The annual fall Tour of Alberta hosts 12 international professional cycling teams on a five-day race through rugged, winding and breathtakingly beautiful regions of Alberta. September 1-5, 2016, 120 of the worlds best cyclists will race 606.3 kilometres around the province. Here’s how to catch the race.
Stage 1: Lethbridge Circuit Race.
Lethbridge’s jagged coulees and prairie winds will be sure to give the racers a fit. Both the riders and the spectators will love the circuit course as it rolls in and out of the steep river valley nine times.
Best place to watch the race: Galt Gardens. Ride your bike to the park early to take in the festival between laps.
Best thing to do while awaiting the racers: The festival starts at 11 a.m. with bouncy castles, balloon artists, food, venders and entertainment to keep the family amused throughout the day. An outdoor stage and big screen will keep you in the loop as the riders battle for the first yellow jersey of the race.
Bike racing fan tip: Watch for the racers as they come out of the deep coulees along Scenic Drive. At these points, racers can collect points in the competition for King of the Mountains, indicated by a polka-dot jersey.
Race details: The race begins Sept. 1 at 4:50 p.m., at Galt Park, and runs through nine circuits through the city for 106.9 kilometres.
Stage 2: Kananaskis to Olds
Riders (and fans) will be awestruck by the mountain peaks and thick forests at the start of Stage Two at the Delta Lodge in Kananaskis Country. The route works its way along Highway 1A blasting through Cochrane and up the biggest climb of the tour before reaching the final destination.
Best place to watch the race: Cheer for the riders as they crest the hill at Cochrane or watch them break the speed limit as they blow into Olds on Highway 27 for the mass sprint for the finish line near Centennial Park.
Best thing to do while awaiting the racers: The festival in Olds, full of bike parades and family fun, starts at noon. Make sure you peddle the Virtual Reality bike experience to see what it would be like to ride the race. This is the breadbasket of Alberta, so don’t miss the mini-farmers market.
Bike racing fan tip: Tucking like a downhill skier, the racers will reach speeds up to 100 kph on the hill at Barrier Lake in Kananaskis Country. Watch for the red jersey – he will be the best Canadian so far.
Race details: The race begins Sept. 2 at 12:30 p.m., at The Delta Kananaskis, and after 182 kilometres they will be charging into Olds around 3:30 p.m.
Stage 3: Rocky Mountain House to Drayton Valley
Stage Three from Rocky Mountain House starts with seven bumpy kilometres of dirt roads before grinding up a two-kilometre hill. Using “The Cowboy Trail” racers will be fast on the predominantly flat course through ranching communities before the finish at Drayton Valley.
Best place to watch the race: Race Centre in Rocky Mountain House is your chance to meet the athletes before they hit the highway. Ride your bike or drive 10 kilometres north on highway 22 to watch as the pack returns to Highway 22 on route to Drayton Valley.
Best thing to do while awaiting the racers: The Rocky Mountain House festival will include kids bike races, bike demos and yes, a unicycling juggler. Antique muskets from Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site will signal the start at 12:20 p.m. The Drayton Valley starts its festival at 9 a.m. and by noon, vendors, food trucks and the beer garden will add to the action.
Bike racing fan tip: It will be an exhilarating three-lap sprint though Drayton Valley. Find your place on the last corner before the finish line to watch the leaders bolt for the finish.
Race details: The race begins Sept. 3 at 12:20 p.m., in Rocky Mountain House and after 181.2 kilometres arrives in Drayton Valley around 4:00 p.m.
Stage 4: Edmonton (Hawrelak Park), Individual Time Trial
Stage 4 is only 12.1 kilometres, but considered the most critical stage of the race. Riders individually challenge the clock on a tough circuit along the river and up Grout Road for a long and steady climb.
Best place to watch the race: Hawrelak Park will be action central but if you want to see hard climbs or speed, find a spot along Grout Road.
Best thing to do while awaiting the racers: Hawrelak Park also hosts the ITU Triathlon in the morning so the action never stops. The Tour Festival starts at noon with 30 venders to visit before the riders blast from the start hut every two minutes, beginning at 5 p.m.
Bike racing fan tip: Watch for the sleek bikes, aerodynamic teardrop helmets and absolute exertion that comes with a time trial. Every second counts.
Race details: The race starts Sept. 4 at 5 p.m., at Hawrelak Park and loops across the river and back for 12.1 kilometres. Use the shuttle service from the University of Alberta to get to Hawrelak Park.
Stage 5: Edmonton (Churchill Square)
This final stage has seen amazing upsets in previous years with the lead changing in the wink of an eye. The circuit through the city’s downtown core includes the short, steep Bellamy Hill nine times.
Best place to watch the race: Anywhere downtown on the 11.9-kilometre closed circuit loop has great views of the leaders being chased by the peloton but make your way to Churchill Square to the finish.
Best thing to do while awaiting the racers: The entertainment at Churchill Square starts at 10 a.m. Mingle with the athletes before the race at 12:50 p.m. then visit festival vendors, food trucks and booths, watch the action on the big screen.
Bike racing fan tip: The winner of this stage is awarded a 10 second bonus. Will that change who wins the 2016 Tour of Alberta?
Race details: The race begins Sept. 5 at 1 p.m., at Churchill Square with nine 12.1 kilometre loops for an exhilarating finish.