Canada’s first major international professional cycling stage race took place in Alberta from 3rd – 8th September 2013. 15 professional cycling teams and top cyclists from around the world came to race on 900 kms of Albertan roads and highways. The race went through 20 Albertan communities in six days. A lot of these communities put on some special family events based around the cycling tour. Our town of Okotoks was lucky enough to be the start of stage 5, the final stage on Sunday, 8th September 2013.
When I saw the call for volunteers some months ago I was immediately in; I mean when do you get the chance to volunteer for such a great event, especially as it’s the first Tour of Alberta! I was assigned to the security team, but ended up being part of the rider sign in brigade – way more fun. All volunteers were given the yellow-green fluorescent t-shirts you see in the photo and reported fairly early on a Sunday morning to the coordinators. As part of doing the rider sign in we were given a lesson on how to take the bikes from the riders (if they choose to give it to you that is, as apparently some of them just park it against the barriers), we were told NEVER to just take someone’s bike unless they handed it to us. We then were shown how to hold the bikes, not in front of your body, as you would only be able to hold one bike at a time. You take the bike and put it next to you with the front wheel out, holding it like a suitcase in your hand, now you are able to hold two bikes! The race was slated to start at 1320hrs and we were told that the riders and their support teams would start arriving around 1230hrs, with sign in starting. Now, you would think that the riders would get there, sign in as they arrive, in good time to get ready for the race. Oh no, not the case. Most of them waited until about 1300hrs to make their way down to the track and sign in. Suddenly us 10 volunteers were so busy that we ended up holding bike after bike after bike. It was great!! All the riders were really nice, talked to us, the fans who came down to catch their autographs and really just took it easy. The bikes are so light, there is not much weight to them, but most of them cost thousand of dollars. I am happy to report that no bikes were dropped or damaged in any way and all riders made it to the start without being harmed by us untrained volunteers.
After the sign in was done a few of us got commandeered to the start line to hold some ropes to cordon off the general field of riders and the top 10, who got to go right in front of the rest of them. Now that was exciting. Thousands of people had come out on this sunny day to be at the start of this race, we had around 120 riders, all waiting for the start pistol to go and us 6 volunteers right in the middle of all this. Now, I don’t follow cycling really, but boy what a great event this was. The excitement was palpable and you just couldn’t help being swept along with it all. Thankfully we did our job at the start line without any incidents and made our way through the crowd of riders to get to the back of the field for the start.
The collage below is made up of my favourite shots from that day. Hopefully we’ll be lucky enough to have this event return to our community next year, and if so, I will be volunteering again.