The sight of nearly 2,000 cyclists and their bikes is an image that never fails to inspire me so I grabbed a few pictures while I waited in the crowd for the tour to start. I was supposed to meet up with my team-mates before the tour began but I was too eager to get going to make a serious effort to find them. Next to me waiting was an old boy like myself and when he grew tired of the speeches, began to heckle the speakers in a loud and petulant voice. His nickname was "Whitey" and he had done the tour many times as evidenced by the many MS stickers on his helmet.
I managed to leave in the first 300-400 riders and was pleased with myself until I realized after being passed a number of times that with approximately 1,500 riders behind me, I was bound to hear "On your left!" many hundreds of times before we got to Camrose! I felt I was just getting warmed up when we turned south and into a headwind that would plague us all the way to Wetaskiwin where lunch was to be served. Then the route would head east and hopefully we'd have the wind on our backs.
For whatever reason, I was insulted when a marshall rode beside me to chat and after a few minutes he asked me just how old was I? He seemed surprised when I answered 57 and anytime he passed me again, he acted like he'd never seen me before. Maybe he lost a bet and was pissed. I wasn't the only greybeard on the tour - the heckler Whitey was a white-beard as well.
Riding into the wind was not fun. I watched my cyclometer as my speed dropped down and down. A rather large and well dressed gentleman wearing a tweed jacket, knickerbocker pants, a white shirt and a bowtie passed me and I thought for sure he would win a prize for best dressed at this evening's banquet. A few moments passed before it occured to me to draft him. His large size would be perfect for blocking the wind and the fact that he was riding a fixie meant that I would be able to stay with him. I had to pedal hard to catch him but I was amply rewarded in energy savings and I rode into Wetaskiwin in much better shape than some of the other cyclists.
During lunch I sat in a small patch of shade and devoured the tasty wrap that Moxies had supplied and joyfully gobbled a huge stack of watermelon slices that I knew would slake my thirst. An older gal, Arlene joined me in the shade and we swapped stories of our ride so far. She explained how she planned to keep her bike in her tent so that she could start whenever she felt like it on Sunday morning instead of having to wait for the bike barn to be opened, releasing all the bikes. I told her how I was going to keep my bike in my room at the hotel and if I didn't have to drop luggage off, I could leave from the hotel since it is on day two's route.
After lunch I rode side by side with another gal - Anna, a yoga therapist. We chatted for some time until she suggested that it would be safer if we rode single file. She was in the lead and it wasn't long before we became separated. I next saw her when I pulled into the rest stop at Gwynne School where she was standing with her camera and took my picture as I rode in. She shouted to me that I should give her my email address but I was too hot to stop right then and a patch of shade was what I wanted the most. I did wonder if our paths would cross again on the tour. With 2,000 cyclist scattered over 200 kilometers, it was highly probable that we wouldn't meet again on the tour.
We had all been warned about road construction near Camrose and it did involve a bunch of us being stopped by a flagman and waiting for the paving crew to finish their immediate task. When we were waved through, I could hear the pearl sized tar bubbles popping beneath my hot tires. Just past the construction, I found a short length of bike chain on the shoulder of the road and I thought it might do as a bracelet.
It was a long single file line of us as we entered Camrose and headed toward the fairground where the day's tour ended and tired riders could retrieve their luggage, set up camp, clean themselves up and get ready for the banquet and the dance that would follow. Just after crossing the finish line, I ran into Stew, our team leader who said he'd make a place for me at the team table and introduce me to my fellow team-mates.
Once in my room, I put the next day's water and powerbars into the bar fridge, had a shower and then put on long pants, a striped shirt and bandana in a lame effort to look "Western" for the themed banquet. It took quite a while to find my team-mates and it was only after I asked the United Cycle mechanics who looked like they were having a great time (everyone wanted to buy them beers either to say thanks or for insurance in case of needing their services the next day). When I found my team-mates, I discovered that there was 16 of us on the team and we had raised $16,000.00! It turns out I knew 2 of them, Karel and Brandy, both from Mountain Equipment Co-op where I frequently shop for gear.
Once the Country and Western band struck the first chord of the night, I took this as my cue to head back to the hotel and prepare for day two of the tour.
Distance:103.58 Time:7:04:02 Av.Speed:14.7 Max.Speed:44.3