This weekend brought about the final long bike ride of the training leading up to the Lake Stevens 70.3. The schedule said to ride 80K, with the final 40K being at my half IM race pace.
Confession: I did not ride 80K.
My friend James was looking to get out for a long ride. He was keen to do one of his favourites – ride Highway 1A between Banff and Lake Louise and back. The scenery is supposed to be absolutely stunning. And hilly. And the route is 100K.
I couldn’t say no.
I’ve been keen to do this ride as well, so what is another 20K? I mapped out the elevation profile and figured…no problem…let’s give it a go!
We were going to meet up with a couple other friends from our team, but just as we were nearing Canmore we got some messages from them that they had forgotten their bike shoes and were running late. As both James and I had some time constraints for the afternoon they told us to go on without them. Too bad, we missed them!
We so lucked out with the weather on Saturday. While it has been cool and rainy all week the sun was out and we were promised some warm temperatures as the day went on. The scenery along 1A is amazing. Fantastic views of the mountains, with more interesting terrain to ride than along Highway 1. The speed limit is lower, and even though the shoulder isn’t very wide the majority of the cars give you a good leeway.
The way out to Lake Louise is definitely more challenging. The highway splits in two places and the westbound direction has some more challenging climbs. Any time we hit any bit of elevation gain my legs were yelling at me, reminding me that I did ride hill repeats on Thursday after all! I didn’t mind that I had to climb a bit slower than James though, it gave me a good opportunity to look around and appreciate the scenery. For sure, this is one of the most beautiful rides I’ve done to date. I have to pinch myself that I am lucky enough to live someplace where I can see some of the most amazing scenery on my bike rides! James is a better climber than I am, so he’d keep himself occupied by doing one legged drills up the hills. Maybe one day I’ll get there!!
Castle Mountain was just off to our right for a big chunk of the ride:
We stopped off at Castle Junction, the only gas station along the way. A pretty little stopping point, not to mention they had bathrooms with running water!
Just after leaving Castle Junction we ran into a few more cyclists on the road. We wound up riding with a couple who moved out to Banff from Ontario a few years ago. The wife is training for Ironman Canada. It was great to have a bit of company on the ride for a bit and their speed was really close to where we were at. They turned around shortly before Lake Louise and we continued onwards.
The road got a little dicey as we crossed over Highway 1 to get into Lake Louise. They had installed some brand new Texas gates or cattle guards on either side of the overpass. There was a huge divot in front of the gate, so if you hit it too quickly for sure this is a good spot to get a pinch flat. Since you are riding downhill as you approach the gate it comes up on you pretty quickly. I’m not sure if the gate is quite long, or if the solid metal strips that they have to ride over are really narrow, but I could not stay on and wound up riding over the gate….bumpbumpbumpbumpbump…
We pulled into the Samson mall to refill water bottles and grab a bite to eat at Laggan’s Bakery:
An egg salad and cheddar sandwich never tasted so good!
It took us 1:55 to ride to Lake Louise. I figured it would be faster for us to get home since there would be a net downhill on the way back. How much faster could we go?
After climbing to get back on the Banff Parkway we hit a nice stretch of road that was straight and slightly downhill. I got down into aero and just pedalled and enjoyed going speedily. After all, Angie asked for the last half of the ride to be pushed slightly, right? The climbs on the way back are at a slightly lower grade and I felt amazing going up them. There was no fading on the way back, I was getting stronger with each pedal stroke!
So what took 1:55 to ride out only took 1:38 to ride back! There wasn’t any time for a brick run afterward as we had to jet back to Calgary. All said an done, 63.11 mi (101.5 km) with about 1750 ft (533 m) of climbing. What an amazing ride though! This is definitely one I would love to ride again and again. I wish I had more pictures…I’m going to have to work on my taking pictures while riding skills.
Hope everyone had a terrific weekend!