Leg­endary Tour de l’Abitibi

Cel­e­brates 50th An­niver­sary

Pedal Magazine - - Out In Front -

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

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