Hundreds gather in Edmonton for Tour of Alberta's final lap
Race president Scott Fisher says he's optimistic about the tour's future, given the fan turnout Monday
The Tour of Alberta, Canada's largest professional cycling race, finished its final lap Monday with a 123-kilometre circuit through downtown Edmonton.
The Rally Racing team won first place overall, with American Evan Huffman topping the podium with the fastest time.
But it was the large fan turnout that had race president Scott Fisher cheering.
Hundreds of people from around the world leaned over the side of the railings Monday, ringing bells and hoping to see the 79 cyclists as they took on the course.
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Fisher speculated that if the Tour of Alberta continues to bring this level of excitement to Edmonton, it will have a bright future for a long time to come.
"The Tour de France just celebrated its 100th anniversary this year," Fisher said. "Why can't we?"
The Tour of Alberta has had to downsize since 2015 as a result of the economic downturn in the province, Fisher added.
The race previously covered 865 km, but now riders only cycle 546 kilometres. Race winners receive a total prize of $75,000, also down from the $125,000 they could have won in 2015.
'It means a lot'
The race started Sept. 1 in Jasper National Park, looping through Spruce Grove and then on into Edmonton's river valley on September 3.
The final leg of the race started in Churchill Square on Monday with the voices of hundreds of fans, counting down the seconds before the bikes spun off.
Rob Britton, 32, sat on his bike before the race and soaked in the noise of the crowd. He's the leader of the victorious Rally Racing team with its full roster of top cyclists, including Canadian Matteo Dal-Cin.
Britton has a long resumé of race titles, including winner of the 2017 Tour of Utah just over a month ago. But racing on the downtown Edmonton track is one of the highlights of his career, he said.
"You rarely have an opportunity for such a big race in your home nation, let alone kind of close to home," the Calgary native said. "So it means a lot."
The 2017 Tour of Alberta featured 12 teams of eight athletes from 13 countries from around the world, namely Canada, the U.S., Colombia, Australia, Mexico, Italy, Spain, Slovenia, Netherlands, Latvia, Belarus, Romania and Albania.
Britton said he always feeds off the energy from the Edmonton crowd.
"They're out whether it's sunny and 25, like it is today, or when it's six degrees in the pouring rain … cheering, banging on the boards," he said. "It's fantastic."
Kevin cycled 60 kilometres Monday morning for the first Edmonton Velothon, a separate event under the Tour of Alberta's umbrella for amateur cyclists of all abilities.
His family came in from Sherwood Park to cheer him on from the sidelines.
"We're a cycling family," Nicole said. "So it's always fun to come out and have this in our own backyard."