A year ago, I'd never thought twice about professional cycling. A year ago, Lance Armstrong still had all his accolades, and the Tour de France was as unfamiliar as Quebec City felt when we first moved here. Then, last September, I received an assignment to cover the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec, one of only three world class pro cycling races held in North America.
While my photograph of that event wound up winning a prize in the annual provincial newspaper competition, the real win was intellectual. I learned that these bikers compete on international teams. They absolutely must compete in all the races on the world circuit, which includes the Tour de France. Here in Quebec City, they pedal 16 times around a 125.3-kilometer* course that runs up and down some of the nastiest hills in town, and they do it in less than five hours. And a bunch of other not-s0-trivial trivia.
|This is the view from that bridge.|
Naturally, I jumped at the chance to cover the event again this year. I wound up standing on a bridge spanning the steepest hill, chatting with a Frenchman who lives in British Colombia (whose uncle once rode in the Tour de France) and an American who has spent the past several decades as a public health official here in Quebec City. Both were serious cycling fans, and they gave me a crash course in the politics, funding complexities, and basic racing strategies that make the sport so intriguing.
**I don't know enough about it to start trying to explain the nuances, but here are a few online articles that can provide a bit of context:
- How does a cycling team work during a race?
- How much does a pro cyclist make?
- What do the different levels of pro cycling mean?
- Cycling politics - lots of articles from Cycling News
In the end, I focused this year's article on a somewhat obvious question: How fast is a pro cyclist, anyway? Follow this link for even more of my images from the 2013 race.
*Post updated 13 Oct. 2013: L. Marshall pointed out a typo. The course is 123.5 kilometers in length, rather than 123.5 miles, as I initially wrote.
**Post updated 04 Oct 2013: Article links were added in response to a reader request for "the rest of the story."