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Epic views, aggressive riding at Canmore gravel bike race

The Canmore Crux sees growth in riders at sophomore event and grizzly bears skulking.

CANMORE – Jordan Bryden thinks the Canmore Crux race could gain a cult following over the next few years.

Beginning in 2022, the gravel biking race went full throttle in 2024, with nearly 200 riders testing themselves in 80-kilometre and 32km races at the Canmore Nordic Centre on Sunday (June 2).

“The passion was definitely there,” said Bryden, the race director. “I think it will grow and it has the potential to double in size within the next year or two. It’s just so unique and obviously that area is so beautiful that being able to go riding is a big part of it.”

Gravel racing is a mix between mountain, cyclocross and road bike racing, with most races taking place on gravel and backroads. However, the Crux offered a different type of ride at the hilly and non-traditional course in Canmore. 

With trails made for world-class cross-country skiers in the winter, it makes for a more aggressive, punchy style of racing, said Bryden. And, despite having the natural beauty of the Canadian Rockies landscape, “you can’t spend too much time looking up because of the twists and turns.”

“It is a difficult course that’s probably part of the allure, as well,” said Bryden. “We have seen a shift in the endurance community looking to go faster all the time and just being able to do things that are difficult and you have great stories to tell after.”

Typically, riders use gravel-specific or mountain bikes to counteract the bumpy terrain, but those aren’t the only off-roaders that can endure jagged surfaces.

“I saw one woman riding your classic Canadian Tire Supercycle out there, so that was a shock for me to see because I don’t know if I would have the guts to take a bike like that on those trails, but she made it through just fine,” Bryden said.

Others weren’t so lucky.

Flat tyres were a common scene during the first lap for riders unfamiliar with the Canmore Nordic Centre. Even a grizzly bear or two hulking around the course on race day were something to watch out for. Riders are required to carry bear spray on them and WildSmart was at the event, as well.

“I was out there at 5 a.m. [doing a pre-race ride], the sun had just come up, and I had a grizzly run right in front of me, grunting and giving a little growl probably less than 30 metres away,” said Bryden. “That was the only real wildlife encounter.”

Bears and mechanical issues weren’t an issue for Canmore’s Marie-Eve Bilodeau-Corriveau though, who gunned it to first place in the women’s 80-km race (3:38.15.8).

She said she was stoked at the number of women racing – 16 in the 80km – including her top competitor, Annie Scott.

“It was super fun because we were battling each other, like, until the last lap then I was able to drop her,” said Bilodeau-Corriveau. “We were both super stoked to race against another woman and I felt she was able to push me and totally made me work harder.”

Coming in first place in the 80km men’s race was Calgary’s Olivier Hamel (2:55.18.8). In the 32km, Calgary’s Karol Siarka was first in the men’s category (1:16.49.3) and Canmore’s Jennifer Schmidt won gold in the women’s (1:44.36.6).

The ride also served as a precursor to the Ghost of the Gravel, the Canadian championships for gravel racing on June 16 in Water Valley, north of Cochrane.

Bryden said there was an opportunity to give those athletes a chance to race prior to the bigger competition and the community responded.

“We heard from a lot of cyclists that they really enjoyed coming out to a course that was very different than your traditional gravel race,” he said. “It was probably a good little fitness test before the season gets underway.”

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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