Scores of fans lined the barricades along the Tour of Alberta route as cyclists flew through Red Deer at speeds reaching 60 km/h as they closed out the second stage of the tour on Thursday.
The cyclists circled downtown three times before coming to a furious finish, completing a 145.3-km ride that started in Innisfail and went through Sylvan Lake and Blackfalds before concluding in Red Deer.
For cycling enthusiasts Tiffany Baker and Aaron Falkenberg, it was their second stop as they followed the race. The two Edmonton residents followed the Tour of Alberta in Calgary for the prologue and then came to Red Deer on Thursday to watch the sprint to the finish line.
They rode into the Tour of Alberta festival grounds on their bikes, decked out in cycling wear and helmets.
“This is our second year following the race,” said Baker. “We followed it last year and we’re following it this year again.
“The racers themselves aren’t quite as big names as last year. But the stages that go with the festivities and races, it has been a good atmosphere.”
Falkenberg races a little himself and was excited to watch the end of this leg.
On Friday the race resumes, starting in Wetaskiwin and ending in Edmonton at the Edmonton garrison.
“It’s a passion of ours and to have something this big in the area is really neat,” said Baker.
Baker and Falkenberg weren’t the only people to join the festivities by bicycle as many fans rode to the finish line to watch.
Red Deer native Curtis Polishuk missed going to the event last year in the city. But he wasn’t going to miss the chance this year. He brought his son and a camera, enthusiastically awaiting the arrival of the racers.
“I was curious what it was like,” said Polishuk. “It is kind of interesting.”
Polishuk is also an avid biker, having just finished a 55-km ride last weekend. However, he prefers mountain biking to the road racing showcased in the Tour of Alberta.
Representatives from the 2019 Canada Winter Games bid committee returned from Calgary, still celebrating their winning bid, in time to catch the arrival of the racing cyclists.
The festival started much earlier in the day with a music stage, numerous booths, food trucks, bouncy castle, beer gardens and vendors.
Beside the stage was a large screen following coverage of the race as the cyclists made their way to Red Deer.