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  1. #1
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Golden Triangle Tour - the story

    First, the photo collection: http://ca.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/mac...0e0scd&.src=ph

    Day 1

    I arrived at Castle Junction bright and early, about 7:45 am, took my bag over to the baggage truck, signed in, set up Machak, and was on my way by about 8:15 am. Registration was from 7:30 am to 9:00 am, and whenever we were ready to go, we could leave. There's no mass start, which makes sense because setting 370 riders off all at once on roads that are well travelled by long weekend vacationers could be dangerous. This way, everyone headed off alone or in little clumps, so we were spread out over quite a few kms.

    The ride starts with a 7 km climb on an 8% grade … good way to start a tour!! I stopped once to use my inhalers, which I should have done before I started, but otherwise cruised right up. The first stop was about 8 kms into the ride because they don't serve breakfast the first morning, and because that climb takes riders a little while. After that, it is basically downhill until right near the end.

    It was a lovely (although chilly) ride to the lunch stop at 51 kms … lots of beautiful scenery. I rode with various riders, and was passed by lots. It was nice not to be the only cyclist out there! I met a small group from Manitoba, who I ended up riding with or leap-frogging most of the first and second day. When I arrived at the lunch stop, there weren't many riders in the lunch line, and I had my lunch in no time. But as I sat on a rock eating my lunch, a huge group of cyclists rolled in. I took a couple photos!! I've rarely seen so many cyclists in one group before!!

    The wind came up during lunch, and I was into a headwind from the lunch stop to the next snack stop at 81 kms. It was a fairly strong wind with gusts that blew me, and several others, all over the place. Cycling was slow going. Nevertheless, I hoped the wind would continue right to the end.

    A group of us were standing around chatting at the last snack stop, when all of a sudden someone said, "The wind has changed". We looked around at the sky as the rain began. I left the stop right away but did not put my booties on. The sky in the west looked like it would clear shortly … I was wrong. The rain just got heavier … and periodically changed to hail. My feet were soaked! And unfortunately we had a tailwind.

    The tailwind was fine all the way up Sinclair Pass, but I so desperately wanted a headwind going down the other side to slow my descent. I also desperately wanted the rain to stop, and the road to dry. None of my wishes were granted.

    With very vivid memories of my crash on a steep, wet hill 6 weeks ago, I started the descent … and stopped about 0.5 kms down the hill to shake. I was so terrified, I just stood there and shook violently. Another rider stopped behind me and asked me if I was OK. "No" I replied. We chatted for a few minutes and I started to calm down. I took several deep breaths and continued down the hill, stopping every kilometer or so to collect myself. As it happened there were 3 other girls also struggling down the hill. We would stop together and reassure each other before continuing slowly down the hill. I ended up riding with, and leap-frogging, one of those girls the whole second day too. My top speed down that hill was 15 km/h! I slowly covered about 10 kms that way … laying on the brakes and stopping every so often … and was amazed every time I saw other cyclists barreling down the hill at top speed. I expected to come upon carnage around every corner!

    With 2 kms to go, the sky really opened up and poured buckets, combined with lightening and thunder. I dashed into a little shelter that happened to be next to the road. Several other cyclists joined me there and we waited out the rain. This shelter was right across the road from the Radium Hotsprings … and the pool was evacuated because of the lightening!!

    The last 2 kms down into Radium are very steep (11% grade), the road was like a waterfall, and is very narrow with broken shoulders. Not only that, but the road was thick with vehicles containing disgruntled tourists who had been evacuated from the pool. At that point, I made a decision. I decided to walk the rest of the way. As it happens there is a sidewalk all the way down so that worked out well. I took several photos of that area – it's quite spectacular.

    I got to the camping area, picked a spot, and hauled my 33 pound bag clear across the field to the spot I picked. Next time, I have to pick a spot closer to the baggage truck!! I had everything set up in no time, and hiked across the field to the washrooms to change into dry clothes. On my way back, I heard an odd sound. It was like a waterfall … but there weren't any waterfalls in the immediate area, and I hadn't noticed this sound before. I looked over in the direction of the sound and couldn't see anything, but the sound grew louder. Suddenly I realized what it was … rain coming across the field. I sprinted for my tent and dove in … and as I did, I noticed that all the other cyclists were also diving into their tents. It was actually quite funny … much like a bunch of ground squirrels all heading for their burrows!

    When that shower let up, I took a walk into town, then returned in time for a big, delicious supper, and then took the shuttle van up to the Hotsprings where I soaked for an hour. That was very nice … I think my aching shoulder appreciated it. I went up to the hotsprings with camping neighbors who were on a tandem, and who had a sister who works for the same company as me. And while in the pool, I met one of the volunteers, an older lady who does quite a bit of cycling, who told me about all sorts of rides here in Alberta. She and I chatted at many of the snack and lunch stops for the rest of the ride.

