ToA Stage 1 – Grande Prairie

Start is a long way from where we are. 400km at least. We packed yesterday and just had to get a few things out to the car. 8:55 , 25 minutes late but still should have loads of time.

It’s a long road and I haven’t traveled it is a very long time. It has probably been 35 or 40 years since I have turned north on Hwy. 43 from Hwy. 16. People that drive it regularly think it is boring but today I am a passenger and really the time passes quickly. The scenery doesn’t change too much but there are highlights as we progress. There is a cool little valley with a swoop in the road and a great wood trellis work train bridge. Something much less visually appealing are the sign boards that line the highway in to each of the cities on the way. ┬áThe ones into Whitecourt in particular make the city look cheap. If I were the council I would rid the road of such trash. I THINK it is illegal in Alberta to line the highway anyway and don’t really understand how this is happening.

Arriving in Grande Prairie was a bit of a shock. It is a small city much the same as other small cities in Alberta, but traffic, it is two o’clock on a Wednesday and the cars are basically jammed. Lines of cars at every light in every direction. I would hate it here. Edmonton is bad enough and I can drive around mid day without too much hassle.

The city is put together quite well with a huge park running from north to south through most of it. The first two people we have contact with aren’t really the happiest folks but everyone we have met since has been great and really pumped about the race.

First campground we stop at doesn’t accept tents. What kind of campground is that??? A bit snooty I’d say. If I had a campground I wouldn’t accept RV’s, I’d starve but the statement I’d make would echo throughout the world.

After we find a place to pitch our humble abode, we scouted out tomorrows start and hill climb. We still arrive at the start line ‘festival’. We wanted to pick up a tour guide and that was where to do it. There is not a lot of booths but there is a lot of action. One whole ┬ásection is dedicated to kids and it is hopping.

Only in Grande Prairie!

Only in Grande Prairie!

6:15 and the race starts. People come out of the woodwork. It is cold here people waited until the last minute to emerge and see what all the hype was about. I think they are enjoying it even though most do not really understand the subtleties of a team time trial.

 

I’m standing on a traffic island in the middle of the road taking photos of the teams starting out on one side and turning around and taking photos of the teams finishing on the otherside of road. In the meantime standing at the curb, Debbie has gathered a small crowd as she passes on knowledge and knowhow on the race. She is telling them about how only 5 riders are needed to count a time and different strategies the teams might employ as they make their way around the race course.

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As the last few teams make their way up the final hill we spot our Tour of Alberta friend, Jo. She is standing on the side of the road cheering just as we are and just as she was when we met her at time trial opener of the first Tour of Alberta. We get reacquainted as we cheer on the last few riders and make plans to meet tomorrow.

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Not so far to the start line tomorrow.

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