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When more then 200 cyclists race through downtown Port Coquitlam next July for the BC Superweek stop, Port Moody pro Leah Guloien will have a hometown crowd to cheer her on.
The Gleneagle secondary graduate (class of 1999) is looking forward to competing in the newly announced PoCo Grand Prix on July 12 and seeing her loved ones on the sidelines.
"I think it's great for my friends and family to see what I'm doing and what I've been spending all of my time doing for the past nine years," she joked at a news conference yesterday (Thursday) in PoCo. "[I want them] to understand the sport of cycling and not say, 'Oh, I've seen the Tour de France' and not actually sure what's going on in the race."
Guloien — sister of Olympic silver medal-winning rower Krista Guloien — is on the Trek Red Truck Racing team that will be competing in the Pro Women's event, which is held in the early evening, just before the Pro Men's race.
Besides the two pro races, there'll be contests for men and women in Categories 3 and 4 (amateur level) plus shorter races for kids, youths and corporate groups with four riders.
John Tolkamp, president of Cycling Canada, told the crowd at the Gathering Place in Leigh Square that the PoCo Grand Prix could be "a major stepping stone for Port Coquitlam amateur athletes."
BC Superweek is the country's largest professional road cycling series. It is held in July and includes more than $120,000 in prizes, with eight races over nine days; PoCo is on Day 2.
Other BC Superweek events are: the Tour de Delta, Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix, Giro di Burnaby and the Tour de White Rock.
John Leeburn, PoCo's chief administrative officer, said downtown PoCo will be closed for most of the day, with streets shut at noon to prepare for the first event at 2 p.m.
It will be a criterium-style race over 1.3 km or 60 laps, with each lap about a minute to complete on a proposed course that includes parts of Shaughnessy Street, Elgin Avenue, Mary Hill Road, McAllister Avenue, Donald Street and Wilson Avenue. And for those tight turns — especially into and out of Donald — hay bales will be in place to protect the riders if they fall, Leeburn said.
As with the annual PoCo BIA car show — the city's major attraction in August — residents and businesses can expect to see up to 5,000 visitors flooding the core to take in the action.
Kelly Hobbis, an owner of Cap's Westwood Cycle in Port Coquitlam and a member of the PoCo Grand Prix advisory committee, said the race will be another great summer draw for the municipality.
"When a village or city in Europe is selected to be part of the Tour de France, it is a true feather in their cap and the race is embraced by everyone," Hobbis said at the conference.
And Leeburn hopes downtown shop owners will get on board. On Wednesday, city staff and PoCo BIA members hand-delivered dozens of letters to advise businesses of the Grand Prix.
As for budgeting, the city is on the hook for $150,000 annually for the next five years to pay for items like insurance, civic and emergency personnel, and racers' prizes.
But that's expected to be paid for by a sponsor, who would get naming rights to the race.
Cheryl Taunton, wife of PoCo Grand Prix chair Jack Taunton, said PoCo is a good fit for BC Superweek given its commitment level from city council and the community. The organization had been looking for a replacement for its UBC Grand Prix because that site was running into challenges with the route and the amount of construction taking place in the area.
Mayor Greg Moore, a cycling enthusiast who often commutes on two wheels, said he hopes the PoCo Grand Prix will stick around for a long time.
"As long as cycling is around, it will be in downtown Port Coquitlam," he said.
• Businesses that want to be part of PoCo Grand Prix can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Lori Bowie at 604-927-7907. As well, volunteers can sign up at portcoquitlam.ca/volunteer. For more information, follow @PoCoGP.