Tomorrow, marks the anniversary of the storied Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix, as Gastown becomes the epicentre of professional cycling as we close down the streets, line up the fences and welcome over 200 passionate riders from all over the world. The Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix is an annual Canadian Pro ½ criterium race with a valuable and interesting history. Many of North America’s great names have raced the cobblestone streets of Gastown throughout the years. It is now regarded as one of the most popular one-day bike races in North America and certainly the largest prize purse of any criterion in the continent with a $50,000 equal prize purse including $13,000 each for the men’s and women’s winners. During the race, riders also compete for lap-specific cash or prizes called primes.
Top competitors have included Coquitlam’s Alex Stieda, the first North American ever to wear the yellow jersey in the Tour de France; and Canadian Olympian Ron Hayman, the only man to the race three times.
On The women’s side, notable Gastown winners include three-time mountain bike World Champion Alison Sydor, who along with Verna Buhler shares the record for most Gastown victories with three first-place finishes.
THE FIRST GASTOWN GRAND PRIX
In 1973, local coach and racing mentor, Dr. Roger Sumner conceived the idea to have a bike race in Downtown Vancouver and where better than Gastown. Sumner, a racer himself, wanted to organize a race that would attract locals and the public to the exciting world of top level bike racing in Canada. Gastown was the ideal location for a Crit. Reminiscent of villages in Europe with meandering cobblestoned streets lined with colourful cafés, historic buildings and faces filled with character, Gastown Grand Prix was born. Dr. Sumner himself competed in the Gastown Grand Prix until 1978.
The First Race
The first GGP was held in 1973. The track, wending and winding through the cobbled streets of Gastown, 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.
The Early Years
The 1970’s GGP races were contested by the finest bicycle racers in Canada. By 1976, 122 elite cyclists from Canada and even Mexico were signed up to race the GGP. In 1977, racers from the US made their first appearance at the criterium by entering 25 riders in the race. One of these riders was 18 year old Davis Phinney. Phinney later went on to become an Olympic medalist and winner of two stages of the Tour de France. In 1979, Canadian cyclist Alex Steida made his first appearance at the race as National Junior Track Champion. In 1980 Stieda, still a junior, would take his first victory in Gastown in front of crowds that now numbered in the 20,000’s.
Emergence of the Pro Teams
The 1980’s saw the emergence of the first Professional racing category racers attend the GGP. Canadian Pro racer Ron Hayman, of Vancouver, won three titles at the GGP. In this decade, women cyclists began to establish themselves in the GGP with the emergence of a Women’s category. 1981 National Road Champion Verna Buhler of Canada won the first woman’s title in 1982. She would go on to win two more titles in next two years.
The 90’s: Youth vs. Experience
The 1990’s saw some young and relatively inexperienced riders winning the GGP over older and more established racers. Many younger riders saw the GGP as a great opportunity to compete against more seasoned professional racers, with some of them producing breakthrough results. One of these was twenty year old John Mckinley, who won the race in 1992. A young 19 year old US racer named Jonas Carney also won the event in 1990.
The GGP took a nine year hiatus in 1994 after not being able to secure sponsorship.
Big Name Riders Draw Crowds
Due to the hard work and dedication of the Gastown BIA, The Pace Group and The City of Whiterock, the event returned in 2002 attracting 28,000 people to the streets of Gastown. With $10,000 up for prize money, Mark McCormack of the Saturn Pro team won with help from fellow teammate Canadian Olympian Svein Tuft. The Saturn Team was one of the top three Pro US teams at this time and its racers dominated the race. Kim Davidje, also riding for Saturn, won the womens race. In 2003, Germany’s Ina Teutenberg, one of the premier woman sprinters in the world at this time, held off Alison Sydor to win the race. Thirty five year old Gord Fraser was victorious in the mens event coming first out of 137 other riders.
US track team member for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Jonas Carney from the US, came back to the GGP in 2004 and won the race for a second time. He first won the GP fourteen years earlier in 1990 as a 19 year old. Manon Jutras, 1994 Canadian Olympic road team member was victorious in the womans event.
The Legendary Race Returns
In 2009, the race again took another hiatus as it was without sponsorship until 2012, when Global Relay, a Gastown-based technology firm, made a multi-year commitment to bring the race back to Vancouver once again for the 2012 cycling season and beyond. In 2020, the race once again to a three-year hiatus during COVID-19. The race returns on July 12, 2023 for its 50th anniversary.
