By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – For nearly two decades cyclists have been riding in large numbers through Sturgeon County, 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 sixth consecutive year July 21, offering bike routes between 5 kilometres and 185 km.
Coordinator Chris Chapman of the Edmonton Bicycle and Touring Club (EBTC), the organization that runs the annual ride, said they are anticipating another great event this year and are looking forward to using Morinville as the launching point.
“Morinville has been more than gracious with helping us and offering their facilities, staff and equipment to help put on the ride,” she said. “They’ve been incredibly generous sponsor, and that’s had a lot to do with us coming back every year. They’ve just been wonderful to work with.”
Club member Don Petty began the event 19 years ago and the EBTC has maintained his vision since then. Chapman attributes the longevity of the event to the club’s membership. “I’d say it is the passion for cycling, for fun and recreation,” she said. “It just flows from one member to the next. Over the years there has been numerous different organizers of the ride, and everybody just has that passion for cycling and wants to keep it going. The longer it goes, the more we want to keep it going. It is our signature event.”
Again this year the event will consist of 185- kilometre, 100-km, 50-km, 25-km, and 5-km rides, each departing from and ending in Morinville with plenty of support stops along the way.
Chapman said while the longer routes are for more seasoned cyclists, the EBTC has included a 15-km Family Fun Ride and a 5-km Kids Mini Tour this year, both at no cost. “Really, anybody of any cycling ability can find a route and a distance they would be comfortable with where they could work their way towards doing maybe a bit longer in the following year.”
She is certain new cyclists may catch the cycling bug like so many EBTC members have. “It is a really fun, social way to get some exercise and be outside,” Chapman said, noting a lot of rides involve food. “It allows us to socialize. It’s just feels so good to be out there riding a bicycle and to know that you can do it. Doing it in groups encourages you to keep going, get better and increase your fitness level. It is just a lot of fun.”
This year the EBTC has partnered with the Morinville Festival Society to make the Tour de l’Alberta’s Morinville base at the arena more of a festival atmosphere.
“This year we are trying to make it more of a family festival,” Chapman said, adding the event will run in conjunction with the Morinville Farmers’ Market and a number of family games and activities, including an entertainment stage, bouncy castles and a bicycle obstacle course. “We’re really trying to up it into a family festival so people will want to stay and watch the cyclists and cheer them on. It’s really nice for the cyclists as they come over the finish line if there is a bunch of people there.”
While the event will have in excess of 1,000 cyclists, Chapman said a total of 200 to 250 volunteers are needed to put the event on. The EBTC are still looking for volunteers to help at the registration tables and at support routes along the various routes.
“We need members of the community, members of church groups, teams – that sort of thing,” Chapman said. “There are all the rest stops that have to be manned and check in tables in the arena. There is always a big need to get volunteers out on the day of the event to help out and make it a successful event.” Chapman said all volunteers receive a t-shirt, meal and food and beverages throughout the day as well as an opportunity to win prizes.
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 or 15-km family ride. Online registrations are accepted at http://www.tourdalberta.ca up until July 16. For more information about participating or volunteering contact Chris Chapman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 780-999-5797.