Archive for the ‘Tour de l’Alberta’ Tag

Antler Lake Training Ride   Leave a comment

Sunday, May 13th, the fourth Target the Tour training ride and what a beautiful day it was. As we gathered for  our 0930 start, the sun was shining, the temperature a very comfortable 15C, there was no wind to speak of and the landscape had greened-up significantly.

The distance of this week’s ride was 45K – not an increase in distance, so the goal of the week was to pick up the pace a notch or two. The group of maybe 30 or 40 riders listened to an informative and entertaining pre-ride talk on re-fuelling on the road and then we were off.  The group spread out fairly quickly once we got on the road. The route took us out southeast of our usual starting point at the Country Boyz Tempo on Highway 16, through Ardrossan and on towards Antler Lake.

The group stretches out on a quiet undulating road in rural Alberta

The roads were a mix of the very quiet country road with a few stretches along busier roads, with shoulders and moderate vehicular traffic. As was pointed out, the Tour de l’Alberta, for which this series of training rides is preparing us for, will be along highways so we must train to be comfortable riding in those conditions.

Heading east along the busier secondary Highway 530

Pulling a Trailer

As we rode along it was very nice to have had a number of people comment that they have seen my photos/blog of our earlier rides. That was certainly nice to hear. I wasn’t always able to chat with these people on the road but look forward to doing so later.

This day’s ride again to took me to roads I’d never traveled and places I’d not seen, even though so close to Edmonton. The turnaround point was Antler Lake [map}, a small prairie lake just southwest of Elk Island National Park. We cycled around the  community on the east side of the lake – I was surprised to see how many lakeside homes/properties there were.

Wide shoulders

Our route back took us for awhile along the  busier Highway 630 but fortunately there was a nice wide shoulder on which to ride and really not to much traffic. A gas station/convenience store along this stretch offered an opportunity to take a brief rest and re-fuel

We crossed railway tracks a couple of times and both times I had to wait as freight trains thundered by. I was certainly reminded how important rail  is for moving goods around this country. As it turned out, the second time we waited we needed have as our turn-off was the  still a little further down the highway.

Waiting for the train

 

Roadside/trackside Pond

Bird in the reeds

 

Being out in the country on a quiet morning gives one the opportunity to soak-in nature. I particularly enjoy riding past the many ponds, especially when they are alive with the croaking of heard (but unseen) frogs. Then there is the bird life: ducks, geese, red-winged blackbirds to name just a few that I saw on that morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rolling Road

Horses among the trees

 

 

Not all  of the animal life was wild – there were lots of dogs, a couple of pigs and some horses seen along the ride.

 

 

Windmill

 

As we rode back north, and particularly west on Highway 530, I noticed a headwind (at a point where I hadn’t notice a tailwind on the way out). The wind was brisk enough that for short times went down onto my handlebar drops to reduce wind resistance a bit.

 

 

Finally we cycled up through Ardrossan and made the turn onto the service road paralleling the Yellowhead Highway. Even though it had not been a particularly long ride, it did feel  good to be in that homestretch and to see our starting /finishing point.

In the home stretch … another good ride!

Back in the parking lot it was the usual post ride ritual of shedding the helmet, gloves and cycling shoes and squeezing my bike into the back of my car. After that there were a few minutes to chat and meet a couple new faces, before driving home.

More photos from my cycling excursions (and many other things) can be found on my Flickr photostream.

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Target the Tour – Week 2   Leave a comment

Sunday, April 29th 2012 – the second of the weekly EBTC training rides targeting the Tour de l’Alberta ride in late July. This week’s distance was 45K (a 10K increment from last week). Unfortunately for me I only got in one ride on my own during the last week – a ride of 30K through the Edmonton river valley.

We again gathered at the Country Boyz Gas Station/restaurant/etc. on Highway 16 near Ardrossan at 0930. There was a slightly smaller group than last week (maybe 35 to 40 riders vs. 50ish). The weather at the start was fine: sunny and blue skies with a temperature of maybe 8C. I dressed lighter than last week, wearing shorts instead of long pants, regular fingerless gloves instead of full finger gloves and a light, short sleeve jersey under my jacket instead of a heavy long sleeve wool one. I was quite comfortable dressed like that and shed my jacket at our half-way point rest stop.

Pre-ride Instructions

Starting Off

We hit the road at about 9:40 after ride leader, Charles World, gave some instructions, which included safety reminders and a suggestion to try pace line riding today. I’m not sure how much of that happened as I personally was more interested in laying back, out of the crowd so I could quickly stop and take a photo if something caught my eye. I started out at the back and riding my own pace (but never letting the group get out of sight) passed only a handful of people on the first half of the ride.

The group heads south on RR 224, a short distance from the start (note the clear blue sky)

Freight train from overpass

Prairie Pond (note the clouds building to the west)

 

 

Along the way on the quiet country roads we saw fields and ponds (some which were loud with croaking frogs) and passed over railway tracks.

 

The route today was pretty straight – mostly south along two country roads (Range Roads 224 and 223) to Cooking Lake, where we had out rest break.

 

The last couple of kilometers to Cooking Lake required  us to ride on the major Highway 14 but the paved shoulder was wide and clean, so the riding was fine .

 

We had a nice break, of 15 to 50 minutes at the Cooking Lake rest stop with its restaurant ( the Firehall Diner Pizza and Grill) and convenience store. As got off of our bikes and walked around, we noticed that the clouds, which had been in the far distant west, were now getting thicker overhead.

