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Tour du Canada cycling group rolls into Irricana

This year’s tour started on June 22, meaning the riders had already logged two weeks’ worth of cycling before they rolled into Irricana – an ideal pit stop that is roughly halfway across Alberta.
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Tour du Canada participants pose for a group photo in Irricana before continuing their eastward journey to Drumheller on July 6.

After a gruelling 174-kilometre ride, 15 weary cyclists on the annual Tour du Canada rolled their bikes into Irricana on July 5 for a much-needed night of rest and recuperation.

A relatively new employee with the Irricana Campground, Charlene Derdall said she was eager to see the group of cyclists arrive on Tuesday evening.

“I think it’s exciting and great for the exposure of our small little town,” she said a few hours before the tour’s arrival.

“I’m excited to meet everyone because for them to travel through Canada is amazing. This is all new to me, so I’d like to see how they actually do it.”

The Tour du Canada is a yearly group excursion that takes participants on a coast-to-coast cycling tour from Vancouver, B.C. to St. Johns, Nfld. Established in 1988, the tour lasts 72 days and sees the cyclists log more than 7,500 kilometres each.

One of the many overnight pit stops along the cross-country route is the Irricana Campground, where riders can relax for a night between stays in Banff and Drumheller.

This year’s tour started on June 22, meaning the riders had already logged two weeks’ worth of cycling before they rolled into Irricana – an ideal pit stop that is situated roughly halfway across Alberta.

Connor Szabo is helping with some of the Tour du Canada's logistics this summer, such as driving the tour truck, purchasing groceries, and watching over the cyclists' camping equipment. He said it’s always neat when the route brings the tour to lesser-known communities, such as Irricana.

“You can see the big famous things in Banff, but then you come here and see the kind of small towns that are all across Canada,” he said. “You meet all sorts of characters in small towns, and I think people have a lot of fun with meeting some of the personalities.”

According to Szabo, there's always a lot of curiosity and public interest in the tour when the riders stop for the night.

“Some places, people will walk up and wonder what we’re doing,” he said. “They’ll come up and ask questions at pretty much every campsite. But a lot of people go for dinner or to a café and meet people there. We run into a lot of people, surprisingly.”

As usual, the 2022 tour has been no picnic for the riders. Last year, the participants grappled with smoky conditions from ongoing wildfires in B.C. and temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius amid the “heat dome” in western Canada.

This year, those extreme conditions have been replaced by cold days with lots of rain and wind as the cyclists made their way through B.C. and Alberta.

“We’ve had probably five days of really cold rain and shivering weather, so people were happy to have a dry day today,” Szabo said.

“Some people have been cold enough that they’ve rented hotels or motels just so they can get a warm shower and a roof over their head for a night.”

According to Szabo, the tour started with more than 20 participants this year, but some have already had to drop out, reducing the roster to 15 participants.

“We’ve had four riders drop out because of COVID, and then another two dropped out just because of injuries,” he said.

In terms of the tour’s demographics, Szabo said the Tour du Canada skews older, as participating in the trek is, for many people, a bucket list activity and a post-retirement journey. He said most of the riders this year are 55 and older, with just two participants in their 20s. He said the oldest rider is 73, while the youngest is a 22-year-old university student.

“There’s a lot of people who retired just before this and this is sort of their retirement present – spending their summer biking across Canada,” he said. 

On July 6, the 15 riders arose in their tents and took off from Irricana shortly after 7 a.m., with a day’s ride to Drumheller beckoning.

After Drumheller, Szabo said the group will travel across the Alberta border to the small village of Youngstown, Sask.

The cyclists will finally unclip their helmets for the last time on Sept. 2, when they arrive at the East Coast city of St. John’s, in Newfoundland.


Scott Strasser

About the Author: Scott Strasser

Scott Strasser, editor
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