So far, in TransRockies Quest 888, I have completed three events, the Skirt chaser 5km, the Fernie 80km Trail Ultra and the Kananaskis3 three day 76km Trail Ultra. On Saturday July 13th, it was a change of pace, The TransRockies Gran Fondo. Firstly, a little bit of background on what a Gran Fondo entails.
These races are mass-participation cycling events that have enjoyed incredible popularity in Europe for decades and are gaining momentum in North America. Loosely translated from Italian, Gran Fondo means "big ride". These rides are often a hundred kilometres or more and designed for a large number of cyclists at a variety of skill levels - everyone from the competitive cyclist to the amateur can enjoy these events. The rides are judged by the challenges they offer, often combining steep climbs and long distances. While these are not races, top finishers are often recognized.
The original routing of Saturday's event was over Highwood Pass in Kananaskis Country, Alberta. This is the highest paved road in Canada and offers superb views of the Rockies. However, the Alberta floods caused the closure of Highway 40 and an alternative had to be found quickly. The organizers at TransRockies did a brilliant job and came up with a route along David Thompson Highway from the David Thompson Resort to Rocky Mountain House. A total of 136 kms.
I was especially looking forward to this event as a number of Right to Play representatives were going to join me. We arrived at David Thompson Resort at 8.30am and at the start our group lined up for a photo. Joining me were Robert Witchel, Canadian National Director of Right To Play, Caroline Ouellette, three-time Olympic Gold medalist for the Women's Hockey team, and a RTP Athlete Ambassador, Becca Fahey, a former team mate of Caroline's, and Anastasia Bucsis, Olympic Speed Skater and RTP Athlete Ambassador.
At 9.30am, Caroline said a few words about Right To Play, I had the honour of firing the starter's pistol and we were off. The first part of the journey took us along Lake Abraham. The day was crisp and clear and the morning sun sparkled off the aqua blue water. The forecast had predicted thunderstorms later in the day and I could see black clouds gathering in the far distance. Along the way, I chatted with a number of riders who were doing a Gran Fondo for the first time. They were all enjoying the experience, despite their concerns about lack of training. There were four aid stations on the route and the volunteers did a fabulous job of supporting the rides and giving encouragement.
I finished the 136 kms in 6 hrs 04 minutes and 38 seconds and I was physically done. The longest training ride I had completed was 52 kms and my calves and quads were screaming. I staggered into the Rocky Mountain House Arena and joined the RTP gang, who had arrived ahead of me. The pasta dining had almost finished and the group talked about their day. Robert was the first in at just over 4 hours and Anastasia had won the polka dot jersey for "Queen of the Mountain" for her age group. Caroline had blown a tire and she had come in with Becca. Everyone had had a great day and we hoped to get together again for the TransRockies Tour of Alberta Challenge on September 8th 2013.
TransRockies Quest 888 summary so far. With 4 events completed I've covered 297 kms of 888 kms leaving 591 kms left to do. We've raised $12,745.38 of the $25,000 goal and for every $1 raised the partners of RTP will add another $3.