Riders celebrate Banff in GranFondo
When grizzly bear 64 and her three cubs were spotted on the Bow Valley Parkway in advance of the RBC Banff GranFondo peloton, Saturday (Aug. 25), organizers responded accordingly, shortening the 147-kilometre race to give the family, as well as another male grizzly spotted later on the course, space.
Aware animals were the proverbial wildcard in running such an event, organizers followed protocol and decided riders would soar past Lake Minnewanka twice and cut short their ride at Castle Junction. Such was the nature of an event held entirely within Banff National Park boundaries.
However, when a raven flew into a transformer in town, knocking out power for an hour just as the first riders were about to cross the finish line, organizers must have wondered whether Mother Nature was conspiring against the ride.
But, despite bears and blackouts, the RBC GranFondo was a success for 1,500 riders who rode 114 kms under sunny skies. Very few complaints were heard about the event from riders who paid $250 each to ride the course, which wound its way up Tunnel Mountain, around Lake Minnewanka, along Highway 1 and the Bow Valley Parkway and back.
Controversy swirled around the first Banff GranFondo in the weeks leading up to the event. Environmentalists questioned the necessity of the race and its affect on area wildlife, while proponents pushed it as an important economic boost at the end of the summer, despite accompanying traffic backups.
Although GranFondo races don’t crown a winner, many riders were keenly aware of where they finished. Chris Taylor of the Rundle Mountain Cycling Club was the first Bow Valley resident across the line, finishing the course in 2:40:01, one second behind the top rider, Shaun Bunnin of Calgary. Pam Hauck was the top local female finisher (3:05:20), behind female champion Andrea Bundon, also of Calgary (2:48:53).
The race attracted several other Bow Valley riders, who were keen to ride alongside athletic notables such as Olympic triathlete Simon Whitfield and former Tour de France yellow jersey holder Alex Stieda.
Marie-Helene Thibeault rode the course (and beat) her husband Eric Schadtke. They usually ride Banff roads with their children in tow, however, the competitive juices were flowing for the Canmore couple.
“When the gun goes off, that competitive spark comes alive. It’s like a train, and you push to keep up with them,” Thibeault said, proudly sporting her Fast and Female colours.
“It was a nice course. We don’t do Tunnel Mountain that often, and it has great views up there,” Schmadtke said.
Canmore’s Jay Balabas kept the hammer down throughout the ride, which saw the top riders average speeds of 40 kilometres an hour.
“That’s about as fast as I can go on a road bike,” he said.
Full results are available at the website banff.granfondocanada.com
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