Seeing a herd thundering over a hill in a tight pack gets my heart thumping. But I’m not talking about stampeding horses. It’s the annual Tour of Alberta road race rolling across the prairies and through the foothills and mountains. As a recreational cyclist, it’s exhilarating to watch close to 150 of the best international cyclists in their bright racing gear blow past to leave us excited spectators in a swirl of dust.
For six days in September, 15 professional cycling teams race through the province on routes I can only dream of doing so swiftly. The course changes annually, so the 40+ million international television viewers get to know why we love the diverse landscapes of Alberta.
Climbs, Sprints, Long Roads and Loops
Edmonton offers short steep climbs in and out of the lush river valley. The prairies offer rolling long stretches to test endurance, while the foothills mix it up to challenge the climbers, the sprinters and the distance champs. The daily distance changes too. Some races will be as short as 5 km (3 mi) – as at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary – or as long as 160 km (100 mi), linking towns along the way.
I love it when the race loops through smaller Alberta communities where racers speed by multiple times. I study their style; how they manoeuvre the echelon like a flock of geese swaying across the road, then break away on the last lap for a frantic sprint to the finish. Fun to watch for are the times on the open road where a few cunning racers split away from the pack and try to maintain the lead. It’s a thrilling game of cat and mouse and I love to cheer on my favourite team or rider.
Where the Action is
Host communities get into the action offering events like public races on the route before the race starts. The finish line is always festive with venders selling food and bike gear. I can always use another jersey!
After each day’s racing action, winners are awarded the coveted jerseys signifying the fastest overall, the fastest for the day, the best hill climber and – my favourite – the best Canadian. Where will you watch the race? Find out when it blasts past your community. Better yet, jump on your bike to find a spot along the highway. You’ll be hooked, just like me.