RMCC Cat 3 rider James Kendal leads two groups of cyclists through an S section of the criterium track in downtown Canmore during the race in 2015. Kendal took fourth in the event.
DAVE WHITFIELD RMO FILE PHOTO
The Rundle Mountain Cycling Club Criterium race is in jeopardy following Canmore town council's direction this week not to allow the event in the downtown core.
Race organizer Shane Munro and RMCC president James Kendal were before council Tuesday (April 18) to save the race, and offered alternative course locations and race times as a concession.
With only nine weeks until race day, Munro and Kendal argued the Veteran's Way course, which circles Lawrence Grassi Middle School and Centennial Park, is the best fit for the town and their event, on what will prove to be a very busy weekend.
“This year, after meeting with the events committee, we discovered council wasn't supportive of a race in the downtown core. We were surprised, because we debriefed after the event, and had no negative feedback,” Munro said.
Munro said the current course affects the least number of homes, and organizers have worked well with residents, alerting them in advance of the event. The current course passes by about 35 homes. All but three have back alley access, and aren't hemmed in during the race.
“This course affects the least amount of residents. We go door-to-door, and most are on side with our event,” Munro said.
Mayor John Borrowman asked if there were other locations for the race, such as the Industrial area, Canmore Nordic Centre or a Three Sisters neighbourhood. Munro said the industrial area course would create a challenge, including a high speed corner. It could work for the crit race, but the hills are too big for the kids' race, Munro said.
The Nordic Centre is already booked for that weekend, Munro said, while the Three Sisters neighbourhood near the roundabout is a possible replacement, although they have not received a response from local developers in the area.
Munro also said the crit races could begin earlier in the day. For the last four years, they have run from noon to 5 p.m. The races could be moved to 8 a.m. to reduce traffic impact, Munro said. Nearly every year, the race has changed to attempt to address traffic concerns.
Since the Alberta Bicycle Association usually sets its calendar a year in advance, moving the race date this year is not feasible, Munro said. If council doesn't allow the race, it's likely to be cancelled outright. A new date could be found next year.
Kendal said cancelling the race would affect the club's youth programming. Currently RMCC uses the money it makes on larger races to subsidize its youth programs.
“The loss of the crit would come as a loss to our club. We are dependent on adult races to subsidize the kids programs. Also without the crit event, our ability to encourage people to race in Canmore would go down considerably,” Kendal said.
The June 23rd weekend will be busy in Canmore. Rundle's Revenge, the mountain biking/trail running race is scheduled for the Canmore Nordic Centre. The Plaid Goat Mountain Bike Festival will take place in Centennial Park, while Millennium Park has a soccer tournament that weekend. Plaid Goat and Munro had agreed to work together, and said they can have both events ongoing at the same time. The Town of Canmore is supportive of the Plaid Goat festival, and gave it a $25,000 grant earlier this year. This is its first year.
The RMCC crit race was first run on Main Street, but later moved to Veteran's Way, adjacent to Lawrence Grassi Middle School and Centennial Park. Originally a July race, it was later moved to June in order to reduce traffic congestion. The race took over from Banff Bikefest as the pre-eminent crit race in the area, and has seen many of the top local riders, such as Liah Harvie and Sara Poidevin, gain valuable experience in their career development. It traditionally brings more than 2000 spectators to the race, and nearly 200 athletes every year.
Many other Alberta communities host crit races in residential neighbourhoods, with little complaint.
Canmore Town Council will make a decision on the appeal on May 2.