Cover photo
Insider newsletter

The inside story of the Forte - on track to sell out earlier than ever

152km rockstar category seeing record demand

Things looking a little different here? We're testing out a new newsletter platform - Paragraph! Send us a reply to this email and let us know what you think!

Meanwhile, it's story time...

In 2018, the 152km Forte category did something it hadn't done before. It sold out.

Introduced in 2014 as the 'next challenge' for those who completed the 122km Gran Fondo and wanted more, back then the Forte was a far quieter affair.

The max capacity was a humble 250 riders, there was no mega medal weighing near a pound, and those who rode it were regarded with a degree of distant curiosity from most of the field. Why would you want or choose to ride Cypress Mountain in addition to the testing challenge of taking on the Sea to Sky, all the way from Vancouver to Whistler? Why?!

The iconic Mt Baker (WA, USA) view from the Cypress climb - one part of why (photo: Justin Filippone)

As it turns out, hundreds of cyclists were beginning to find out why.

They came to discover a combination of magical otherworldly factors: from a sea of twinkling bike lights in the pre-dawn departure that shifts suddenly into a mesmerizing sunrise lightshow, to feeling the tangible bond of respect between a group of intrepid like-minded souls setting off together for a singular goal and meeting face-to-face the quiet sensations of climbing a mountain in the calm morning air, the awareness of the breath and low vibrato hum of a rotating chain beckoning them onwards, memories in the process of being made right there and then.

That, and the look of awe that met these riders at the finish line. The 'how is that possible?' expressions of admiration and tangible increase in cheer noise generated by the crowd. By this point the Forte was being referred to as "the ultimate challenge."

The Forte is seeing increasing amounts of women sign up for and conquer the challenge (photo: Darryl Dyck)

First the Forte expanded, then it sold quicker

Back to 2018 for a second. One of the reasons the Forte has a lower maximum capacity than the other categories is safety. Both being able to have riders safely navigate the mountain before merging back with the Gran Fondo field, as well as make it to Whistler before roads re-open means that we keep the Forte at a smaller field size than the 55km Medio and 122km Gran Fondo.

But with this relatively smaller number of participants, we also didn't want to disappoint riders learning later in the year that the category had sold out. We worked with our key stakeholders such as the Ministry of Transportation, police and highway management to see how we could responsibly try and expand capacity that year. In the end, 300 riders took to the startline that year in nervous and excited anticipation for the awesome 152km challenge ahead.

Today, we've continued this work to bring the Forte safely to its current 550 rider maximum as it has been for the past 4 years. And each year it's filled up quicker than before.

The oversized Forte medal has taken on cult status (photo: Chris Dutton)

2024: spots filling at record pace

Those "next" and "ultimate challenge" taglines for the Forte? They've been superseded with a worthy replacement: "the rockstar category". Today, riders who take on the toughest course are looked upon with unadulterated reverence by the entire field.

This year, the Forte is heading to max capacity at its fastest pace ever. Barely 2 months since registration opened, we're quickly approaching 50% of the slots being already filled. Those looking to get a last minute entry are likely to be disappointed.

Don't get left behind - do ride it together (photo: Justin Filippone)

But, the early bird can still get the worm - for now. Will 2024 be the year you earn the adulation of having completed the Forte? Or will it be the year you get to say you've conquered it once again? In life, the truth is that only we get to write the reality of our histories - so let's make that decision to go get it!

Get the woods: Matt Woody's 2023 Forte ride

Matt Woody rode the 2023 edition of the Forte. Here he shares his experiences of the day:

"The Whistler Forte was one of the most fun days I have ever had on a bike, and certainly the most beautiful.

"As a resident of Hamilton, Ontario, I was thrilled to be able to sign up for the Forte as I grew up out West and actually spent a few years living in Whistler. The idea of riding up there was too good to pass up. When initially registering, I had considered the 122km Gran Fondo, but decided I wanted a bit more - I wanted to challenge myself to try to do something I had never done before.

