500 kilometers from Banff to Blue River – by Brooks Sutherland
The Tour de Blue concluded in Blue River last week on Mike’s 75th birthday. Mike, Bonnie and a few close friends gathered in Banff at the Mountain Magic bike shop for last minute tune ups and adjustments before hitting the road. The group consisted of Trish & Jerry Oster, Fred Hughes, Neil MacGillivray, Powder Mori and Mike & Bonnie. With a variety of experience and levels of preparation, the group set off to tackle 500 kilometers of steep climbs, winding switchbacks and variable weather that spun up strong headwinds and heavy rainfall. The Tour’s route is a challenge for the most experienced riders. Even in damp clothes, the riders spirits shown through with beaming smiles.
The group met at the Moutain Magic bike shop to depart just after twelve-noon. The route started down the Vermilion Lakes Rd next to the Trans Canada Highway and then crossed under an overpass to the old highway to Lake Louise, now the Bow Valley Parkway. The Parkway covers a series of rolling hills with a couple steep sections. The group paused at the Castle Mountain Junction before riding into the Lake Louise Village for lunch at Laggan’s Mountain Bakery. The afternoon’s route up the Icefields Parkway rises 2,200 feet to Jimmy Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. The first major climb of the Tour was arguably one of the most challenging. As Mike reminded us, “It’s good to feel your breathe draw to the very bottom of your lungs. You can’t get that without an intense workout”.
The group, minus Bonnie Wiegele and Jerry Oster.
Bonnie and Jerry.
Mike tackling the 2,200 feet of elevation gain from Lake Louise to the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge.
Day 2 – Num-Ti-Jah Lodge to Columbia Icefield Center, 96km
The challenge for Stage Two of the Tour was the Weeping Wall up to the Columbia Icefields. The Weeping Wall gains 1,500 feet of elevation in 4 miles. Riders estimated grades as steep as 8 or 9% and recorded speeds between 4 and 8 km/h. Several of the riders remarked that the climb “just kept on going”. Once over the top of the hill, riders had to pedal downhill into a strong headwind and light rain. At that point in the Tour, many of the riders found their rhythm.
Left to Right: Myself, Fred, Mike, Powder Mori, Dylan, Bonnie, Jerry, Neil and Trish.
Bonnie and Mike climibing the Weeping Wall.
Day 3 – Columbia Icefield Center to Becker’s River Chalets, 92km
The morning skies that Sunday were mainly sunny with big grey clouds looming around the peaks. Over breakfast, Neil and Fred reminisced of a Tour years previous when they awoke to several inches of new snowfall. This year, the skies held off for most of the ride, except for a few isolated showers.
Fred and Trish
Day 4 – Jasper to Valemount, 127km
The ride from Jasper to Valemount was the wettest, coldest day of the trip. Riders had to endure grueling head winds, a major drop in temperature near Moose Lake and a chilling descent into Mt. Robson. Upon arrival to the Mt. Robson stop, Neil’s hands were shaking badly and felt hypothermic. Fred and Trish (pictured below) also froze on the ride down to Mt. Robson, but were in great spirits at the top of the descent.
Day 5 – Valemount to Blue River, 87km
The final day of the Tour was the shortest and least challenging stage of the trip, and the riders were feeling confident. The lead riders set a fast pace and many finished without leaving their seat. A big thanks goes out to all the riders for making the trip so enjoyable and congratulations on completing the Tour de Blue. I look forward to seeing you all this winter. Let it snow!
Trish and Fred
Mike and Neil