Towns pride shines at cycling event
Black Diamond: Residents show off their community at inaugural Tour of Alberta
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 11, 2013 09:03 am
Black Diamond residents swelled with pride as their community filled with hundreds of people last weekend during the inaugural Tour of Alberta.
Sponsors, managers and fans joined professional cyclists from around the world for the fourth stage of the six-day 900 km professional cycling event in Black Diamond on Sept. 7.
Continuous rain didn’t dampen the spirits of those lined up at the start line cheering on the cyclists on Third Street S.W.
Among them was Black Diamond’s Andre Santerre.
“I’ve been following (professional cycling) for a long time,” he said. “You would never think that it would happen here. There are so many places in the world. It’s huge.”
While his wife took photographs at the start line, Santerre joined in the countdown to the start of stage four at 12:24 p.m.
“My heart rate is pretty high,” he said minutes after the cyclists pedaled west for their 169.6 km foothills ride. “It was the first time I’ve seen this. It’s way better than on TV.”
Black Diamond’s Adam Nicholas and his family were also in attendance.
“We wanted to see this,” Nicholas said. “The fact it’s in Black Diamond I couldn’t pass it up. There is a bit of hometown pride.”
His youngest children got autographs from each cyclist and Nicholas was as star-struck as his children.
“I was impressed with the number of racers and I was impressed with the organization that was at the start line,” he said.
Nicholas said the race is a big deal for Black Diamond.
“It helps the town be recognized,” he said. “There is certainly an opportunity for the community and the businesses. I hope it bring them some exposure.”
Town of Black Diamond Economic Development and Events Coordinator David Petrovich was too busy to enjoy the festivities, but revels in what the tour could mean for Black Diamond.
“The exposure we are getting is phenomenal,” he said. “There is going to be 30 million viewers around the world.”
Black Diamond was originally invited to host the start of stage four, but safety concerns for riders after major sections of Highway 40 were damaged by the June 20 flood prompted the Alberta Peloton Association to request the community serve as the start and finish on the fifth day of the event, rather than Canmore as was originally planned.
“We had less than two months to plan it,” Petrovich said. “We went from emergency management to try to be a finish. We were able to pull it off despite being a flood disaster and having rain on that day.”
Throughout the summer, town employees and volunteers planned festivals to feature the area’s arts and athletics, arranged entertainment, brought in food vendors and organized parking and busing for visitors.
Then changes were made when a large amount of rain fell the night before and threatened again on race day. This included more tents, less parking in fields and cancelling the wine gardens.
Petrovich said he suspected the rain drove away some fans.
“The rain really hit us,” he said. “The Tour of Alberta is saying the crowd is less than we expected.”
Businesses in Black Diamond had also anticipated a busier day.
Black Diamond Bakery and Coffee Shop owner George Nielsen said the bakery was busy serving coffee and pastries in the morning, but things slowed down by the afternoon.
“It was slightly busier than a normal day,” he said. “We were not as busy as we anticipated later on in the day but overall it was a good day. It had an impact on Black Diamond with increased sales and also advertising the town overall to other places.”
Grillo’s Pizzeria management also anticipated an influx of customers, expecting the riders to cycle past their restaurant on Centre Avenue, said assistant manager Jen Schintz.
“Everyone thought it was going to go through the four-way stop,” she said. “If the race would have gone by here I think we would have been busier.”
Schintz said extra staff was brought in but everyone went home early when their tables didn’t fill up.
“We thought it was going to be really busy, it just wasn’t,” she said. “Maybe it was because of the weather or maybe just because the race didn’t come by us.”
Despite the slow business, Schintz said she couldn’t help sharing in the day’s enthusiasm.
“One of my friends got a video of them going through Turner Valley,” she said. “It was just crazy, it was so fast. I wish I could have seen it.”