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See you in Gastown for the Grand Prix

By Torben Rolfsen

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

This Wednesday, the day after Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, is often referred to as “the slowest day of the year in North American sports”.

And while there will be a couple of high profile events beamed into our living rooms from England and France, the Vancouver sports fan has an opportunity to get outside during this beautiful stretch of weather and attend one of the most thrilling spectacles of the year anywhere: cycling’s Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix.

Sunday’s day of carnage at the Tour de France featured seven climbs, including, for the first time in six years, three “hors categorie” (beyond classification) on cycling’s scale of climbing difficulty, in one stage.

The end result, as the Tour nears its midway point, had three-time champion Chris Froome on top of the leader board despite losing his top teammate Geraint Thomas to a crash.

Fabio Aru and Romain Bardet trail closely behind, 18 and 51 seconds back, respectively, in the overall standings.

While fans in France camp out overnight to see the peloton zip by once for about 15 seconds, the beauty of Gastown’s criterium course on Water and Cordova’s streets is the riders pass by frequently forty or fifty times over the course of an hour.

The brainchild of Dr. Roger Sumner in 1973, the race’s colourful history includes champions such as Ron Hayman, Alex Steida, Alison Sydor, Davis Phinney and Brian Walton.

Arguably the biggest one-day race in North America, the crowds of 40,000-plus pack the tight course which is lined with bales of hay where corner crashes are possible.

The cafes and restaurants, some with outdoor seating where it’s possible to catch glimpses of the action, will be bursting at the seams.

Throw in the beautiful Gastown evening light and its one you want to bring your camera to – the photographic possibilities are top notch.

Races get started Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., and it’s part of BC Superweek July 7-16, which features eight events in ten days across the Lower Mainland.

And best of all: it’s free.

See you in Gastown.