(part 1 was here)
So, Alex Stieda did it. When I did a cycling camp in 2007 with the first TdF yellow jersey wearer from North America, he told us that this was his dream, to have a major international cycling stage race in Alberta. He had apparently been talking with Medallist sports even back then, but then came the recession in 2008 (and the loss of other races such as Georgia, Missouri) and I didn’t think much more of it. But, the first-ever edition is starting tomorrow (Tuesday) evening here in Edmonton where I live (as does he). He's getting a lot of attention and thanks these last few days - article in major local paper here, someone even tweeted he should get a road named after him.
And when it first was announced, I think many of us wondered if there would actually be any big-name riders coming to the first edition of this race. So we were quite excited when a few weeks ago they announced their partial startlist, including Cadel Evans, Peter Sagan, and Ryder Hesjedal (well, I think they had Ryder committed to come for a long time, his picture is on all the promotional material). Excitement here has really grown in the last few days, particularly as riders started arriving in town and either tweeted about it, or were seen by locals:
There was a lot of twitter excitement today with the "Family Ride" event, the official pre-race press conference, and the Gala team presentation tonight. But tomorrow is when the racing starts, 6 days with a prologue then 5 road stages. (It's a bit amusing, though sad, that the majority of local media articles are referring to a "5 stage race" and seem to think that the prologue isn't actually a part of the race - there's even this infographic/map on the website of the major Edmonton and Calgary papers that doesn't include the prologue).
The race lost their mountain stage when there was major flooding in various parts of Alberta in June (the highway over the Highwood Pass still hasn't reopened after multiple bridges were washed out). Supposedly the replacement stage has almost as much climbing, just in smaller bursts done multiple times. Overall though, the general feeling seems to be that Sagan is the favourite, given that most stages will likely come down to sprints but you have to be able to get up the (minor) climbs first to get to the sprint finish. Stieda (and others) have commented that they think there's a good possibility of echelons as well, if the wind picks up over the flat prairies - guess we'll see.
Various family circumstances mean that I'll only manage to get to see the prologue tomorrow (probably mostly from the start/finish area as I'll have a 4 year old in tow, so all the accompanying festival stuff will hopefully keep her entertained enough that we'll last until the end of the stage), and Stage 2 on Thursday. I'm hoping to see the start in Devon, get to the feed zone, and then the finishing laps in Red Deer. I really hope they get good crowds - it's a bit concerning that all the warnings from officials (City, police, etc) about roads being closed downtown tomorrow after 5 pm are along the lines of "avoid downtown at all costs", not "hey, there's a race going on, come down and watch - you might find a new sport to love".
TV coverage in Canada is on Sportsnet - live on Sportsnet One 6-8:30 pm MDT tomorrow, supposed to be live afternoon coverage either on Sportsnet One or the local Sportsnet for the other stages, though my cable company isn't showing that at the moment. Universal is supposed to be showing the race as part of their "BikeNado". And Eurosport, SBS, and others are also supposed to have coverage as well (see here). Plus they've got a Tour Tracker app as well. So, hopefully many of you will get a chance to see some of my home province :-)