 60 to 65kmh, depending on who’s speedometer you checked. Questionable as to whether it really holds up, as their are faster criterium courses out there (the newly introduced Giro di Burnaby lacked the technical hairpin that faced the riders last night and slowed them down to the low 20’s and even 10’s of km/hr.

    And re: small & all things velodrome, the Flying 200m is a qualifier for the Match Sprints and is exactly 200m long. At speed, the top riders are doing 10 to 11 seconds. That’s pretty small.

  7. Waxy (unregistered) on July 26th, 2006 @ 12:11 am

    Tour de Gastown is a great race. I have some photos from the 2004 and 2006 events posted to my Flickr account.


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