The Tour of Alberta is the first international cycling event to come to Canada. Starting in Edmonton and going through rural Alberta, professional athletes from more than 20 countries will finish the Tour here in Calgary. Everyone knows this event a big deal, but a nation of hockey-watchers isn’t entirely sure why. To help Calgarians make sense of the Sunday finish line, we’ve compiled a rookie’s guide to bike racing.
How the Race Works
In professional cycling, the whole event is broken up into stages. In the Tour of Alberta, the 900 kilometre race is broken up into six stages. Each stage is more than 150km – the longest stage is 185km when riders race from Devon to Red Deer. Athletes will ride each stage at a pace of 40 kilometres per hour. That’s an impressive pace: keep in mind that most of Calgary’s bike paths cap speed at 15km/h.
Understanding the Commentators
The key to understanding a bike race is making sense of what the commentators are talking about. Spectators will rely on these commentators. Watching a bike race on the ground isn’t dissimilar from watching F1. You’ll only see the athletes for a few seconds before they’re gone. To make the most of the event, make sure you know what pelotons are (the main pack of cyclists), where the sprint zones lie (specific areas where cyclists sprint against each other for points) and what drafting means (riding closely behind someone else so they break the wind, saving the rider energy).
What Those Coloured Jerseys Mean
Throughout the Tour of Alberta, different coloured jerseys will be awarded. In this event, like in the Tour de France, the overall leader of the race is awarded the yellow jersey.
The green jersey will be awarded to the best sprinter (which is calculated by the number of sprint points accumulated) and the white jersey will be given to the fastest rider who is under 24 years old.
The very fashionable pink polka dot jersey is hard to win: this is the King of the Mountain jersey, awarded to the fastest hill climber. Unique to this event is the red jersey, given to the best Canadian athlete.
Why the Tour of Alberta is a Big Deal
While road racing might not (yet) be as popular as hockey or football, this event is a big deal. Not only is it the first ever international cycling event to come to Canada, but it’s expected to draw more than 350 million viewers from all over the world. From Edmonton to Calgary, 250,000 roadside fans will be cheering the world’s 144 best cyclists. Some of the professional athletes this event has attracted include 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans and Canada’s very own Ryder Hesjedal.
It’s different from watching a hockey game or going to McMahon to support the Stampeders, but the Tour of Alberta is about to put road racing on Alberta’s radar.
Where to Watch
The Tour of Alberta ends in Calgary on September 8. For this stage, racers start in Okotoks at 3 p.m.. They enter Calgary on Highway 8 before going north on Crowchild Trail, along the Bow River and into downtown, ending around Eau Claire. Until then, you can watch the tour on Sportsnet or download the Tour of Alberta app.