What started as a friendly disagreement over who is in the best shape has turned into a summer cycling competition through central Alberta. We’re riding from Strathcona County to the city of Camrose, which was the first leg of the six-day Tour of Alberta in 2013. It’s an epic race that we watch together every year, so it’s rather fitting that our manly disagreement will be settled, once and for all, with this heroic test of stamina.
Going the Distance
Adam has been cycling across Canada and is used to feats of endurance on his road bike. Dave and I have been on biking holidays before and are in good shape but we’ve never gone such a long distance in a single go. This morning, we stand at Festival Place in Sherwood Park – the starting point for Stage One of the 2013 tour – and trace our fingers along the 158 km (98 mi) route that finishes in Camrose. We agree that our limits are worth pushing.
We’re doing this for the fun, but we’ve known each other long enough to understand it’s also a fierce competition. There’s no starting pistol, only a nod between friends, as we clip into our pedals and assume formation, riding with the flow of traffic on the shoulder of the race route.
A Tight Race
I’m in third place, Fort Saskatchewan and the hamlet of Ardrossan far behind us, watching my friends in front of me – backs arched forward and legs pumping with the precision of an oil jack. Dave and Adam must realize it’s me who has the advantage, drafting behind them and conserving energy as they break the headwind.
The lead has been taken and lost several times. We’re riding alongside Miquelon Lake Provincial Park, about 65 km (40 mi) southeast of Edmonton when Adam, who has been holding back, decides to attack. I’m in the middle of the pack. He grins as he passes me, the sun shining off of his helmet like a picture in a glossy magazine.
Racing to the Finish
We’ve fought through the fatigue and are surging on adrenaline for the final approach. Adam leads and I trail close behind him. Dave is in third, plotting his move. I’m feeling strong enough to make a jump now that the finish is in sight. But before I get the chance, Dave hammers past us, creating an unbridgeable gap. Adam and I laugh as we watch our friend finish the stage, arms raised in victory. He may have won this round, but the jury is still out. Let’s see how he performs on Stage Two next weekend.