Cycling event impresses the pros

It’s not as well known as the Tour de France, but the Tour of Alberta has caught the attention of cycling fans and hopefully the dollars of future tourists.

It’s estimated 168 million viewers in 162 countries may have watched elite cyclists race down rural roads and through small towns and cities in Alberta, and officials hope they will be enticed to spend their tourist dollars in the province.

Hazel Cail, executive director of Tourism Camrose, said having the world-class cyclists end the first stage of their 900 kilometre, six-stage race in the central Alberta town was a huge coup.

“It was just such a huge success for Camrose. We were able to get great TV footage. The coverage of the route going though Camrose was phenomenal,” said Cail.

The 177 elite cyclists raced from Strathcona County, just outside Edmonton, to Camrose in the first stage of the pro cycling race.

“It was absolutely phenomenal. I spoke with some of some of the team supporters from California. They were shocked and amazed at the beautiful weather and great location,” she said.

It’s that kind of promotion that prompted the Rural Alberta Development Fund to invest $3.5 million in the inaugural Tour of Alberta.

Adam Walker, project manager for the fund, said their one-time grant was designed to launch the Tour of Alberta in hopes it will become an annual, self-sustaining event.

“The idea is to give rural communities the opportunity to be showcased around the world,” he said.

Each community at the start and finish of each stage were encouraged to promote their own community through festivals and fairs when the cyclists came to town.

“I think it had a positive impact on Camrose and surrounding areas. It put the community out there on the provincial, national and world stage,” said Todd Markowsky, the organizer of the Camrose event.

He called Peter Sagan, the 23-year-old Slovak rider who won the first two stages of the race, the Sydney Crosby of cycling.

“He was accessible, people saw him. He was a very personable guy. You’re right next to him.”

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