By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Cyclists have been riding through Sturgeon County in an organized fashion for nearly two decades, taking in the sights and scenery of the French corridor that is made up of St. Albert, Morinville, Legal and surrounding area. Originally based out of St. Albert, the Tour de l’Alberta will start and finish in Morinville for the fifth consecutive year July 22.
Director Dan Boonstra of the Edmonton Bicycle and Touring Club (EBTC), the organization that runs the annual ride, said they are anticipating in excess of 1,000 cyclists registering for the ride, as has been the case the past two years.
Club member Don Petty began the event 18 years ago and the EBTC has maintained his vision since then. “He wanted it to coincide with the Tour de France,” Boonstra said of the inaugural run. “He was kind of out there in the French communities, enjoying the canola fields and thinking, ‘Wow, this is kind of similar to the rural communities they ride through in the Tour de France, why can’t we have our own version?’ That’s why he targeted St. Albert and that whole French corridor area.”
Again this year the event will consist of 175- kilometre, 100-km, 50-km, 25-km, and 5-km rides. “The 175 km ride starts at the arena, goes down into St. Albert, comes around through Alcomdale, all the way up to Westlock, then goes down through Legal and back to Morinville,” Boonstra explained, noting the average cyclist can make the 175-km course in eight hours. The director explained the 100-km ride is the most popular, attracting in the neighbourhood of 600 riders in each of the past two years. Recently added is the 5-km ride for children, a bicycle trek that keeps the riders within the community. Last year saw 50 children participating in the children’s ride.
Boonstra said he believes the annual ride’s focus on a non-competitive, recreational event that is inexpensive and family friendly has been the key to its longevity. “Cyclists of all abilities can just go out and enjoy and not feel pressure,” he said. “We specifically say this is not a race. We don’t have clocks up there. We don’t time it because we don’t want people to race. There are enough races out there if they want to go out there and compete.”
Although there is no focus on finishing first, there is considerable consideration in having cyclists finish together. Start times for the five distances are staggered, allowing riders of all levels to arrive back at the arena between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. for a catered gathering.
Registration costs for the event are $75 for club members, $85 for non-club members. Youth 18 and under have a $30 registration fee. There is no registration fee for the children’s 5-km ride. Online registrations are accepted at http://www.tourdalberta.ca up until July 19. Riders may register in person at the arena the morning of the event.