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A family ride

Sea-to-Sky clan to race in full RBC GranFondo
MAJOR AWARD Jojo Ng (right) celebrates his third-place finish in the 2018 RBC GranFondo Whistler, to the chagrin of older brother Tyler. Photo submitted

After completing the RBC GranFondo Medio in 2018, the Ng family will be taking things up a notch in 2019.

The Brackendale clan, led by patriarch Danny with teenage sons Jojo and Tyler, will be doing the full 122-kilometre ride from Stanley Park to Whistler Olympic Plaza on Saturday, Sept. 7.

Danny, the director of sales at the Four Seasons Resort, said the 2018 ride got the boys hooked, and they trained diligently all winter for the chance to more than double the 55 km they travelled during last year's event.

"They trained with Sea to Sky Nordics for biathlon," he said. "We're looking for fun things to do in the summer to keep their cardio going, so they took up cycling for the summer."

There will, however, be some sibling rivalry out on the course as Tyler looks to reclaim an upper hand over his younger brother that was rightfully his. Both competed in the 18-and-under division last year.

"Last year, it was the first time doing it, so I mentioned to them, 'Let's all finish together and line up our bikes at the finish line so we can all get a nice family photo,'" Danny said. "What happened at the finish line was that Jojo, the younger one who is 15 years old this year, crossed the finish line a fraction of a second faster than my 17-year-old.

"As a result, a month later, Jojo got a certificate from GranFondo saying 'Congratulations, you are third place in your age group.'

"My 17-year-old said 'That should have been my spot! I waited for you,'" Danny recalls with a laugh.

Accolades aside, Danny is pleased to see a fire inside both of his sons when it comes to preparing for the ride.

"It's really good to see that there is a focus. They look forward to the event," Danny said. "They both have put up over 1,500 km in training. We got a bike trainer in the garage, so that's how they train in the winter. The whole summer, they have been riding along the highway."

Danny said it's important to make the training feel like a part of a lifestyle for the boys, as there's always a treat at a coffee shop waiting after training.

"I think this will become our annual family event," Danny said.

Last tune-up before worlds

Saturday's event will mark the final GranFondo before the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships come to Whistler in 2020.

Speaking from this year's worlds in Poland, race founder Neil McKinnon said while the race was well done, he believes his team has the mechanisms in place to blow past it.

"To be totally honest, I think we have a great opportunity, a tremendous opportunity to create something very special where we are," he said. "It's nice being in Poland, and I think what they've done is pretty special for the participants, but I think the bar is set at a level that we can exceed in spades."

This year's event serves as a qualifier for the World Championships, so it's one last chance to ensure that everything is working just so before the big show in 2020. McKinnon noted that because of its qualification status, there will be roughly 1,000 extra participants from across North America in this year's contest.

"For the GranFondo itself, we've pretty much got that dialled. There are a few technical elements to it," McKinnon said. "More of it is on the show and opportunity to take advantage of people coming that distance, across from Europe or up from Mexico, and how we have the opportunity to create new experiences for them."

McKinnon expects 2020 to boast additional events in Vancouver prior to the Fondo, such as a time trial and perhaps a criterium.

The major focus, he said, is trying to create an appealing trip for those coming from Europe, who have more traditional views on a GranFondo.

"Turning into an international event, obviously you're catering to a much different clientele. The interesting thing that happens with a World Championship is you go from the most sustainable, successful and large North American event to being on a stage where you're really talking to the purists of cycling, the Europeans," he said. "We now have the opportunity to say, 'You guys have had these historical events in Europe. Now, come to the new world of cycling and see how we produce this event.'

"We're really excited to step up to this challenge."