Culture

June 30 2017

Spinning The Wheel of Time at The 2017 Gastown Grand Prix

This July 12th, the cobblestoned streets of Gastown will be transformed into an exciting race track where professional cyclists from all around North America will compete for the coveted first place prizes in the oldest and one of the most popular criterium races in Canada.

The Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix (GGP) is a prestigious Canadian Pro 1/2 criterium race with a long and rich history. Many great names in North American cycling have raced in this important event over the years, spurring the Gastown Grand Prix on to becoming one of the most popular one-day bike races in North America.

Ryan Roth

Ryan Roth of Silber Pro Cycling wins the 2015 Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix.
Photo: Scott Robarts

Cycling greats like Ron Hayman, Alex Steida and Alison Sydor have thrilled GGP audiences over the years with their displays of racing brilliance.

Coming round the corner in 1973. Fox & Fluevog (before Fluevog Shoes became Fluevog shoes!) is just behind the bikers as the come around Maple Tree Square.

Dr. Roger Sumner came up with the idea to have a bike race in 1973. He wanted to create a quality race that would be highly accessible to the public and Gastown, with its historic character-filled, twisty cobblestoned streets lined with cafes and restaurants, fit the bill. Sumner himself competed in the Gastown Grand Prix until 1978. He was later inducted into the BC Hall of Fame for his 30 years of service to the sport in the roles of racer, coach, manager and racing organizer. (Tragically, he died in 2000 after being hit by a car while riding his bike.)

70 cyclists participated in the Gastown Grand Prix, part of the annual Sea Festival. The race was won by Coquitlam’s Bill Wild. July 22, 1973. Vladimir Keremidschieff / Vancouver Sun

The first Gastown Grand Prix was held in 1973 and racing around the tight course proved to be electrifying from the beginning. The race ended in dramatic fashion with Bill Wild, one of the finest sprinters of the time, trading punches with transported Kiwi and three time Canadian National Road Champion, Max Grace, while battling it out in the final sprint. Wild won the race and took home first prize, which was a colour TV.

1974 race winner Max Grace (holding trophy) is joined by (left to right) race co-founder Don Docksteader, Vancouver Mayor Art Phillips, race co-founder and 3rd place finisher Roger Sumner and 2nd place finisher Tom Morris. 

By 1976, 122 elite cyclists from Canada and even Mexico were signed up to race the Gastown Grand Prix, and in 1977, racers from the US made their first appearance at the criterium, entering 25 riders. One of these riders was 18 year old Davis Phinney, who later went on to become an Olympic medalist and winner of two stages of the Tour de France.

August 5th, 1975  –  Exhausted riders sprint for the finish. The rider on the left, Brian Keast of Coquitlam, won the race. Bill Wild of Port Moody on the right was second.

Riders make their way along Maple Tree Square and up through Water Street.

Race Founder Roger Sumner gives the checkered flag to 1978 Gastown Grand Prix winner Brian Keast. Photo by Stan Walkden.

Save The Date – Wednesday July 12th and plan to spend the day and evening in Gastown. Come for the many Happy Hour specials throughout the neighbourhood along with the opportunity to shop and get your spot with the best view of the track. Come join the party and cheer on the exceptional athletes as they race for glory in The 2017 Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix!