Volunteers Make Grand Prix Go

Guy Wilson-Roberts has been attending bike races in the BC Superweek series for years, even bringing along his young daughter so she might share his passion.

Usually his ventures to the races were a SkyTrain trip from New Westminster to catch the Gastown Grand Prix, a family car trip to Delta or White Rock to watch the races there, or a bike ride to Hastings Street for the Giro di Burnaby.

So when the series alighted in his hometown, just a short walk from his Quayside home, Wilson-Roberts knew he wanted to be a part of it, get involved to ensure it success.

“Superweek is a big deal,” says Wilson-Roberts of his motivation to volunteer as one of coordinators of crossing marshals, the people with flags who ensure spectators can safely cross the course between laps. “New West gets to be a part of that.”

While the top men and women bike racers pedalling down Columbia Street at 65 kph are fuelled by adrenaline and energy gels, the Grand Prix itself is fuelled by volunteers.

A volunteer marshal ensures spectators and officials can safely cross the course between laps.

Last year’s inaugural event required 130 volunteers to erect fences, guide spectators, check in riders, herd young entrants for the Kids’ Prix, man crossings and even take photos. This year’s race on July 10 will require up to 160 to ensure an even better experience for the racers who come from all over North American and as far away as New Zealand, as well as officials and spectators, according to volunteer coordinator Jennifer Wolowic.

A volunteer helps direct a spectator around the course at last year’s Grand Prix.

The Last Door Recovery Centre is keen to pitch in again, says Jordan Bowman, who helps organize volunteer opportunities for the men enrolled in its residential recovery programs.

Last year about 20 Last Door clients helped set up and tear down the heavy blue fencing that surrounds much of the course.

“It was very hard work but very rewarding in the end,” says Bowman of the all-hands effort. “Our clients had a lot of fun.”

Wilson-Roberts says the spirit of teamwork and camaraderie amongst the volunteers is infectious.

“It was really fun to get all the different volunteers together and be part of the (mostly) smooth-running machine that put on the whole event,” he says. “It definitely made the event memorable.”

It also instills a great sense of community pride, says Last Door’s Bowman.

“Our clients… look back on the fun they had and the hard work they did, they feel like they have a purpose and made that event possible,” he says.

Wilson-Roberts, an active cyclist who’s occasionally dabbled in racing himself, says a successful Grand Prix helps grow awareness and appreciation for the sport he loves.

“You can watch some of the best bike riders in the world do their thing for free,” he says. “That’s quite unique.”

For Last Door, the opportunity to be involved in such an exciting and significant community event is one of the ways they’re able to give back.

‘When Last Door thinks about volunteering, we think of connection and being a part of the community,” says Bowman. “Volunteering is a very important part of our programming.

To volunteer for this year’s Grand Prix, go to:

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 6 – 15 and is made up of the Tour de Delta (July 6 – 8), New West Grand Prix (July 10), Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix (July 11), Giro di Burnaby presented by Appia Development (July 12), PoCo Grand Prix presented by Dominion Lending Centres (July 13), and Tour de White Rock (July 14 – 15).​

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