Watch the full documentary below:
Source: Anita Cancian https://www.globalrelayggp.org/about-the-event/history/
Below is a list of some of the top riders registered for this year’s Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix, though history has shown to never count out the top local riders. Many on this list are returning pros after catching the eye of team directors in previous years at the race.
L39ION of Los Angeles
As an athlete who was a competitive runner until he attended UCLA, it turns out Boardman is much faster on two wheels than two feet. The 27-year-old from Washington, D.C. continues to open eyes as part of the L39ION of Los Angeles team, including a win at the McElroy River Parks Criterium last month as part of the Saint Francis Tulsa Tough in Oklahoma. The fifth-year pro was fifth in this year’s
United States national championships road race a couple of weeks ago and made the podium in third at April’s Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California.
Expeditors Elite Cycling
It is a common sight to see Marshall on the podium in B.C.’s Lower Mainland. He finished second in the Tour de Delta | White Spot UCI Road Race in 2018 and 2019 in addition to being runner-up in the 2016 Tour de White Rock Road Race. The 37-year-old, who hails from Walla Walla, Washington, also took home the 2016 Tour de White Rock omnium (total points). More recently, he claimed third place in May’s Tour de Bloom general classification after finishing top-20 in each stage of the event, which is held in Wenatchee, Washington. Marshall also nabbed the Redlands Classic king of the mountain prize last year.
Red Truck Racing
Parrish, from Vancouver, is a rising star in Canadian cycling. He took top spot on the podium at the 2023 U23 B.C. provincial time trial and third in this year’s road race. The 18-year-old was also fourth at this year’s U23 Canadian national road championships time trial after winning the Junior time trial last year. On the pro circuit this year, Parrish claimed the Tour de Bloom general classification in May after finishing first in two of the event’s four stages. He was also part of the Canadian team that finished fifth in the team pursuit at the 2022 UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships in Tel Aviv, Israel.
L39ION of Los Angeles
Williams is manager and sprinter for L39ION of Los Angeles, a team he co-founded alongside his brother Cory four years ago. In addition to his cycling accomplishments, the 34-year-old from Los Angeles is a champion for diversity in the sport of bike racing. Williams was the winner of the inaugural PoCo Grand Prix in 2016, a year before he claimed the title at the Tour de Delta’s Brenco Criterium. Williams won back-to-back U.S. national road race championships in 2018 and 2019 and the national criterium title in 2019. In 2021, he changed his UCI nationality to Belize, which is where his father is from, and won the Belize national road race championship that same year.
Jackson is the first Canadian cyclist ever – male or female – to win the famed Paris-Roubaix, which she did this past April. A multisport athlete who is also adept in cross-country running, Jackson is the current Canadian road cycling national champion. She also claimed the national championship road race and time trial in 2021. The Vermillion, Alberta native represented Canada at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and claimed silver and bronze medals at this year’s Pan American Road Championships. Locally, Jackson is a multi-time winner at BC Superweek events, including victories at the 2019 editions of the Tour de Delta | White Spot UCI Road Race and New West Grand Prix.
Kirchmann is another marquee rider in the women’s field for the Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix. She’s won the race twice, in 2013 and 2014, and is looking to join an elite group of women who have won the storied event three times. The 33-year-old is a three-time Canadian national time trial champion, having won the title in 2014, 2018, and 2019. She represented Canada at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio and the 2020 Games in Tokyo and won the 2016 Giro Rosa prologue to claim the first Maglia Rosa of the 10-stage tour. The Winnipeg product also finished the 2016 season ranked second overall in the Women’s World Tour series.
L39ION of Los Angeles
Ryan is looking to become the first cyclist – male or female – to ever win the Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix four times. After victories in 2017, 2018, and 2019, she is just the second woman ever to claim three straight titles in Gastown, joining Verna Buhler who did from 1981-83. Much like previous years, Ryan has momentum in her return to British Columbia, as she was third at last month’s U.S. Pro Criterium Championships. B.C. agrees with the native of Ventura, California as she has eleven wins at former BC Superweek events from 2017-19. The 30-year-old Ryan was born into a family of cyclists and began racing BMX at 6-years-old.
Live streaming of the men’s and women’s races is available on the Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix website at https://globalrelayggp.org/.
Cambie St. & Water St.
Abbott St. between W. Cordova St. & Water St.