Competitors set out on the 2018 edition of the Grandfondo from historic Fort Langley. (File)

VIDEO: Changes coming to Langley GranFondo

New managers have plans to expand the annual family-friendly event into an all-day festival

New managers of the Valley GranFondo have ambitious plans for the annual Langley event.

Mark Ernsting, the founder of M1 Sports Management only had a few months to prepare for the Saturday (July 20) ride after they took over, so the focus is getting the event to run smoothly.

But down the road, they want to build it into an all-day “signature event” with activities running from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m..

“We want to have a few things going on to make it a cycling festival,” Ernsting told the Langley Advance Times.

“We’re trying to really grow the event.”

There will be some changes this year that will see the GranFondo festival take place closer to the historic Fort Langley, Ernsting outlined.

The new additions include live music, a first for the event, a beer garden that will be open to the public, as well as an axe-throwing event, a kid’s cycling event, food trucks and free bike valet.

As well, there will be a “ride of champions” that will see well-known cyclists taking part, though their names wont be revealed until the day of the ride.

“We’ll have some ex-Olympians,” Ernsting predicted.

“I want the youth [taking part in the ride] to understand the history of the sport and who has opened the doors for them.”

Next year, when they’ve had some time to discuss proposals with the Township of Langley, Ernsting would like to add a non-competitive mass participation bike run within Fort Langley, running a five- to 10-kilometre loop.

“No chips, no finish line,” Ernsting promised.

“Just come out and experience the festival.”

READ MORE: Excitement building around Fort Langley for 8th annual Valley GranFondo

His company has more than 11 years of experience with large cycling events, including running the annual B.C. Superweek series that includes, the Tour de Delta, New West Grand Prix, Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix, Giro di Burnaby, PoCo Grand Prix, and Tour de White Rock.

Ernsting is a five-time Canadian national track cycling champion and four-time Division 1 US Collegiate national cycling champion. As an athlete, he rode for cycling teams in North America and Europe, and was part of the Canadian national team for 10-years, competing at a variety of international events including the Pan-Am Games, until his retirement in 2004.

While he wants to build on the success of the GranFondo event Ernsting said he is also determined to “continue the legacy” of the event.

The 8th Annual Prospera Valley GranFondo will get underway at 7 a.m. with riders choosing one of three routes of 50, to 100 to 160 kilometres.

More than 1,200 riders had registered as of Wednesday.

A guide for participants notes the event is “not an official race but a self-paced ride.”

A portion of the registration fees will help support local various programs, including the Cycling BC iRide program and the DCBank pro cycling team, Canada’s only western-Canadian based team that is part of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the worldwide governing body for cycling.

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