Friday, November 13, 2015

The Land of Second Chances

One of the big stories of the 2015 Tour de France was the emergence of African cycling—and I’m not talking about overall winner Chris Froome. For the first time, an African-based team, MTN Qubeka (South Africa) participated in the Tour. Five of the nine riders on MTN Qubeka were Africans (three from South Africa, two from Eritrea). One of their riders, Daniel Teklehaimanot, wore the Polka Dot jersey for a few days (first black African to wear any prize jersey at a grand tour), and the team finished an impressive fifth overall in the team classification.

When I picked up Tim Lewis’s The Land of Second Chances: The Impossible Rise of Rwanda’s Cycling Team (Velo, 2013) back in July, the timing was perfect. Lewis’s book about an African cycling story and the evolution of professional cycling in that continent suddenly seemed prophetic. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015


These are the tattered remains of my MEC Merino T1 wool boxers ($42). They look like they’ve been chewed on by moths for decades and chafed up by thousands of miles of activity. But, in reality, they are only a few months old. I bought them as part of an experiment in cycling attire. This past summer, I decided to give up conventional lycra cycling shorts in favor of wool boxers and regular shorts-shorts.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Miquelon Recon

Val and I had took a flyer out to Miquelon Lake Provincial Park with our fat bikes on the Thanksgiving Monday with two reconnaissance objectives in mind: One, we wanted to scope out the 20-km of cross-country ski trails there, which are open year-round to cyclists (one of the few skiing facilities in the Edmonton area that doesn’t expressly forbid fat bikes in the winter). And two, we were keen to check out the network of crooked gravel roads that run through and around the park. Plus Miquelon is less than an hour’s drive south-east of Edmonton and I hadn’t been there in 20 years. A visit was long overdue.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Tasting Notes: Mr. Brown's Canned Coffee

Western style was prevailing in Taiwanese society in the 1970s. Fashionable ladies dressed themselves with fluffy while the most popular among gentlemen was to hold a cup of mellow coffee to enjoy the elegance of the black beverage.   

Who is Mr. Brown? Why does his canned coffee taste so good in the middle of a bike ride? Why doesn’t he look more Chinese? Why is he so happy? These are the questions that run through my mind every time I see a tin of Mr. Brown’s “Ready to Drink” Iced Canned Coffee, one of my go-to cycling beverages. Fortunately, I recently discovered, a mischievously translated source of all kinds of fascinating, if not entirely reliable, information about this apparently famous Taiwanese treat. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Ascent of Mount Nebo

I feel the air getting thinner as I turn the final bend of the ascent.  Approaching the summit, I notice subtle changes in the vegetation: the dew on the grass glistens with a darker shade of green; the trees are just that tiny bit shorter. I feel a shortness of breath as I shift into my biggest ring on the back. I am pedalling up Mount Nebo, the 121st highest mountain in Manitoba.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Dusty 100 Wrap

A small cadre of wheelmen emerged from the fog Sunday morning at Victoria Settlement game to embark on the first-ever Dusty 100 Gravel Challenge. The circuit turned out to be neither dusty (it's been a damp week around these parts) nor 100 (the route actually clocked in at 107 km), but it certainly was  gravelly and a challenge. It took 6.5 hours for our mud-and-bug-splattered butts to complete the course.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Dusty 100 Route Update

The Dusty 100 Gravel Challenge is a go for this Sunday, September 13. The forecast looks swell for a day of glorious gravel riding on some of Alberta's finest back roads. By bumping the ride date by a week, however, we've had to change to start point from the village of Waskatenau to the Victoria Settlement. That's because now that Labour Day is in the rear-view mirror, the tourist facility at Victoria Settlement is closed for the season, making it kind of useless as a supply point. By starting at the Settlement, we can use Waskatenau as a half-way supply point.

The Settlement is located at Pakan, Alberta, which is 13 km south of Smoky Lake on Hwy 855 and then 5 km east on Victoria Trail.

Bugle call and roll out is 8:30.

Here's the cue sheet for the ride:

Start at Victoria Settlement parking lot

Head North on  RR 171A                               
R             TR 583A                               2.2
L              RR 171                                 3.0
R             TR 584                                  4.3
L              RR 170                                 5.9 (follow arrow)
R             TR 584A                               6.7
Stay left                                                11.2
L              RR 161                                 14.8
L (follow bend) TR 592                       17.6
L              RR 164                                 21.5
R             TR 590                                  24.7
R             RR 172A                               30.8
L              TR 592                                 34.5 supplies available in Smoky Lake
                                                              35.1 option to switch to Iron Horse Trail
R             50 Street                                55.3
L              Highway 28                          56.5 Petro Can Station is only supply point
R             RR 195                                  59.3
L              TR 592                                 59.4
L              RR 201                                 62.6
R             TR 590                                  65.8
L              RR 202                                 65.8
L              TR 584A                              68.2
R             RR 201                                  70
L              (no sign)                               70.7
R             (no sign)                                86.2
R             Victoria Trail                         95.1
Finish at Vic Sett parking lot                105.3

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Alberta's Tour de Mud(dle)

All Photos: Casey B. Gibson |
Last Sunday’s stage 5 of the 2015 Tour of Alberta was a curious combination of farce and epic. Some will see what happened that day as irrefutable proof that the event is doomed; others, me included, will see past a muddled ending to great promise.

For naysayers, those skeptical of the whole Tour of Alberta enterprise, the fiasco near the end of stage 5, when second wheel Sven Erik Bystrom took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and the peloton followed him until a marshall on motorbike informed them all that they had to turn around, will be the defining moment of this year’s race, evidence that Alberta’s attempt at pro cycling is bush league.