    Back at camp I talked with neighbors on the other side of me … a father and son. The father had met me on this tour two years ago, and his son was into mountain biking 24-hour events, so we talked for a while about long distance cycling.

    We all headed to our tents very early, and a short time later, the rain started. I slept quite soundly all night, but each time I woke up, I could hear the rain on the tent. It continued to rain right till 6:40 am, and then stopped. At that point, everyone emerged from their tents and began packing up for the next day.

  2. #2
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Day 2

    My little bitty tent held up against the rain very well, and I was even able to dry some clothing items by draping them over the inner mesh part, under the outer fly. The humidity level in there was gloriously high!! Unfortunately I had to pack the tent away wet.

    And we set off on Day 2. Once again we all left when we were ready, and I headed out about 8:30 am. Day 2 is much less hilly than either Day 1 or Day 3 … in fact, it is predominantly downhill. Nevertheless, I was still struggling a little bit all the way to the first snack stop at 35 kms. It was like my legs didn't really want to wake up, and I was being passed by everyone!

    After that snack stop, I started feeling better and was thoroughly enjoying the scenery along the way. The road is rough (chipcrete), but I like that road … it has special memories for me from long, long ago. But a funny thing that I, and another girl I was chatting to, noticed … cyclists would fly past us, and then a couple hundred metres up the road they would screech to a halt by the side of the road to change a flat, or put a jacket on, or take a jacket off, or fuss with something on their bicycles. We'd pass them, and a few minutes later, they would fly past us again only to come to a halt by the side of the road a little ways up the road. I ended up leap-frogging a bunch of people that way.

    I had a hasty lunch because there was rain coming in, and then sailed into Golden. Golden was sunny and warm! I chose a nice little spot for my campsite, not quite so far from the baggage truck this time, and was all set up in no time. My tent was also dry in about 15 minutes. And then I went for a walk into town.

    As I walked along the river, a whole group of rafters came floating down the river … the current in that part of the river was fast!! They just flew past!! There wasn't much open in town, unfortunately, so I walked back to the camp and settled into my tent to read a bit before supper … and fell asleep!!

    My next door neighbor, a man I met the last time I did the tour, inadvertently woke me in time for supper by saying something to me as he walked by my tent. It was a very good supper! They announced that there were about 370 riders … the youngest was 13 (there were actually three 13 year olds) and the oldest was 82!! They handed out several door prizes, including two helmets, but I didn’t win either of them. I really wanted a helmet!! I guess I'll have to buy one.

    Then several of us sat around a campfire and chatted about a wide range of subjects for a while … and once again everyone settled in early for the night. We all knew that Day 3 is the toughest day of the three.

    4:15 am … the trains, just across the river from the campground, gathered to shunt. I remember it from the last Golden Triangle, but fortunately it didn't seem to go on as long as last time … or maybe I was just so tired, I slept through it.

  3. #3
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Day 3

    About 3 hours later, I was up and packing up. Fortunately this time, the tent was dry. Rumor had it that there would be quite a bit of snow near the top of the Great Divide and in Lake Louise … and the temperature in Golden wasn't very warm. So I packed extra clothing, just in case.

    After breakfast, I began the first climb of the day … the climb out of Golden. That's a steep little climb that goes on for about 9 kms. It drops down into the Kicking Horse River Valley, and then climbs again for another 4 kms or so.

    There's a lot of construction right from Golden nearly to the 30 km point. They are building an almost unbelievable road. It soars above the existing road in a structure that rivals anything I've seen in places like Los Angeles and Los Vegas!! But it doesn't seem to go anywhere … it is just sort of … there! Like an odd sculpture in the middle of the mountains. I have photos.

    The first snack break was a welcome relief. I was hungry by then! And then we kept climbing, and climbing, and climbing. It is a very gradual climb to Field … just enough so that several of us dismounted and checked our tires to see if we had a rubbing brake or a flat tire or something. The slight headwind didn't help matters either. I kept thinking that I was feeling dreadfully weak out there. I couldn't figure out why I couldn't get any speed up. But looking at the elevation profile now, I can see why!

    We had lunch at Field, and then we tackled the biggest climb of the day. 12 kilometers long at about 7 km/h. It starts steeply and around the halfway point it becomes more gradual, but it just keeps going up and up and up and up. My gearing could handle it just fine, but it started to become rather mentally defeating. And hour later, I was still climbing and climbing … I was beginning to think it would never end!

