By Rob Jones & VeloNews Interactive
The ever-secretive UCI still hasn’t tipped its hand on where the cancelled Whistler World Cup is going to end up, but talk out of Vancouver is that the Grouse Mountain bid submitted by Gestev Inc. is just days away from being accepted.
“It’s not a done deal, but we’re confident, otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about it,” said Stuart McLaughlin, president of Grouse Mountain Resorts. “We should have confirmation in the next week or so, and then we really get to work.”
It’s expected that the Grouse event will retain World Cup “triple” status — hosting cross country, downhill and dual — and will take place July 4-8, the same dates that the Whistler event was scheduled for.
Grouse Mountain is 15 minutes outside of Vancouver, Canada’s third largest city. “This is a big opportunity to draw from a city that has probably more mountain bikers than any other major city,” said Alison Sydor in an interview with Rob Jones of Canadian Cyclist. “We need to draw a big audience, not just the hardcore. We need somewhere where we can showcase the sport in front of fans. We need this exposure.”
Unlike other events where spectators had to hike up the mountain to get an on-course view, at Grouse they will be able to ride one of two trams to the top of the mountain, then make their way down the course.
According to Gestev’s Chantal Lachance, the trams, known as the Skyride, can transport 1200 people an hour. There is also a path up the mountain for those who prefer to walk. There will be a limit of 8000 spectators each day, and an admission fee will be charged. Fans can also gain entry through participation in fund-raising rides up Grouse.
Facilities at the top of Grouse include five restaurants, but there are no on-mountain accommodations. Because of the close proximity to Vancouver, however, McLaughlin said, “athletes will be able to ride to and from the venue if they wish.”
The cross country will be on a 5km loop that is very technical with no flat sections.
The downhill will be 2.1km long, with no pedalling sections. It will start at the top of Grouse Mountain, where there is an incredible view of Vancouver.
The dual will have three separate courses, where events will take place at altitudes between 2800 and 3700 feet. McLaughlin says there is good drainage in all areas, meaning wet conditions are unlikely.
Andrew Shandro will design both the downhill and dual courses.
This will be the first major mountain-bike race at Grouse. The last big event held there was a World Cup giant slalom ski race in 1998.
The proposed schedule is the same as Gestev’s Mont-Ste-Anne World Cup, with dual preliminaries Friday evening, downhill Saturday afternoon, dual finals Saturday night, and cross country on Sunday.
Lachance says funding for the event has not been completely secured. “We are planning 60 percent sponsorship and have one-third; 30 percent public and government (the Canadian government has apparently promised $50,000 through Sport Canada); and the remaining 10 percent from registrations, product sales, et cetera.”
Lachance added that letting the World Cup event leave Canada was never an option. “After the withdrawal of Whistler … there was no way that we could let it leave Canada, especially with the Olympic bid for Toronto (UCI President Hein Verbruggen is the chair of the IOC Evaluation Committee) and how hard it is to get a ‘triple’ in the first place.”
Lachance went on to say that UCI technical delegate Kelli Turcotte had some initial reservations about Grouse, but came away impressed. “She saw how close everything was to the city, and realized that everything was okay — the trams, the downhill, the access. She may have to come back after the snow is gone for final course approval, but basically everything is good. I think it is the perfect venue.”