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Living the Calgary Dream pre TOA

The day after my big ride, I packed up and caught the ferry over to Vancouver. I would meet the team before driving to Calgary for a week of training and sponsor functions leading up to Tour of Alberta.

That night I stayed at Mark’s place (team owner) along with two other team mates, his two kids, and our DS. I don’t know where Mark slept, but I later found out that I had slept in his bed with our DS, and my team mates shared the spare bed. This guy runs the show, and even gives his bed up for his riders! I was in a very hot room, lying next to my DS, without a fan (I use a fan EVERY night to sleep). And I was without Bryanna. It always takes some time to adjust to sleeping without her next to me. I was uncomfortable and a little grumpy that night, until I realized the following morning that Mark had likely slept on a sofa in the basement. A seriously generous gesture.

The 12 hour drive the following day went by pretty quickly. I read Phil Gaimon’s “Ask a Pro” and played crib in the back of the van. We stopped once due to forest fires and sat on the roof of the van lazily watching the helicopters. I thought back to my short time in Campbell River where I trained for and got a job as wildfire firefighter. Part of me thought I should be out there, participating in the effort to suppress the worst fires in BC’s history. The more logical voice in my head reminded me that I have no obligation to do such a thing, and it simply wouldn’t be a job that would do me any good mentally.

I settled into my host house that night. It was a clean, comfortable and welcoming house and host. This is always a relief and something I worry about beforehand. I do not want the host experience to be a cause of distraction. Alexis, my roommate for the week, and I joined our host at his block party that evening.

I rode the next day with Travis and Jure. It was a super windy day with smoke in the air. After two days off and a long time spent in the car the day before, I felt pretty flat. We hammered into a block headwind for an hour or so, before turning around at Bragg Creek and flying home with the wind at our backs. We rode hard, but I successfully kept pace with the two power-houses. I was relieved when Jure said it was a hard ride and Travis said ‘Fuuck’ which probably meant he also felt it had been hard. We ended the ride at their host house. I was given the task of driving our team van and trailer to my place. I had never driven a van that size or ever anything with a trailer. That combination coupled with rush hour traffic in an unfamiliar city and a broken indicator stressed me out. I completed the journey with no issues though, and laughed at how easy it had been in light of my anticipation.

 I spent an evening with Aidan. He took this on the way down from his roof which offered an amazing view of the city.

I spent an evening with Aidan. He took this on the way down from his roof which offered an amazing view of the city.

The following morning we met Todd, the Vice President of H&R Block, and four other riders from the Vélo Café cycling club at a coffee shop before a ride. We were treated to coffee and treats before going on a beautiful ride in really awesome company. We finished off at Vélo Café, owned by Gilles Brassart, who had joined us on the ride. He treated us to a traditional glass of Panache (beer and sprite) et Frites, along with an array of other snacks. We stayed for hours after the ride chatting and snacking with our host and new friends. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more content than I did that afternoon, sitting and chatting in the sun with new friends, good food and bikes.

Originally, my plan for that morning had been to go for the ride, and then meet some friends downtown for coffee. I had informed my team mates of this plan and said that I would be unavailable to drive to the airport to pick up our mechanic (Kevin). However, as we were sitting and chatting, they told me I had to go pick Kevin up. I was unsurprised that this happened, as I’m the ‘junior’ on the team, which for many is synonymous with ‘bitch’ or lackey. I informed them that it was bullshit that they had not told me that I needed not to have bothered making my own plans -I felt annoyed, but I got it- I was on the bottom rung of the ladder. Instead of getting wound up, I decided I would try to make the most of it.  

I called Aidan, the friend I was planning to meet, and asked him to be my navigator. I drove with him to pick up Kevin, and then drove downtown with the two of them. I called Kevin’s host to inform them that he’d be arriving soon, gave Kevin the address, and proceeded to walk with Aiden to a coffee shop while Kevin drove to his host. The issue with teams and trying to coordinate plans is that, generally, no one is decisive. Out of fear of imposing, it’s rare that someone will bluntly make a plan. I discovered that taking matters into your own hands can really eliminate stress, and that it is possible to make your own plan. No one seems to mind too much as long as they’re informed in good time.

We spent the next several days meeting at Gilles’ Vélo Café before and after rides. Gille always made sure we had a coffee in our hands and a snack in front of us. He took us on lovely local routes and provided the best company. Gilles is an inspiration - a man who has created and is living his dream. From France, with a beautiful family, two successful restaurants, his café and a little market, he’s created a most vibrant community in his relatively new home. He has his own cycling club that hosts weekly group rides, with the Saturday ride attracting upwards of 70 riders. The ride ends with a barbecue in front of his restaurant and café. The community he has created is what blew me away. Immediately I had found a sense of belonging in a new city. Everyday spent in Calgary was filled with happy interactions.

One night we went to another host, Bryce’s, place for a house warming party. He too is part of a very vibrant community. As a successful professional photographer, he also leads an inspiring life. He is part of a very healthy and happy community of friends, and is living his passion. We spent some time talking about his days as a racer, and he showed me his race bike, a steel Bianchi almost identical to mine. He also showed me his camera collection, which blew my mind.

 I hung out one day with some friends at Elbow River. Photo by Aiden.

I hung out one day with some friends at Elbow River. Photo by Aiden.

We joined the Vélo Café Saturday ride the weekend we were there. I learned that we, as ‘pros’, are respected by the very people I had spent the week respecting and admiring. I hadn’t before thought of myself as anyone people would look up to, but the excitement and encouragement our ride partners displayed for us in Tour of Alberta filled me with pride and confidence.

The riding was top-notch that week on account of our riding company. I did 25 hours of riding and felt pretty good on the bike. But the best part of Calgary was the people we shared our experiences with. It was perhaps the most social week of my life and I loved it. The morning we left for Edmonton we stopped at the H&R Headquarters for a meeting. We did a quick Q and A with a handful of staff members, and I was asked to give a little spiel about being a young rider on the team. Again, I felt special.

Our time in Calgary ended all too soon. This was the type of trip you aspire to as a child- it would have provided me, as a younger rider, with lots of motivation to get to the a high level in the sport. Although I’m not a proper professional, this was a rare occasion where it felt as though there is perhaps a level of glamour as a cyclist, where people admire and cater to you, and are happy to be your friend. Perhaps glamour is the wrong word, I know celebrity isn’t it either, but perhaps a level of success is what I felt that week, as I had a glimpse of what it is I’d like to accomplish as a cyclist, or as a person.