Organizer Marc Campbell, his staff and an army of volunteers have been prepping for the Prospera Valley GranFondo for months. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance)

GranFondo riders to rally in Langley Sunday

The massive bike ride will send 1,400 cyclists through the Fraser Valley.

This Sunday morning, hundreds of cyclists will roll out of Fort Langley on journeys ranging from 50 to 160 kilometers through the Fraser Valley.

“It’s really quiet exciting to be at the start gate with 1,400 other people,” said Marc Campbell, event director of the Prospera Valley GranFondo.

The Prospera Valley GranFondo is only six years old, but it is still one of the oldest events of its kind in British Columbia.

A GranFondo (from Italian for “big ride”) is a non-competitive mass bike ride. Unlike a race, most participants aren’t worried about finishing first. Cycling clubs, friends, and individual riders can all sign up to take part.

The Fraser Valley’s fondo includes three rides – a 50 kilometre PrestoFondo, a 100 kilometre MedioFondo, and the GranFondo itself, a little more than 160 kilometres (100 miles) in length. Riders pick the route that lines up with their fitness level, allowing less experienced riders to get a taste of the sport.

Each route starts at the Fort Langley National Historic Site, and riders wind through Langley, Abbotsford, and as far east as Yarrow before looping back to its starting point. On the way, riders on the longest route will go over rolling hills, the flats of the Fraser Valley, and face the challenge of scaling Sumas Mountain.

“There’s so many different stretches out there that are just stunning,” said Campbell. He mentions stretches of River Road along the Fraser, Majuba Hill in the Fraser Valley and the descent of Sumas Mountain as some of his favourites.

Local riders know about the scenery and open country roads with light traffic, but some cyclists from Vancouver and other urban areas are surprised to discover what’s in their back yards, Campbell said.

“It blows their minds,” he said.

Staging the Valley GranFondo isn’t just about getting the riders lined up for the start, though. There are support crews and road control workers along the whole route, keeping intersections safe and refuelling the riders with water and food.

“We have over 200 volunteers,” said Campbell, who said it is ultimately a grassroots event with just five actual employees.

The biggest expense is the more than 130 traffic controllers from Universal Traffic who will be at intersections along the route on the day of the ride.

The goal of the event is to create a positive cycling experience that’s safe and fun, Campbell said.

The Valley GranFondo is a non-profit enterprise. Remaining funds are poured into youth cycling programs around B.C.

Despite running the program, and other popular cycling events, Campbell has yet to take part himself – he’s been too busy on ride day before.

“I am considering it this year,” he said, as he might take part in the 100 kilometre ride.

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