On September 1, the ATB Tour of Alberta will roll into Jasper National Park.
For racers, the Jasper stage is atheistically beautiful, with the only mountaintop finish of the Tour. For locals, it’s a chance to experience an international event and see the best cyclists in the world up-close. For the Local Organizing Committee, it’s the culmination of months of preparation, community outreach and decision-making.
Christine Nadon is the LOC’s co-chair. Having recently announced the festival’s Robson Park location (Elm Ave at Geikie St), Nadon hopes the group has struck a winning compromise when it comes to accommodating spectators and businesses.“It’s close to downtown but we’re not disrupting the downtown core as much as we were two years ago,” she said.
Through a poll, the business community narrowly chose the festival site as Robson Park, next to the Jasper Library, rather than having the hub at on the Information Centre lawn as in 2015.
Street closures will affect Elm Ave and Robson St on Thursday and Friday (noon, August 31 to 6pm, September 1); and Geikie St and Elm Ave on Friday (5am-12pm, September 1).
The race begins at 10:25 a.m. Friday, September 1. Parking bans will be in effect on the race route at 7 a.m., Sept 1, until the racers exit Jasper. A rolling 20 minute closure will follow the racers and their entourage down the highway.
Racers will head to the back of town on Elm Ave from the festival site, head west on Bonhomme St., south on Pine Ave. (Lions Park), west on Connaught, take Sleepy Hollow Rd then exit town via 93A. They’ll loop counter clockwise 3 times on 93A/93 until the Marmot Basin hill.
Racing fans familiar with European events will appreciate the event’s relatively small scale. The ATB Tour of Alberta is popular, but compared to other pro tours, crowds are sparse.The TOA represents a rare opportunity to get an up-close view of the action, says Freewheel Cycle’s Chris peel.
“You can get right beside the road. If this race was held in Europe there’d be thousands of people watching.”
Tourism Jasper expects millions to be watching abroad; an estimated 47 million viewers in 50 different countries tune in. Festival goers can see what they see by taking in the event on the jumbo screen at Robson Park, or they can watch it live from a pullout along the race route.
If you ask the LOC’s Erin Reade where to watch the race from, she’d suggest watching the start in Jasper, finding a safe spot on 93/93A (before 11:30 a.m) to view the second lap, then driving up to Marmot Basin (before the road closes at 1:30 p.m.) to see the live finish (public parking in P3/P2).
When the dramatic breakaways start to take place on the mountaintop, Ottawa-born Michael Woods of team Cannondale–Drapac hopes to be making a challenge. Woods rode as an amateur when the TOA came to Jasper in 2015. On that day, Woods chalked up Marmot’s fifth fastest hill climb (source: Strava GPS).
“I got to compete against Peter Sagan who was world champion.,” he said. “It was a great opportunity to see how I stacked up.”
Local vendors are invited to see how their wares stack up for the extra visitors taking in the tour. The LOC is still interested in hearing from locals selling food and crafts or setting up an information booth for a non-profit.
“We understand that it’s a busy time of year and it’s hard for businesses to pull away and send staff to the festival, but we already have a few vendors that did quite well two years ago,” said Nadon. “It’s a business opportunity, and it’s a lot of fun.”
Race day volunteers are still being welcomed aboard, too. If you would like to get involved on Friday, September 1, volunteer registration forms are available at www.tourofalberta.ca/volunteer. The vendor application form is at www.jasper-alberta.com. Both forms are also on the event’s Facebook page, as is all parking and closure info.