Resting at Cooking Lake

The return trip was pretty much straight north along one road, Highway 824. There were still some sunny breaks as we headed back on the road but soon the sky became mostly cloudy with a bit of light rain, and a noticeable wind from the northwest. I found these conditions less inspiring for taking photos so instead I just got into a good rhythm and pushed my way “home” at a decent pace. I averaged 23.5 kph on the return trip vs. 21.6 on the way out – I thought the difference would be greater but I guess the wind ate up a lot of my energy. Hmmmm, a pace line would have been just the thing under those conditions.

A Serene Country Scene (just north of Cooking Lake)

Click here to go to my post on the previous week’s ride.

Target the Tour – a First Group Training Ride   1 comment

The Edmonton Bicycle and Touring Club (EBTC) has for a long time hosted a big one-day group cycling event called the Tour de l’Alberta. The club also leads a series of weekly training rides to help riders build up the endurance needed to complete an event in the big tour. As the 180K event is on my tentative calendar I was out on Sunday morning (April22nd) for the first ride of the Target the Tour “Classic” group (Classic referring to the “century” distance i.e. 100 Miles).

Gathering at the Start

We met for a 9:30 start at the Country Boyz Tempo gas station/restaurant on the Yellowhead highway (16) about 10 K from Edmonton.  I was impressed to see about 50 riders out that morning. After a few words to the group from ride organizer Char World,  about the route and safety , the riders divided into a fast and a slow group (with tentative average speeds of 25 kph and 20 kph respectively for this week).

I was  a bit late in arriving so was scrambling to get ready. By the time I got the bike out of the car and put together, most riders were ready to hit the road. Then I had to run into the convenience store to pick up a Gatorade, as I had left my water bottle at home. I started off with the slower group and by the time I got ready to go I was at the tail end. This suited me just fine as I like to stop and take photos along the way and that is a lot easier to do if no one is following right behind me.

It was a cool morning (maybe 8C) but a lot better than the previous week when the scheduled first ride had to be cancelled due to the snow. I started off in my cool weather gear: tights, long-sleeve jersey under a Gortex shell, and full finger gloves. By half way through the 40K ride I would shed the jacket and gloves and be quite comfortable.

Part of the group on a small hill, on a quiet road

For someone that his live his life in Edmonton and done a lot of cycling I was embarrassed not to have ridden in the Ardrossan area east of Edmonton. It is a real gem of a cycling area with nice little roads – quiet traffic and good surfaces. They reminded me of the little country roads that I had so loved when touring in France and Scotland. Our regular Sunday training rides will be centered in this area so I am looking forward to coming back.

On the first third of the ride, the whole group stopped a couple of time to ensure that those at the back (where I was) were doing okay and that no one missed a critical turn-off.

At one point around half way, with a bit of a downhill (and perhaps a slight tailwind) I decided to pick up my pace considerably and work my way to the front end of the group. It did feel good to go from a pace of around 20kph to about 30 for awhile. I felt in pretty good shape (for this time of year and for a ride of only 35K). I would soon get a little more training than I had expected.

With about 4 Km to the finish, the group of about 5 that I was riding with missed a turn. Ironically we had stopped to check the map – well I say we but I didn’t pull out my map and when the rest set off down the road, I just followed (error noted, lesson learned!). After maybe half a kilometer someone caught up with me and informed me that we had missed the turn. There were 4 people ahead of me down the road so I took off after them (at a pretty brisk pace) to get them to turn around. I caught up with a couple of riders, delivered the news and then chased down the last two. We probably had gone 2 km by that time – then turned around, rode back, made the originally missed turn and rejoined the group. That little sprint was good training (so I told myself).

On the road - the last few K

From there is was a pretty easy and peaceful ride back to the starting point. As we went by Ardrossan itself (the schools, curling rink, shopping centre).  I saw that other (i.e. not our EBTC group) riders had apparently used that locale as a starting point for their rides in the area (confirming what a popular and suitable cycling area it is).

Back at the starting point I had a chance to chat with a few people whom I had not seen for some time, before loading my bike back into the car and driving back to the City. It was a great start, to the day and to the Target the Tour training rides. I am already looking forward to next Sunday.

For a description of another ride, with a different flavor, by a different group of riders – in the same area that Sunday morning, check out this post in the blog by Zdenko Kahlina.

Silver Triangle Here I Come   1 comment

After our second spring snowfall had melted away enough to leave the street mostly dry, I got my touring bike out last Saturday (April 7th). It was a chilly afternoon ride, but the sun was out so can’t complain too much. I did my typical early season route which is from central Edmonton, along the bike path in Dawson Park then along Ada Boulevard to Rundle Park, a lap of the park and back. With a good 100psi in the tires I sure noticed that  the riding was a lot easier than the time I’d taken my mountain bike on this route a couple of weeks earlier.

My motivation for heading out on this day? Well, I had just registered to join the Silver Triangle tour. This Edmonton Bicycle and Touring Club (EBTC) organized ride will be happening in mid-June in central BC ( the Canadian province of British Columbia). The riding starts in Silverton on Slocan Lake and we will ride over to Kaslo on Kootenay Lake, following it south to Nelson, up Highway 6 through Winlaw, back along the shore of Slocan Lake to Nakusp . I’ll also be looking forward to a visit to the Ainsworth Hot Springs along the way.

I have not ridden this area before but am told it is beautiful and traffic should be light. We will be covering about 100 Km per day with some mountainous terrain – hence the need to kick off some serious training. The challenge as always will be to push myself to get the cardio-vascular system and muscles in shape, without causing injury to a knee or something like that.

A key part of my training will be participating in the EBTC Target the Tour Classic training rides each Sunday. The intent of these rides is to train for the Tour de l’Alberta ride (and particularly the 185K distance). That ride will be my secondary personal goal for this season (well the first half anyway). As such this year is looking similar to 2010 for me. That year I started with the Golden Triangle in May and then did the 100K distance in the Tour in July.

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!