Hard rides on the windy Prairies
Cycledelia Racing’s hard rides on the windy Prairies
When people imagine road cycling in Saskatchewan, they might envision straight roads on the flat prairie, a terrain seemingly perfect for long rides. But Mike Gavelis, president of the Saskatoon bike club Cycledelia Racing warns, “You have the flats but there’s the punishing wind that goes with them.” Cycledelia is at the centre of Saskatchewan’s competitive road scene, one that is made extra challenging by the gusts that buffet the wheat fields and the intense heat of summer. The club describes its ranks as filled with “like-minded sado-masochists” and its motto “It never stops hurting, you just go faster” is a variation of Greg Lemond’s famous maxim “It doesn’t get any easier, you just get faster.” Gavelis, who became president of the club after only one year of racing in its ranks, claims the winds are the worst outside the city and recommends rides within the city. “There are a few short hill circuits to train on with the beauty of the South Saskatchewan River as the background,” he says. Club members meet on Saturday mornings for training rides. Cyclists joining for first time are cautioned before these 120-km affairs. “They have a bit less chatting than you’re used to on a Saturday morning ride,” Gavelis says of the advice that a new riders is offered.
Cycledeliacs will want to train for the Tuesday night races, which are fast and furious events contested by 20–30 riders. “No friends on Tuesday night,” warns the club’s website. Gavelis explains the format: “Depending on numbers, we will usually have two or three groups where the newer racers are sent off first in a head start, and then are chased down by the big engines to make for an exciting finish.”
The highlight event of the season is always Bikes On Broadway, a three-day, three-stage race in the latter part of May. While the chrono and concluding crit take place i n downtown Saskatoon, the road race is set 90 km north of the city from the Batoche National Historic Site. Most of the time trial route runs along Spadina Crescent East with the river on the rider’s right. Once contested by as many as 200 riders, Bikes On Broadway has seen participation fall to around 100 in recent editions.
With short Saskatchewan summers, Cycledelia has focused on growing interest in cyclocross and gravel racing recently. “Saskatoon has a number of great parks that serve as great cyclocross courses,” says Gavelis, who started racing with the club in the mud and grass.
In 2014, the travel website Travelpulse named Saskatoon one of the best cities for cycling in the world. If you’re coming to visit the city and are looking for something beyond a nice, relaxing roll around the city by the river, Gavelis advises that you head south of town on Highway 219 east of the river to the Dakota Dunes Casino and back. You could also ride Valley Road (Highway 762), to the west of the river, toward Pike Lake Provincial Park. There’s also the ride north to the town of Aberdeen. On the way, in Eagle Ridge, you can add some hill circuits.
“They have a bit less chatting than you’re used to on a Saturday morning ride.”