Archive for July 31, 2010

Tour de l’Alberta 2010   3 comments

Riding the local one-day Tour de l’Alberta event was the second of my goals for this year of getting back into cycling (the first goal was the Golden Triangle tour). This ride was on Sunday July 25 (coincidentally and somewhat unfortunately the last day of le Tour de France). Not coincidentally, this “tour de” has a French flavor to it as the route travels through of the Franco-Albertan communities north of Edmonton.This organized ride (not a race) offered cyclist a choice of 4 distances: 20 kilometers, 50K, 100K and 185K ( as well as a 5K Kid’s Mini Tour). Earlier in the year I was expecting to ride the 185 K distance but without having gotten in sufficient training I scaled back my goal to the 100K.

The 100K ride started in Morinville, Alberta at 8:30 AM (an hour and a half after the  start for the 185K group). The weather was just about perfect at the start: clear skies, no wind and a temperature of around 16C.  I don’t know how many riders chose this distance but out of the 1000 that would do one of the distances I would not be surprised if there were 500 bikes crowding into the starting area. It was good that they controlled the start by letting riders go off in groups of maybe 50, a few minutes apart. Even with that it was pretty crowded on the road for the first few kilometers.

one group of the 100K riders waiting to begin their ride

The first leg of the ride headed out west of Morinville along a quiet country road (a 2 lane secondary highway with paved shoulders)  towards the  first rest stop 22Km away.  It is a peaceful morning, with not much vehicular traffic  but I am  a little nervous riding along so many riders – especially of obviously varying levels of experience. Some cyclists were obviously accustomed to riding in a peleton,  others seemed at bit oblivious to other cyclists and road traffic. Nonetheless, no troubles were encountered or observed.

bicycle traffic on the first leg, not far out of Morinville

fence and fields along Highway 44

rest stop #1 in Alcomdale - a chance to refuel

All of the rest stops on this well organized were manned by a bunch of friendly volunteers. Each stop gave riders a chance to fill up their waterbottle with water or Gatorade and to eat from a wide variety of snacks: fruits, granola bars, muffins, trail mix, candies etc.. The rest stops were also a chance to use the washrooms but the lineups were long.

golden field and big blue sky

The second segment of the ride was a 23K trek from Alcomdale to Legal, where the  lunch stop was. We continued north for another 6.5K before turning east onto highway 651. Although the wind seemed barely noticeable when standing still. I notice a significant difference when making this turn. My eastbound cruising speed went up to about 23Kph from the 18 Kph on the northbound portion.

long straight flat roads

A mere 4 kilometers from Legal I suffered a flat rear tire. I stopped and replaced the tube with a spare I had luckily bought the day before. The change went smoothly, I found the shard of glass that caused the flat so I was able to prevent a recurrence in my new tube. I didn’t need assistance but it was sure nice to have offers of help from event support staff in vehicles and on motorbikes, and also to have many of the other riders going by ask if I was okay.

there were not many clouds in the sky but they contributed to the great scenery

Legal was the designated lunch stop so it had a bit more to offer than the typical rest stop. There was music a nice open air shelter and more substantial food including sandwiches. Also in keeping with the french culture of the community the food included tortiere, a traditional French Canadian meat pie. I was particularly drawn to some delicious maple fudge!

Lunch stop in Legal at the Citadel Park Gazebo

Legal was also the lunch stop for the 50Km ride group so there were a lot of people around. Even though I headed back out after the bulk of the riders, there was still considerable congestion on the road for a few kilometers until the 50K group turned off.  Again the eastbound route gave a slight tailwind and after the rest and being fueled by fudge I was flying down this stretch.

a decent paved shoulder for cycling along most of the route

This 3rd segment of the day to the Lily Lake rest stop was the shortest segment at just 13.6 K and was 3K less than that if you took the stop before a little 3K out and back segment (as I and most others did).

Rest Stop #3 at Lily Lake

Back on the road again, the first order of business was to head north for 1.5K before turning around and heading south towards  Bon Accord. This was a nice little ride offering a few different bits of scenery including some old buildings, some cattle  and even a small group of llamas.

old Orthodox church along Lily Lake Road

more wonderfully brilliant canola fields

As I rode along towards Rest Stop #4 in Bon Accord I was starting to feel fatigue and was glad I had not attempted the 185K distance. I was going to be okay for another 25K but could not have imagined being only half way through the longer distance.

The Bon Accord rest stop was at the local arena and offered the same re-fueling options. After 15 minutes or so, I was back on the road for the final leg of my 100K ride.

The 5th leg of the ride took us from Bon Accord back to the starting point in Morinville. Although it was just another 20.4K I must admit it seemed longer. there was a headwind and I was obviously getting tired. It also didn’t help that the crowd had really thinned out, so it really felt like a solo ride

scene along Highway 28, east of Bon Accord

The last few kilometers seemed particularly long and weird. To make up the 100Km distance I suppose, the route turned off the main road through Morinville and south along a long, lonely street through an as yet undeveloped residential subdivision. I saw absolutely no other riders and did wonder if I was on the right route. I never wondered too hard because the route was well marked throughout, with signs posted at every intersection. I did get back to the main road, then it was just a couple of blocks till I turned off and passed through the start/finish arch.

At the finish line I was give  a finishers’ medallion which I hadn’t expected it).  I must admit the cold and tasty “popsicle” at the finish was pretty darn good too! I had been on the road for about 6 hours – with rest stops, photo ops and the flat tire I probably had been in the saddle for about four and a half hours.

Tour de l'Alberta finisher's medal (on commemorative jersey)

It was at the finish line that I finally ran into someone I knew and discovered that there were a number of others that I knew who had ridden that day too. Funny that I hadn’t run into anyone on the road, but not too surprising given the number of people involved that day.

Once cooled down a bit I got back to the car, put the bike away, took off my helmet and changed out of my cycling shoes – then it was time to eat. The post race meal was very nice. It featured pasta, salad, garlic bread. An especially classy touch was that we ate of real plates and had real cutlery. After the long ride, sitting out there in the sun, eating this food was a wonderful conclusion to a great day

tables set up with the classy and delicious post-ride meal

Post script: I was a bit surprised at just how tired I felt by the evening after the ride. The general fatigue was worse than I’d felt in the couple of 100K days I had in the mountains in May, but similar to what I had felt after running marathons (although without the specific muscle stiffness). Next year I’ll probably be back – I’m especially eager to tackle the 185K distance (that would be a special accomplishment!)

Thanks for the EBTC for organizing this event and all of the volunteers that made it possible!