On July 11th, North America’s top men and women racers will be racing for more than just pride and a whole lot of money at the Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix presented by Allstream. They’ll also be competing to get their names on two of the more interesting trophies in the cycling world. Our first look is at the women’s trophy.
Back in 2005, Gastown race organizers were looking for a special way to mark the 25th running of the Gastown Grand Prix. Looking at our past winners, on the men’s side we had names that read like a who’s who of North American cycling and a unique trophy to honour their achievements.
Our list of women’s winners was equally impressive, but with no trophy to honour their victories, we decided to celebrate our anniversary by creating a trophy that would honour our women racers, celebrate Gastown’s industrial heritage and strengthen our partnership with the City of Vancouver.
Our first step was to find a local artist for the trophy. We turned to Ross McMillan, artist, designer and owner of Gastown’s Industrial Artifacts, a company which designed and manufactured unique furniture and decor using a variety of recycled materials reclaimed from a variety of BC industries.
McMillan brought in Johann Wieghardt and together they designed and built the trophy, entitled “Forward,” specifically for the winner of the women’s race. It was made using recycled wooden casting patterns (Red Cedar and Yellow Pine), reclaimed from two Vancouver machine shop/foundries (Progressive Engineering Works Ltd and Reliance Motor and Machine Works Ltd.)
The female figure was carved by Wieghardt from a piece of old growth Yellow Cedar reclaimed from the Progressive Engineering Works building, which was torn down in 2004. According to McMillan, the trophy was designed to represent the determination and resiliency of the human spirit to overcome adversity and move forward to the future.
We then turned to the City of Vancouver and the race’s biggest supporter at City Hall, Councillor Raymond Louie, a former bike racer himself. With the support of Mayor Larry Campbell, the City agreed to look after the cost for the trophy, which was named the City of Vancouver’s women’s trophy.
On July 6, 2005, to celebrate the City of Vancouver’s contribution, the new trophy was ridden from City Hall to Storyeum in Gastown by a group of riders led by Vancouver City Councillors Raymond Louie, Peter Ladner, Ellen Woodsworth, as well as Gastown Women’s Champions Verna Buhler (1981,82,83), Sara Neil (1990) and Alison Sydor (1991).
Storyeum was a family historical tourist attraction, which, during that July, partnered with the race, the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum and Cap’s Bicycles to feature displays of BC cycling history.
The new trophy was unveiled by Vancouver Deputy Mayor Jim Green, who officially proclaimed July 20, Tour de Gastown Day in Vancouver (our old race name).
“We’re pleased to finally help recognize the great women riders that have won in Gastown,” said Green. “For years, male riders have been coming to Gastown to try and put their name next to Lance Armstrong’s on the men’s trophy, now women riders have a chance to add their names next to the inspiring women riders that have won here like Verna Buhler, who won three times, the incredible Sara Neil and our three-time world champion Alison Sydor.”
After 25 years, women racers at Vancouver’s legendary Tour de Gastown finally had a trophy to call their own.
Although the Gastown Grand Prix started in 1973, the first race on the women’s trophy is the 1981 edition won by Verna Buhler. Prior to that, previous race organizers say there just weren’t enough women racing to hold a separate event. That happened again in 1989 when the nearby women’s Ore-Ida race in the United States drew all the top women to their race with their big cash prize list.
This year’s, it’s Global Relay, Allstream and the Gastown Business Improvement Society that are working to attract North America’s top women with a record setting prize list and a chance for one woman to add her name to a trophy that’s every bit as unique as the race itself.