Professional Cycling Returns to Burnaby’s Historic Heights Neighbourhood
There are a lot of similarities between the Giro d’Italia and one of the many races it has inspired – the Giro di Burnaby presented by Appia Development.
Perhaps the biggest similarity this year is that both races are celebrating significant milestones. The Giro d’Italia lauded its centenary edition this past May, while the Giro di Burnaby honours its tenth anniversary on July 13 as part of BC Superweek. It was a firsthand account of the Giro d’Italia by City of Burnaby Councilor Pietro Calendino when he was a boy that planted the seed for the Giro di Burnaby. That, along with the success in the early 2000’s of the Tour de White Rock and Tour de Delta events, put the wheels in motion for the first edition in 2006.
“I had been reading in the media that White Rock and Delta had cycling races. This took me back to my childhood days when the Giro came on the main highway near my hometown and the excitement it created. I watched the Giro on TV every year after that. Those were the days of the famous champions Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali, the greatest ever,” said Calendino.
The Bosa family and their companies were among the first local businesses to jump on board as sponsors of the race.
“When the event started, my brothers Ryan (Embassy Development), Jason (Palladio Jewelers), our father Nat (Bosa Development), and I were approached to become sponsors. We chose to participate in the Giro because of our long connection with the North Burnaby community, our offices have been located in the area for years,” explains Appia Development President Jim Bosa. “There was also family connection having spent years going to school and growing up in the Heights neighbourhood. As the years went by, Appia took over sole sponsorship due to the large presence I have in the area with my projects and I am also the only one of the original group to have business locally.”
“I can’t express enough appreciation for the generosity and the commitment of the Bosa family. If they hadn’t been so amenable to sponsor the event at the very beginning, we probably wouldn’t be talking about the Giro di Burnaby today,” added Calendino. “From the beginning, I had hoped that the Italian-Canadian entrepreneurs in Burnaby would jump to the opportunity and they did.”
Although now known for its tight criterium course in the historic Heights neighbourhood, the Giro di Burnaby was initially intended to be a long distance road race.
“The idea came to me that Burnaby, with its numerous ridges, hills and flat areas, had the ideal terrain for a professional bike road race. So I brought a proposal for the feasibility study on a road bike race to City Council,” Calendino explained. “The proposal was referred to Parks and Recreation who came back with a positive report that a cycling event was doable, but that the logistics for a road race were insurmountable given Burnaby’s geographic location and the traffic that moves through it. It was decided that a criterium race was less disruptive, and Council gave its stamp of approval.”
A tenth anniversary is certainly cause for celebration, but it’s also a cause for reflection at how far an event like the Giro di Burnaby has come. And for those who have been part of the race since the get-go, there’s a huge amount of pride in seeing the growth occur.
“I am proud to see the whole community on board with the race, from the Heights Merchants, to the residents, to the volunteers. We don’t need to go door to door with flyers to remind people to come watch the race. They ask me on the streets, in the restaurants, at the park, ‘When is the race?’ The Giro has come of age and people wait for it every year,” Calendino said. “Of course, a lot of credit goes to Race Organizer Rainy Kent and the fantastic team of volunteers she puts together every year. A lot of the success of the race is due to them. The Giro attracts 7,000 to 10,000 spectators on a good warm night and the field of riders grows year after year.”
“I feel the Giro is a positive community event, bringing people from surrounding neighbourhoods to enjoy something fun, exciting, and appropriate for all ages,” said Bosa. “The event has grown over the years to include a beer garden, youth race, and the local merchants embrace the event and get involved.”
BC Superweek is Canada’s biggest professional road cycling series and features more than $140,000 in prize money with nine races over ten days. BC Superweek runs from July 7 – 16 this summer and is made up of the Tour de Delta (July 7 – 9), New West Grand Prix (July 11), Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix (July 12), Giro di Burnaby presented by Appia Development (July 13), PoCo Grand Prix presented by Dominion Lending Centres (July 14), and Steve Nash Fitness World presents Tour de White Rock (July 15 – 16).