Sold out Kootenay Rockies Gran Fondo cancelled due to fire risk

500 participants had signed up for the event which has been postponed until next year.

Paul Rodgers

At 8:00 a.m. Tuesday, September 5 the Kootenay Rockies Gran Fondo posted on their Facebook page that this year’s event, scheduled for September 9, will be postponed until next year due to the extreme fire hazard in the region and hot, windy conditions forecasted for the weekend.

Glenn Dobie, chairperson of the Rotary Gran Fondo Committee, took a call from the Townsman Tuesday morning, amidst being “busy dealing with an unfortunate reluctant decision,” and added that it has been a “very emotionally disappointing” experience.

“But we believe it’s the right decision,” Dobie said, explaining that the decision to postpone has been at the forefront of the executive committee’s minds for the past seven to ten days due to the escalating issue of the region’s forest fires, and was officially decided Monday night.

“As each day grew closer we became more convinced that the only right decision to make was to put cyclists’ health and safety as our number one priority,” he said. “And based on that thought process we moved forward postponement to 2018.”

This would have been the fifth year of the event and this year they had sold out for the first time ever , with 500 registered riders and an “extensive waiting list.” This is up from 425 last year and is more than double the participants of the first year in 2013.

This non-profit fundraising event organized by the Cranbrook Sunrise Rotary Club, allows participants to take part in a world class Gran Fondo (an Italian term loosely which loosely translates to “Big Ride”). The event promotes tourism to the region and showcases the natural beauty surrounding Cranbrook and Kimberley, while also supporting local businesses.

The organizers strive to do all of their work locally, for example getting their T-shirts made and processed.

“We’ve been very appreciative and thankful of the business community both in Cranbrook and Kimberley [who] have been exceptional,” Dobie said. “Most of our sponsors have been with us since the inception, they continue to support us and believe in us and without their support we never would have grown to a sellout this year.”

Dobie said that the postponement of this year’s event to 2018 will have some adverse financial implications, particularly from the Cranbrook Sunrise Rotary Club’s end, but those will be dealt with by the Gran Fondo’s committee themselves — Dobie simply said “that’s the type of club we are.” Fortunately some things, like pre-ordered water bottles for example, can roll over and be used in 2018, and Dobie stressed that their stance is very much “people before finances.”

“We’re committed to the contracts that we have in certain areas that we will fulfill those obligations and we’ll move forward and make 2018 bigger and better.”

Dobie stated that they are all really proud of the work that’s been done over the past five years of the event and they are tremendously appreciative to their many supporters, including their title sponsor Taylor Adams, who Dobie said has been “spectacular.”

“But that’s just one of many who have stepped in and the feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive,” he said and, referring to the numerous comments on the Facebook post added that the consensus was, “right decision, although being tough, and we look forward to seeing you in 2018.”

Despite this incredibly disappointing turn of events Dobie is maintaining a positive and open-minded perspective on the situation.

“Things happen,” he said. “But first and foremost our thoughts are more about those people who are evacuated and the forest fires threatening people’s homes; that is far more significant than what we’re dealing with. So our thoughts are with them and we’ll carry on.”

Registration fees will automatically defer to next year’s Kootenay Rockies Gran Fondo, scheduled for September 8, 2017, but those who would like a full refund can contact before Saturday, September 30.

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