Roads and bridges damaged in late June’s floods, now deemed too dangerous for cyclists, have demoted the queen stage of the inaugural Tour of Alberta.
The fifth day of the inaugural stage race was to have crossed the Canadian Rockies at Highwood Pass on the way from Black Diamond to Canmore. Most of that route, including the 7,238-foot summit, traveled on parts of Highway 40 that were washed away by the province’s catastrophic floods than began on June 21.
The roads will be open on race day, but not bike-friendly.
“Because the riders would be coming off some of the descents at a speed of up to 100 kilometers an hour, even if the road is open for vehicle traffic, the condition of the road may create a safety hazard for the cyclists traveling at such high speeds,” Duane Vienneau, the race’s executive director, said in statement.
That meant ditching the route through the Rockies and creating a double loop from and back to Black Diamond. The stage won’t have one monster ascent but instead several small ones — and more king of the mountains points — through the foothills. No longer a queen, but more of a nasty princess.
“We’re not going to be in the pure Rockies, but the elevation is only changed by about 100 meters,” tour spokeswoman Val Mellesmoen said. “It’s really an up-and-down route. There’s a lot more climbs, whereas Highway 40 would have been one big climb and one big descent.”
The actual route, trimmed from 124 miles to about 112, will be finalized later this week after approval from several local authorities. The original stage was to have ended on an uphill finish to the Canmore Nordic Center but now will return to Black Diamond, the smallest community on the event’s map.
“It was a really tough call. Canmore is in good shape, but it was a matter of we couldn’t get there from the starting point to the finish point,” Mellesmoen said. “We wanted to make sure there was enough elevation in the route, so we went with what was our Plan B, the Black Diamond option.”
Although there also was heavy damage to downtown Calgary, the final stage will still finish there.
Six UCI ProTeams will make the start in Edmonton: Argos-Shimano, Belkin, BMC Racing, Cannondale, Garmin-Sharp and Orica-GreenEdge. The nine other teams entered are Pro Continentals UnitedHealthcare and Champion System, and Continentals Jelly Belly-Kenda, Bissell, 5-hour Energy-Kenda, Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies, SmartStop-Mountain Khakis, Equipe Garneau-Quebecor and the Canadian National Team.
The Tour of Alberta takes place September 3-8.