The route for the bike race is shaping up nicely. At the info night a few weeks back, we promised that we’d be providing clear course directions to riders – we figure the distance and the weather will be enough of a challenge without having to do a lot of detailed navigation.
We’re still putting the finishing touches on the package of information that will be supplied to participants, but here are a few points that explain the basics of the race course and what to expect as a rider.
1. The race will start on the lake in St. Malo Provincial Park. The Festival des Amis is on, and we’ll be joining their site for our send-off. The start is actually on the Crow Wing Trail (part of the Trans-Canada Trail), and it winds out of the park on forested trails for about 1.5km. We’ll line up a few minutes before 8 a.m., and then start at 8 a.m. sharp. The start will be “neutral” inside the park (meaning everyone rides together at an easy pace) – this will give everyone a chance to get warmed up.
2. From St. Malo Park until almost the Red River Floodway, we’ll be following the Crow Wing Trail, which is marked with blue arrow road signs (see photo). There are a couple of turns that don’t have signs, which will be marked with flagging and (for the later sections of the course) reflective tape. This section of the course is approximately 70% gravel roads (most of which are typically plowed/used by local traffic), 10% paved roads, 15% trail that is wide and will have been packed down by the local snowmobile club (thanks guys) and 5% rough trail that probably won’t get used by anyone until we are on it. These sections might (ok, probably will) require walking, but probably only total 3 or 4 kilometres over the course of about 70 kilometres – so think of them as a good opportunity to stretch, grab a drink of water, and warm up your feet. This part of the province has a mix of two land survey types: long, skinny river lots (French) and 1-mile square sections (English). As a result, the roads tend to either follow the rivers or be rectangles aligned to cardinal directions. Hazards you may encounter include dogs (usually friendly, but pay attention), other wildlife (deer, coyotes, wolves), icy patches, and very light traffic. When you’re on roads, you are required to follow the Manitoba Highway Traffic Act – this means stopping at (the very few) stop signs.
3. To guide you, you’ll have cue sheets that tell you which direction to go, for how long, and usually the name of the road to take (not all roads are signed). Here’s the draft version of the first section of the race, from St. Malo to St. Pierre-Jolys (expect better formatting in the final version):
- START – ST. MALO (km 0)
- Follow trail in St. Malo Provincial Park (northeast) 1.5km
- Turn left on Lakeshore Drive (north) 2.1km
- Turn left on Goulet Road (west, turns north), becomes trail 2.9km
- Turn left on Hamonic Road (west) 2.1km
- At flags, turn right on trail (north) 1.6km along edge of field
- Turn right on Woolwich Rd (east)1.7km
- Turn left on trail (north) becomes Perreault Rd 3.2 trail + 3.5 road (6.7km total)
- Turn left at PR 205 (paved) 2.5 km
- Turn right on Parenteau Rd (north) 1.2km
- Turn left on LaFourche Rd (west) 0.5km
- Turn right at entrance to park, and follow blue arrows through park 0.4km
- Exiting park (facing south), turn right (west) on Hebert St. 0.5km
- Cross Hwy 59, go to Cabane Sucre (on your left, behind museum) 0.1km
- ARRIVE CHECKPOINT 1 – ST. PIERRE-JOLYS (km 25)
The complete cue sheets will be posted on the website the week before the race and will be handed out in plastic bags (so they stay dry) at the pre-race meeting on February 17. Any tricky spots will be explained at the meeting.
In addition to cue sheets, road signs and course flags, you’ll also be able to see the tire tracks of your fellow riders many places on the course. Since few of these roads/trails see bike traffic in the winter, you’ll know you’re on course if you see a horde of knobby tracks ahead of you. Unless of course you’re leading.
4. There are five checkpoints on the route, which are generously being hosted by the communities the trail passes through: the St. Pierre-Jolys Museum (km 25), Providence College in Otterburne (km 36), the Niverville Arena (km 61), the St. Adolphe Bible Fellowship Centre (km 72) and the University of Manitoba (km 100). These will all have water and washrooms available. Niverville will have hot food for racers, and the others may have some treats… but plan to be self-sufficient other than Niverville. At the checkpoints, you will have to sign in and out on a log sheet. The longest distance between checkpoints is 28km (from St. Adolphe to University of Manitoba). In addition to checkpoints, there will also be volunteers on the course on snowmobiles or in vehicles that can provide assistance in case of an emergency.
5. When the route reaches the Red River Floodway (if you’re not familiar with the Floodway, read this), there will be a marked crossing. The crossing will be challenging because of rough ground (not to mention it is a big downhill and then uphill). Beyond the Floodway, the course follows gravel roads to the intersection of St. Mary’s Road and the Perimeter Highway. Riders will CAREFULLY cross this intersection and then head towards the checkpoint at the University of Manitoba. The exact route through the City of Winnipeg will be confirmed closer to race day; the preferred plan (to follow the Red River to the finish line at the Festival du Voyageur) is dependent on the river freezing sufficiently to be able to get a permit from the Police (i.e. to be able to use if safely). Contacts with the Police River Patrol advise that most years the ice is two feet thick by now, but this year it is less than four inches thick in many places (and there is still open water in a few spots). If riding on the river isn’t an option, we’ll be using trails beside the river. Full details will be confirmed in early February – we’ll adapt the race to suit the ice situation and to ensure the event is safe and fun.
6. On the subject of safe and fun – there are two cutoff times to keep in mind. The first is at Niverville, where you need to leave the checkpoint by 7:30 p.m. to continue in the race. The second is at the University of Manitoba, where you need to leave the checkpoint by 8:30 p.m. to continue to the full distance finish line at Festival du Voyageur. Riders who are at or who reach the University checkpoint after 8:30 p.m. but before noon on Sunday will be counted as finishers. These cutoffs are there for your safety: we don’t want riders outside in the cold for too many hours. If the cutoffs sound daunting, consider this: you’d only need to make continuous forward progress at 6km/h (basically a walking pace) to make the Niverville cutoff, and you only need to average 8km/h to make it to the full distance finish line at Festival du Voyageur by midnight.
7. The full distance finish line will be at Festival du Voyageur in Whittier Park, near Fort Gibraltar: riders will enter through a back entrance to the Festival site, and will sign in at the outdoor snow bar. During the event, web coverage of the race will be broadcast on the giant snowscreen, so if you have friends or family at the Festival (one Festival pass will be included in your race kit), they’ll know you are coming. A change room with soup and hot drinks will be available at the finish.
8. Transportation options for getting to the start line in St. Malo are being looked at. More details coming & entrants will be contacted soon to assess interest in shuttle or carpool options.