They do it for love, not money.
For those who aren't hard core cycling fans, you might not realize the Gastown Grand Prix has returned to B.C. Superweek, the series of races that begins with this weekend's Tour de Delta.
The return of the Gastown race is big news not only because it brings pro cycling back to the cobblestone streets of downtown Vancouver, but it also builds on a rich tradition, the race having been won in the past by none other than Tour de France legend Lance Armstrong.
Gastown's $40,000 purse also pushes the total amount of prize money up for grabs during this year's Superweek to more than $100,000. This record total is certainly super, but when you think about the quality of riders, both male and female, that will be competing, and the piece of pie each will take home after 10 grueling days on the roads of Greater Vancouver, you soon realize these guys and girls have to love what they're doing because no one is getting rich.
The $15,000 that goes to the men's winner in Gastown is a nice chunk of change, to be sure, but to put it in a little perspective, NBA superstar Kobe Bryant makes three times the total Superweek purse in just one game, while Alex Rodriguez makes almost double it every time he steps on the field for the New York Yankees. Roberto Luongo and the Sedin twins aren't quite so handsomely compensated, having to work all of four periods in order to reach the total all Superweek riders will be sharing.
Granted, this is not the big time like in Europe, but it's big in North American cycling circles and some pretty darn good riders have pedaled their way through these parts over the last decade, including Olympians and world champions.
Tour de Delta alumni Tyler Farrar, who now competes in the grand tours of Europe, won a stage of last year's Tour de France as well as one in this year's Giro d'Italia. Other international stars like Svein Tuft and Gord Fraser have been regular visitors to Superweek.
These guys, and gals, are phenomenal athletes that compete at the highest level of their sport in North America and beyond. They race at breakneck speeds, their wheels just inches apart, giving everything they've got to cross the finish line first. And then they do it all over again the next evening.
Watching these riders compete is a sight to behold in itself, but to know they're doing so solely for the love of the sport adds something to the spectacle we get to enjoy every July.