Tour of Alberta 2014 Innisfail to Red Deer – Hob Nobbing

It’s a change of gear today. In the last two days we have worn the warmest clothes we lugged along, rain gear head to toe, save shoes which we both neglected, and yesterday, umbrellas. This morning the temperature is fall like, 2C, but it is suppose to be sunny and warm up. I’m not chancing shorts but at least we can doff the rain gear and umbrellas.

After the race yesterday we stopped in at an institution in Lethbridge, the Shanghai Restaurant. It serves Chinese food if you haven’t guessed. We order and when the food arrives the first thing I notice is the food tastes like the Chinese food we use to get in Edmonton 40 years ago. I have noticed this before. Over time the Chinese food in bigger cities has changed, I’m guessing become more “North American” friendly or maybe adjusted to a wider variety of tastes. But if you visit a Chinese restaurant in a smaller centre the food has not changed. I have no idea what the difference is, but it definitely harkens back to days past.

The first three days of the tour have not brought out the crowds as I remember them from last year. There were quite a few people out in Calgary, I think mostly hard core cyclist types, but not nearly as many as were out to view the Prologue in Edmonton last year. The climb to the legislature was lined 3 deep top to bottom, the crowd to the top of COP was sporadic except the very top where there were quite a few folks making a racket. The crowd in Lethbridge was extremely small but with good reason. One would have to be willing to be soaked and cold and I can understand how staying home would be an easy choice.

Behind the scenes at the start line

Behind the scenes at the start line

Today it is good to see a few more folks out at the start in Innisfail but still not an over large group. They did let the elementary school kids out for a while to line the fences and that really helps to boost the numbers. Last year there was a really good crowd in Red Deer but I did not get to the finish today so I cannot comment on what happened there.

Even with smaller crowds we manage to meet a plethora of interesting folks. I arrive at a switchback on the Prologue course and the marshal there was quite a personable fellow. He is a Calgarian, who normally volunteers to help out with triathlons but thought he would throw his hat into the bike racing ring and is going to follow the entire circuit blowing his whistle and directing bikes and traffic with his orange flag. The next person we run into is a photographer we met last year at the race, Oran, (check out his website called eibhir) , who is back to do the entire tour and I am sure we will run into each other many times.

At the Prologue, Debbie meets the course director who is directing traffic on the course. He is from Los Angeles and travels to races all over North America. In Lethbridge,  the first person Debbie meets is a fellow from Calgary, his mother lives in Fort McLeod and he took the day off work to take her to an appointment so he figured he would just continue on to Lethbridge and see what the bike race had to offer.

At the finish line we meet a marshal with a very strong southern US accent. He is from Georgia and tells us he follows the races, sort of like a roadie. A local was manning the gate allowing spectators to cross when safe and she tells us she has taken time away from work because “it is not very often you can witness a world class event and what better way to see things than to help out.”

Today we go to the start and run into another person we know. L swims with our training group and in fact coaches the occasional session. He is traveling as a soigneur for the Canadian team. He has a big smile and is really enjoying doing laundry, filling water bottles, making lunches and being driver in one of the team vehicles.

The start in Innisfail

The start in Innisfail

Debbie and I split up, one on either side of the road, to get photos and each of us gets involved filling in locals, even older than us, on the ins and outs of the bike race and what they can expect to see as the neutralized peloton rolls past to the race start.

At the Feed Zone

At the Feed Zone

Part of following the race is to see the event unfold but just as important is to meet people, not just those that are racing, but the behind the scenes people, the locals that are helping out, and the spectators that are thrilled to have such an event pass through their town enabling them to witness something usually viewed on TV.

At the Feed Zone

At the Feed Zone

It doesn’t really matter what the weather or what gear one has to don to contend with it, the friendly people are what makes following the tour more enjoyable. We don’t have to travel far to expand the understanding we each personally carry about the world.

View from the side of the road

View from the side of the road

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