Matt, left, remembers the importance of looking good for the cameras during the 2023 Forte (photo: Justin Filippone)

"I ride in Ontario, and manage to get in a decent amount of elevation around here (after many repeats of local hills), but I had never climbed a true mountain or completed a ride with nearly as much elevation as this. At 152km and 3100m of elevation, its profile is genuinely something you might see on a Tour de France stage. Having never completed a ride with that much climbing, and having no idea how I would manage on it, I signed up in spite of the trepidation still present!

The start at 6am in the dark was a lot of fun. There was a real feeling of camaraderie between all the riders who were brave (read: stupid) enough to sign up for this category. The anticipation of starting any race is always thrilling, but on the closed roads in Stanley Park, slowly watching the horizon brighten is a pretty special experience.

Every adrenaline pumping second of it was an absolute blast. I can’t wait for my next mountain climb - and descent!

"Before we knew it we were off: a short loop through the park and over the Lion’s Gate bridge - the first of many climbs of the day. A real highlight right from the start was watching the sunrise as we crossed the iconic suspension bridge, while by the side of the course a full spin class (shoutout to Ride Cycle Club!) greeted us with booming cheers as we rode past.

"On the other side of the bridge was Cypress; and what I thought was going to be the real test of the day. Normally, the longest climbs I can find in my area are 1-2km long. At 10km, Seymour was going to be a challenge. At each hairpin I found myself wondering, is this the last hairpin? How many were there again? The ride up was hard, but totally worth it for the descent. Fortunately, 10km of climbing means 10km of descending and every adrenaline pumping second of it was an absolute blast. I can’t wait for my next mountain climb - and descent!

Some ride to finish, some ride to race. This year's Forte winners: Oliver Dowd of Mississauga ON and Claire Robinson of Vancouver BC (photo: Justin Filippone)

"After Cypress came the most beautiful section of the ride: the Sea-to-Sky from West Vancouver to Squamish is simply breathtaking. At the crest of each of the many rollers along this route you are greeted with a new, jaw dropping view of the ocean and mountains. It’s a hilly and challenging section, but no matter how tired you are, you have to remember to look up!

"The ride from Squamish to Whistler was a grind. Fifty kilometres of gradual ascending from sea level to Whistler is not easy, especially when you already have 100 kilometres and over 1500m of elevation in the legs! It was still gorgeous, but I had to remind myself a little more forcefully to take in and appreciate all the views along the way.

"Fortunately, waiting across the finish line in Whistler were a plethora of baked goods, yummy treats, recovery drinks, a pulled pork sandwich (with other options too), a victory beer and the most ridiculously large medal you have ever seen - I don’t even think Olympic medals are this heavy.

"The Forte was a spectacular experience and one that I am not sure I am going to be able to top while riding a bike any time soon!"

If you like the Forte, you'll love XFondo!

XFondo is the challenge that'll get you dirty and out of your comfort zone - and then some! Registration is now open for the all-terrain 2024 XFondo Whistler event taking place Sat June 15 at Spruce Grove, Whistler. It's basically a product of us as traditional roadies getting into Friday mindset mode and scheming up something a little different.

With different distance options that pack in challenge aplenty on the ups and downs of the Whistler course, you and your friends will be guaranteed to find a great test to measure yourself against and tell stories over later.

Not sure what we're talking about? Missed the video from last year? Catch up now!

XFondo is a not so serious biking gauntlet that'll take you on some of BC's best terrain (photo: Rami Films)

In one day, you ride road, gravel, trail and dirt. The atmosphere is hair down... that is, if you have any once you get back. We set up the campfires, pitch a bunch of good humans into a popup village next to the forest, and get the drinks on ice.

Aside from a gravel bike all you'll need to do is bring a positive attitude and community spirit - XFondo is a place to come together and meet fellow good humans with a shared love of getting out into the woods. XFondo is also thrilled to be advocating fundraising for WORCA, the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association, who do so much for the sport we share.

Now in it's 3rd year, registration tops out at 250 lionhearted riders and comes packed with surprises at every turn. Make sure you and your friends are there to join us this June! It's going to be a doozy.

15th RBC GranFondo Whistler logo
Subscribe to 15th RBC GranFondo Whistler and never miss a post.
#forte#news#xfondo#road cycling#gravel cycling
  • Loading comments...