Cheering squad: Hurtn Albertn 550

I’ll be honest, my desire to follow this race so closely was partly¬† wanting to cheer everybody on (and hope more racers finished this year than last) and partly wanting to make sure no-one broke my record. Except of course if it did get broken, well, that’d just be an excellent incentive to try and get back out there next year and win it back. So, in short, I was feeling a little conflicted, but had a keen interest in who was racing and how fast they were going to go.

This year the race had been modified to allow the establishment of a base camp in Beiseker – a slightly more salubrious starting and finishing line than the Cross Iron Mills parking lot that we had last year. The middle point of the figure-8 had also been compressed a little, so that base camp was also the half-way point of the race – which kind of simplified things, but I can imagine also made it pretty tempting to not set out again on the second half of the course if you were feeling at all tempted to pull the pin. Weather was pretty similar to last year – pretty warm, but with some chance of rain later on in the race.

Base camp did make a great place to hang out and socialise the night before though, and the many kids formed a roaming pack (Finn still convinced everyone to play Settlers of Catan for a while).

The pre-race briefing was held close to 10pm, and then it was time for bed.

And a nice early wake-up, as the guys provided breakfast burritos by donation (mmm, breakfast burritos).

With everyone lining up for a group photo in front of Squirt, the Beiseker skunk, the race got started not too long after the scheduled start time.

The riders set off towards the sunrise, as the pre-scheduled heavy machinery drove by to create the perfect starting photograph.

Like last year, clear skies and low-lying fog created a beautiful cool morning start. Dew on spiderwebs, grassy verges, and moisture gathering on your bike as you rode through the mist.

Meanwhile – I got a hat! Back in camp to hang out and let the kids play, and watch the field slowly separate on trackleaders.

After packing up, we hit the road and drove the course backwards to try and catch up with as much of the pack as we could before returning to Canmore. These photos end up giving a rather misleading impression of the course, as we were catching the riders on one of the few sections of sealed road. Honestly, it’s mostly dirt and gravel out there.

First up Niels vO, who was looking good but ended up scratching at the QEII highway before Beiseker.

Then Ryan Hamilton – who made it out to Drumheller, but ended up scratching there.

Third at this point was Adam H, who was not looking super happy, and also scratched before making it to Beiseker.

Fourth was Mike O, who ended up pulling through to finish third.

Not before being over taking by Dean ‘the Machine’ Anderson, on his way to victory (but not beating my course record, hurray!)

And Tom, who single-speeded his way to a second place finish, one better than last year.

Alexis and Heather were riding together, and finished in fourth and fifth place.

With nine riders finishing this year and only twelve scratching, at least the finish rate is improving. Maybe next year it’ll break the 50% barrier?

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