We headed out on Friday afternoon in a comfy coach with the 2005 Tour de France playing on the mini televisions. The Tour provided a distraction on the long ride and an easy topic of conversation among strangers. When the likes Rasmussen and Vinokourov appeared, the bus filled with boo's and talk of doping. In contrast, landscape shots inspired storytelling of our various experiences in France. It seemed many of us had made the pilgrimage to watch the Tour in person.
Eventually, someone opened the cooler and offered up some road pops. When the first response from the group was "does anyone want to split a Coors Light?” I wondered if I'd hitched a ride with the wrong group. But, time proved me wrong. I met some very interesting people and fantastic cyclists over the following 48 hours.
There was no shortage of legal banter - including an insolvency practitioner preaching the need for a market correction - but it was all amusing. We bonded as we recalled the challenges of the strong headwinds and hills that we rode and the aches that followed. We researched the healing qualities of Jagermeister first hand.
The range of cycling experience represented by the group was broad. There were many that had a positive impact on my weekend, but I will only mention a few. On one end of the spectrum, there was a lawyer named Pauline - an accomplished triathlete who tore the legs off every guy on the trip and served as a great example that professional and physical excellence are not mutually exclusive.
Then there was Peter the Giverator, a 60-year old man that rode with his water bottle in the back pocket of his shorts, had his handlebars positioned so that he could sit upright, and attempted a cheeky breakaway from the lead group near the end of the first day. Age doesn’t mean a thing.
And then there was Ryan, the cotton-shirt-wearing, flat-peddle-using, cyclocross-bike-riding, civil-disobedience-studying, litigation lawyer with the flaming zombie skull tattoo. He hadn’t ridden more than 20 kilometres at one time before the weekend, but cranked out over 200 kilometres over the two days. It was nice to see some individuality among one of the most notoriously conservative and homogeneous professions. I also had to admire his ambitious choice of entry into the world of cycling.
Let me not forget the epic cycling. The first day took us from Jasper, over Sunwapta Pass, to Saskatchewan Crossing. It was about 153 kilometres, but I continued riding until I hit 160 kilometres (obsessive compulsive, perhaps). I rode much of the first half of the day on my own, and then hitched on the wheels of some stronger riders for the second half. They set such an impressive pace that I was unable to contribute my share at the front and it took everything I had just to hang on the back. My key accomplishment for the day was snagging Queen of the Mountain honours for the time trial up Sunwapta (I have to come clean, Pauline handily beat me - but she was not eligible for the competition on account of her employment with Macleod Dixon).
On Sunday, our ride took us from the crossing, over Bow Summit to Lake Louise, to Banff; about 135 kilometres. I rode with a pack for the entire day and we set a blazing pace. I added a climb up Mount Norquay at the end to fill the day out to a century. It was hot and I was dehydrated, making it a real test of strength, but rewarding (in retrospect).
All said, it was a great weekend of cycling and socializing. The weather was spectacular, the company was great, the ride was extremely well organized, we raised some money for a great cause, and the route is absolutely one of the greatest epic rides in the world. I hope that I have a chance to do this again next year. For the kids, of course.