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By: Zdenko Kahlina
The Cyclists Are Out In Full Force!
It’s already May and this is spring time, in Alberta. There are daffodils blooming in my backyard, and I have been riding on the road each weekend since the beginning of April. The last few weeks have seen some major weather changes for the better and I have found riding on weekends enjoyable after as usual… very long winter.
Time to get back on the bike!
Whether you’re new to cycling or a seasoned veteran like me, whether you’re looking to cycle for fun and fitness, the challenge of the sportif scene, the opportunity to move free and see how people live in rural areas around the city or experience the thrill of racing with your age groups, you can really get your chain ring teeth into!
Last winter was tough… long and cold. Yes, the amnesia seems to have kicked in again and I forgot we are the most northern major city in Canada. It’s expected to get cold here. At times I thought it would never stop snowing or warm up again here in Alberta. And even though we may see a few flakes tonight (again!), we are ready to get back on the road full time. Some of us have been riding our bikes for few months already and preparing for the new season. I spent February in Mexico riding on the bike in Huatulco area. So, I am ready to roll and have some great things planned for this cycling season, among them another summer trip to Croatia.
Spring has sprung – time to hit the hills
I never ride my bike in the city. Instead I always drive with my car outside of the city to Ardrossan area and that’s where I get on my bike. Besides, Strathcona County has many hilly areas and I love hills. At first when I started riding the hills in training as a young boy, I never enjoyed them because simply it was too difficult. My legs felt like lead after each hill and just the thought of riding up a steep hill would make me tired. Basically, I would avoid any hill if I could. But not anymore. Since my junior days and many races over the hilly terrain in Croatia I learnt to love hills. I also discovered later in my life that my body is built for the hills as I am small and light (still only 64kg). When I was in best shape I was flying over the hills much better than many others. Long time ago during the ‘Tour of Slovenia’ race I was first atop of the ‘Vrsic’… legendary mountain pass in Slovenija (1,611 m above the sea level). In addition I was also Croatian national champion in hill climbing.
When I moved to Edmonton though I quickly learned there were no big hills around the city, with exception of our river valley trails. So, I had to look for them outside of the city and I found them in Strathcona County. I usually end up going east from Ardrossan all the way to Strathcona Wilderness Centre or even to Cooking Lake – Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area. There is plenty of hills everywhere.
These days, to tackle the hill, I would ride it slowly at first and increase my speed with each hill. Then, to come down the hill I would go pedal less, to lower my heart rate. Doing this kind of interval workout over the hills it got easier to tackle them. I eventually learned to attack the hills both mentally and physically. As I got stronger and richer with experience for the hills, I added more repeats and then coming down the hill I would never stop pedaling. These days I simply try to maintain my speed over the hills like they don’t exist. I can do this, because here in Alberta we don’t have big hills.
First group ride of the season
It was a great showing the other day from the riders of ‘Zdenko’s corner’ group in Ardrossan. The first official ride of spring and the temperatures have dropped back to winter like conditions. Although the weather is more like a nice winter day but considering its spring now it could be a bit warmer.
We’re regularly managing 10+ riders nowadays, which is a good sign we’re doing things right. I can finally quit searching for company on the open roads like few years ago. Pats on the back all round and great riding from the entire crew. It would appear the weather in May has changed for the better, with a fine morning and a forecast of 16 degrees for tomorrow…
The fellow riders were in fine spirits, as we welcomed several new riders along for a beat down. It was our first group ride this year, so naturally testosterone took over and it was very fast. But that’s normal. We always start slowly, but end in fierce sprint at the end. This is understandable. Little show off by stronger and more experienced riders.
The return journey was quick again, with riders very organized which was awesome to watch and be a part of. The single line call in the first neutral zone worked, as well as the ‘keep right’ rule, and there was very little trouble with motorists or other riders today. Time on Front points were shared around a large group of riders, with about 4 or 5 taking a little more than the others. My Garmin had us back in 2:30 at an average speed of 33kph flat.
The much anticipated and highly confusing outward sprint at the end was taken out by the original man who is always present on these rides. There was plenty of conjecture around where the actual line is that signify the end of the sprint… maybe we’ll elaborate on this further next time.
The ride which ended in a bonk went through the Ardrossan main street where yours truly was chased by yet another dog. Should I start carrying my bear spray for moments like these? I never would do that to an innocent dog, I was referring to the owner being sprayed.
On my way to the parking lot, I rode next to the lake, looking for signs of wildlife. I’ve even seen a several Canada geese in the lakes by the road. Although I could hear all manner of creatures, a photographic moment didn’t present itself to me. I took this picture of the wetlands instead. It’s hard to believe this is less than two kilometers from the heavily trafficked Yellowhead highway.
I’m always surprised at how very few other cyclists ride this route and today was no exception. I didn’t get into double figures counting both ways and our group was the only group on the parking lot at Sports Arena in Ardrossan at the end… as usual.
Have a good and healthy season.
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