Tradable Bits on the Street: RBC GranFondo Whistler

Cycling is big part of our company culture. In the thick of the summer season, we had over half of the entire team bike to work on a daily basis. From competitive cyclists to the daily commuter, our office is filled with biking enthusiasts who love the eco-friendly transportation method.

The RBC GranFondo is an annual long-distance biking event taking place in both the Silicon Valley and Whistler. With distances spanning 117 and 122 kilometres (72 and 75 miles) respectively, riders train over months for one day of intense cycling. With Whistler being just a few hours drive away from our HQ in Vancouver, it's only fitting that we participate. This was our fifth consecutive year sponsoring the RBC GranFondo and we had 7 members of the Tradable Bits team - each coming from different cycling backgrounds and levels - take part in the event. As well, we had a team behind-the-scenes helping out with social advertisements and setting up a social media Stream for all posts using #rbcgranfondo.

Barely escaping the downpour characteristic of the Pacific Northwest region, all seven members finished the ride and earned themselves a fancy commemorative medal! Some riders set personal bests, others participating in their first ever long-distance cycling event. It was an experience that we've been able to participate in, both as riders and behind-the-scenes as sponsors, for the past five years. In this week's instalment of Tradable Bits on the Street, we talk to Dmitry, Darshan, Leo and Vanessa to discuss their unique experiences at the RBC GranFondo.

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A Conversation with Darshan, Dmitry, Leo and Vanessa

1. How much did you train for the RBC GranFondo?

Darshan: Not enough because I had so many business trips!

Dmitry: I biked close to 5,400km leading up to the fondo, mostly as my daily commute to work. I also did a few 100km+ rides on weekends.

Leo: I trained once a week at a clinic that the GranFondo organizers held. Ideally, I would've trained more but an injury set me back.

Vanessa: I initially registered for the 122km ride, but then I realized that my training, which consisted of biking to work each day and some longer rides on weekends, probably wasn't good enough given that I'm new to cycling. I switched to the 55 kilometre Medio ride which was more appropriate for my training.

2. Did you have any time or ranking goals? How long did it take you to finish?

Darshan: Nope, I like the challenge and enjoy having the open road to ride with stops that have food and drinks. It's the enjoyment of the ride, not a race for me.

Dmitry: My goal was to beat 3:50:00 in good weather or 4:00:00 in bad weather. I finished in 3:46:13 - my personal best!

Leo: My goal was to finish! I was worried that six hours on a bike would be too tough on my back. Anything under six hours would be a bonus and being able to stand the next day would be an extra bonus! I ended up finishing 5 hours and 50 minutes - yay!

Vanessa: I didn't know what to expect because this was my first big biking event. Based on my impressions of all the other cyclists, I was hoping to finish in the top half or even first third. I ended up finishing in 2 hours and 21 minutes and finished 26th overall!

3. What was the hardest part of the ride?

Darshan: When we get to the 10-13% inclines, my heart rate goes through the roof! Pacing and getting through it without fainting is the biggest challenge.

Dmitry: The stretch of 10km around Alice Lake was definitely the hardest.

Leo: The last 5km were the roughest for me. If I'm driving to Whistler, that's the point where I already consider myself there, so I started riding a lot harder to get to the finish line. It turns out it's a lot farther on a bike after you've ridden 117km!

Vanessa: The hardest part was probably trying to convince myself not to pull over and take a break. Your heart rate is maxed out as you're grinding through steep hills, and it also seems like you're not going anywhere because you're pedalling hard on your bike's lowest gear. Thankfully, the only break I took was at the halfway checkpoint.

4. What are some lessons you'll take from the RBC GranFondo that you'll carry on to future long-distance rides?

Darshan: Take your time, relax and listen to your body. This year, I tried something new regarding hydration and made sure I drank over 2L a day with electrolyte tablets. I didn't get any cramps so it worked like a charm!

Dmitry: Watch for traffic cones!

Leo: If I'm not maxing out my heart rate, I can ride for a super long time. I maxed out in the clinics because I was riding with people who are a lot faster than me. When it came to the actual fondo, I set my pace and it was actually easier than the clinics.

Vanessa: I'd try and focus more on my breathing. I've read that constantly huffing and puffing every second or two isn't efficient when you're doing strenuous exercise for long periods of time, but sometimes you get caught up in the moment and are simply breathing to survive rather than enhance your ride.

5. Do you have any tips for riders looking to get into cycling?

Darshan: The best way to get started it just by doing. Don't think of long rides, just get on that bike. Before you know it, you'll be doing 20-50km rides!

Dmitry: Miles, miles, miles!

Leo: If you're trying to compete or accomplish a goal, train hard and challenge yourself. This will make the end goal/event a lot easier. If you're riding for a lot longer than you have before, pace yourself and don't worry if other people pass you.

Vanessa: Don't be afraid to start off slow! I was extremely intimidated registering for the 122km fondo without any significant biking experience. Switching to the 55km Medio was the best decision for myself because I simply didn't feel comfortable going all-in in such a short period of time.


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