I spent the long weekend with friends in Whistler, and decided to ride up (and back) just for the hell of it. From my place to theirs (North of the village) it's just shy of 140km. I went solo, unsupported - but I did send my weekend bag with them in the car, so I wasn't carrying all that much.
On the way out I decided to ride Marine Dr. to Horseshoe Bay - a staple training route for most people in the area. I think the actual route of the Gran Fondo goes up Taylor Way and straight on to the highway. I had the pleasure of a headwind the entire way to HSB; but it was a beautiful sunny day, warm but not hot, and aside from the wind, ideal conditions - pretty much everything I could ask for save cheering throngs of beautiful women and a BBQ stand. At a relaxed "chill pace" it was ~1:30 from my place in the city to HSB - about 40min to the far side of the bridge, and then 50 through W Van, Ambleside and Marine Dr out. I'm pretty sure the highway is a fair bit faster.
Once on the main highway the shoulder is actually very good. There is one spot at around Porteau Cove where it's one lane in each direction and there's rock face on the right with a pretty narrow shoulder. This is the spot I was thinking would be the worst, as the shoulder is narrow and due to the cliff could easily be littered with debris. It was pretty clean though, and because it's "old road" it has the old style thin rumble strips that are just under the white line - not the more modern foot wide rumble strips that are typically 4-6 inches to the right of the line - thus taking up a fairly healthy chunk of the shoulder. The traffic was light enough for me to ride in the lane anyway, and the section is fairly short. Even with a closed lane, with some 4000 riders on the road this section will be busy - so try to get through it early if you can.
The ride out to Squamish has a couple of noteworthy hills, but nothing particularly long or steep. I never left my big ring (50t) - though it should be noted that I do like to stand when I climb and just find a good rhythm. I think I climbed most of the hills in a 50x23/25. I made Squamish in a little under 3hrs, and took a small detour downtown to buy a pie and fill a bottle. I also picked up a friend who lives in Squamish, and she joined me for the next section of the ride to the Callaghan Valley turnoff (most of the way to Whistler).
Squamish is a little further than halfway to Whistler, but it's also the easier part of the ride. People tend to remember the hill at Furry Creek, and the one at Britannia Beach - but there's a fair bit more climbing once you get past Squamish, and the road goes up even when you aren't "really climbing". It's definitely a net gain in elevation to Whistler. Again, no significant climbs or anything steep, just lots of small ones and some sections of "not quite false flat". I had a tailwind from HSB pretty much all the way to Whistler, so that was pretty nice. Stunning scenery, good roads, and generally quite wide shoulders. I'm not sure if they're planning on running a sweeper truck through the area before you guys head out, but there were a few sections where some idiots have smashed bottles - so be on the lookout for broken glass.
Once you descend into the Callaghan Valley turnoff area you're almost there. It's maybe 40min to the main village if that. You'll roll through Function Junction, Whistler Creekside, and then the turnoff to Whistler Village itself - which is where I assume the ride ends. You've got a few more small hills on that last stretch, but you'll be able to power through that section on the excitement of the finish alone.
Yes, there are hills - but nothing over which to get all psyched out.
The second half is harder than the first - pace yourself accordingly.
Note that there is a distinct net gain in elevation.
Most of the road is great, but with that many riders on the road together it's going to be sketchy in parts. Be vigilant and please don't ride a tri bike if it's not your only bike.
<If you're gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough>
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