    But it did … and in the midst of a light snow flurry, I donned my headband to cover my ears, zipped everything up, and began the descent to Lake Louise. Thankfully that light snow flurry, and some glacier remnants in the ditch, were the only bits of snow I saw. The road was bare and dry.

    A stiff climb out of Lake Louise, and then a short descent to the last snack stop … and 25 kms to go. The last 25 kms was easy compared with the rest of the day. There is one steep climb of about 2 kms in the middle of it, but that was nothing compared with the rest of the climbing we had done.

    And then with 5 kms to go … it rained. Isn't that the way it goes!! But apparently I was fortunate … others got coated in sleet on their way in!!

    And then with about 100 feet to go … another cyclist and I were stopped by a very long train! Nothing like being able to see your destination, but only being able to stand in the rain and watch.


    Overall, it was a good ride … a tough ride … a challenging ride.


    A note about the support … it was excellent! There were about 35 volunteers who fed us, drove the medical van, drove the mechanical van, took photos, hauled our luggage, shuttled us up and down from the hotsprings, and generally looked out for us. They were all very friendly, cheerful, and helpful.

    A note about the food … it was excellent!! Snacks generally consisted of various types of fruit, bagels, muffins, and pastries. They brought in bottled water, and lots of different types of juice. Very good! Lunches consisted of buns or pita wraps, cheddar cheese, various cold cuts, tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli, carrot sticks, celery sticks, cookies, brownies, and other goodies. Breakfasts were pancakes, eggs, and sausages. The first supper was pasta with a choice of 3 different pasta sauces, salad, and a large piece of cake for desert (and ice cream if we wanted it). The second supper was a choice of several different types of salad (veggie salad, pasta salad, etc.), mashed potatoes, chicken, and roast beef (they had half a cow there!!) It was all very well done, and offered enough options for those who might have special dietary requirements. Several other events I've participated in could take notes!!

  4. #4
    Mountain Bikes are Art
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    Great write up. That weather sounds like a challenge. I did Banff Jasper in 1974 (15 year old). Brings back memories.
    Bob S.
    05 Kona Kula Deluxe

  5. #5
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonValley
    Great write up. That weather sounds like a challenge. I did Banff Jasper in 1974 (15 year old). Brings back memories.
    That weather is fairly common through there in the spring and fall ... and even summer sometimes. What amazes me are the people who are completely unprepared for it despite all the warnings. There were cyclists out there in shorts!! Brrrrrr!!!!!!

    I'm just glad that we didn't get the "winter storm" that came through last night. Up here in Central Alberta we got about 8 inches of snow, and I think the Banff area got something similar too.

  6. #6
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    I've just discovered that the Golden Triangle tour is mapped on bikely.com, and the total elevation for the tour is there .... 24,694.88 feet of climbing over the ~320 kms!! That's a lot of climbing!!

  7. #7
    cyclotourist
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    24,694.88 feet of climbing over the ~320 kms!! That's a lot of climbing!!
    That can't possibly be right.

  8. #8
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skookum
    That can't possibly be right.
    Why not?

    I mapped the last day of the tour using www.mapmyride.com and came up with about 16,000 ft of climbing for that day alone.

  9. #9
    cyclotourist
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    The elevation profile on bikely goes down to 0m.

    Also the total elevation gained and lost is not the same. (but since its wrong anyway it hardly matters)

  10. #10
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Hmmmmm ...


    I'm trying to map my 600K route right now, and already I'm not happy with bikely. I don't like all that Google junk all over the place, and I've never liked Google mapping technology. Pity they couldn't use Mappoint or something that works.

  11. #11
    cyclotourist
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    Golden is about 2500 ft., Kicking horse pass is 5300 ft. You've got 2800 net vertical feet between the two. Granted the road goes up and down in that interval, so lets be generous and add another 1000 feet. Thats 3800, round it up to 4000. You would have to ride Golden to Kicking Horse Pass FOUR times to get 16000 feet.

    I tried to map it on mapmyride, but the map kept moving around, when I wasn't clicking the mouse, it was driving me nuts. Maybe it doesn't like firefox or something.

  12. #12
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    No, it did that when I was using it with Windows Explorer too. Bikely does the same thing ... I was just wondring, about a second ago, if there was a way to stop all the lurching around. It's really hard to click on the road when the road is wandering around all over the place.

    On mapmyride, I think you can uncheck the setting that says "automatically center" and that helps a little bit.

  13. #13
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    Thanks Machka, I enjoyed reading your write-up. I rode the GT last year and enjoyed it very much, I'd have ridden it again this year too but I've been working in Argentina since last fall.

    Maybe next year.
    2006 Lemond Sarthe
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