bc-100911-gran-fondo

Thousands of cyclists gather in downtown Vancouver early Saturday morning in preparation for Canada's first GranFondo race. ((CBC))

More than 4,000 riders donned Lycra and jumped on their bikes Saturday to pedal to Whistler from downtown Vancouver.

Their mission was to pedal 120 kilometres along the scenic Sea to Sky Highway as part of Canada's first GranFondo race.

The winner was Vancouver resident Andrew Pinfold, who made it to Whistler in just over three hours, said Andrew McKinnon, co-founder of the RBC GranFondo Whistler event.

McKinnon said 72 per cent of the participants in the GranFondo —which loosely translated from Italian means "big race" — were men, and the average age of competitors was 46.

He said GranFondos have become so popular in Europe that riders are known by the acronym MAMILS — Middle-Aged Men in Lycra.

McKinnon said most of the participants are "enthusiastic recreationalists."

"These are people who just have a passion for cycling and they want to challenge themselves and want to ride as a group and be part of an event," he said.

McKinnon said 150 of the participants were part of teams racing to the finish line.

Besides encouraging physical fitness, the event included awareness of fresh water usage in Canada and developing countries.