By Rob Vogt
It was a site to behold at the eastern entrance of Centennial Park on Saturday morning.
More than 200 riders on their bikes were poised to take off into the hills west of Claresholm for an afternoon of cycling on gravel roads.
The clock struck 9 a.m. sharp and organizer Garth Stotts led the riders in his truck on a rolling start, but make no mistake, Stotts’ two young daughters are the official starters.
The event is called “The Range”, a gravel experience, and the edition held this past Saturday, July 22, was the third official event.
The first was supposed to be in 2020 but was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Since then, it has grown to 303 registered riders this year, although 87 were no shows, which Stotts said is typical of any event such as this.
The race also sold out in just five hours.
“We’ve added more things (too),” Stotts said.
He pointed to this year having a barbecue; a beer garden put on by the Claresholm Skatepark Association; and an official event truss.
The truss was a frame, or arch, participants lined up under, with a clock mounted overhead showing the official time. Stotts supplied the event banners to go with the truss.
Participants also received an official event poster this year, in addition to a T-shirt.
He had the assistance of a number of volunteers as well.
That was not always the case.
“The first year was basically me with my family,” he said, adding that included his parents and their friends
However, throughout, the event has received support from the Town of Claresholm and the Municipal District of Willow Creek.
Overall, Stotts said this year’s version of “The Range” got the event where he wanted it to be.
“This is where the vision led to,” he said. “It was almost last year. We’re there this year.
“I feel really good about the way it’s evolved.”
He takes particular pride in the course which goes out on rural roads into rolling hills and back to town, following the contour of the roads.
“It really is a gorgeous route,” Stotts said. “The scenery out there is spectacular.”
Riders faced a variety of surfaces and curves as well.
“That’s by design,” he said.
The course is a total of 124 kilometres, but riders could opt for the Rustler, which is 88 kilometres.
“It’s gruelling, it’s a very challenging course,” Stotts said. “I think finishing it is a big deal.
“For a lot of riders, it will be the hardest ride of the year.”
As for organizing the event for 2024, Stotts is just taking in the success of this year.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said.
By Rob Vogt