Legendary Tour de l’Abitibi
Celebrates 50th Anniversary
The 50th anniversary of the legendary Tour de l’Abitibi takes place July 16-22 in northwestern Quebec in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, some 600 kilometres north of Montreal. Founded by Léandre Normand back in 1969, the event highlighted riders and the racing scene of small towns in the region such as Amos and Val D’or. Every summer for the past 50 years, the region has been overrun by Spandex as it plays host to the iconic cycling stage race for junior riders that is renowned around the world. The towns embrace it and hundreds come out to volunteer and to line the roadways to cheer on the next generation of cycling heroes.
Numbered among these heroes is Pierre Harvey, honourary president of this year’s 50th-anniversary Tour, who credits the race with giving him the confidence to launch his career, which included competing at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. Harvey was the first Canadian male athlete to compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympics in 1984.
“This was my first big result and it convinced me that I had some potential,” said Harvey. “From there, I became more confident and I invested all I had to get as far as I could. Abitibi was the school where I learned about bike racing.”
As the only North American stop out of eight competitions that comprise the UCI Juniors Nations Cup, its humble beginning saw 52 cyclists on the start line for three stages. Fifty years later, more than 4,000 riders from 45 countries have raced at the famous Tour.
For the 50th-anniversary celebrations, a book chronicling the history of the race has been released titled La Route des Champions, penned by Normand along with Olivier Grondin and Emelie RivardBoudreau. There will also be a tribute evening on July 21 that will include the first five nominees to be inducted into the Tour de l’Abitibi Hall of Fame, as well as a Tour of Legends race featuring participants from the past 49 years of racing.
For Normand, who managed the race for the first 10 years, seeing how the Tour has not only grown but thrived over the past 50 years is what’s most important: “What makes me most proud is that it’s still there 50 years later,” he says. “For me, it’s this longevity, rather than the international scope and reputation it has acquired throughout the years, that matters most.” – RJ