by Oliver Evans
Winnipeg gets pretty cool in the winter.
Although these two places aren’t exactly foreign, two of the best places I’ve been for training include Santa Cruz, California and Victoria.
The coolest places I’ve been for races would likely be Hoogerheide, Netherlands, and Tabor, Czech Republic for the Hoogerheide World Cup and cyclocross world championships in 2015. I also spent some time training in Tielt-Winge, Belgium on that same trip. These are far from my favourite places in the world, but the fact that my bike and the support of many Manitobans got me to two hugely famous races is pretty cool to me. Not to mention spending time in countries where cycling is such a prominent part of their culture. Belgium and the Netherlands especially.
I’ve spent a lot of time racing bikes in the U.S. I think one of the special things about cycling is that you find places that wouldn’t seem as cool without your bike or, quite frankly, you’d probably never go to.
Most recently, Tucson, Arizona proved to be a surprisingly desirable little city. The downtown area was much more colourful and inviting than I had expected from Arizona. The people there were far friendlier than I had imagined as well. On Easter, I was walking downtown and saw a group of people slicing a cake on their front porch. Upon commenting on how nice their cake looked, my friend and I were invited to join. We did and ate our fair share of an assortment of vegan cakes and pies while chatting with our new friends. More than anything, it’s the people in the places you go that make you want to return.
Perhaps even more surprisingly, Silver City, New Mexico is far cooler than I’d expected. This tiny southwestern town, at 1,797 m elevation, is home to a quaint but vibrant little downtown, surrounded by a beautiful rolling landscape. The highway 15 which I’ll be racing on later this week is one of the coolest roads I’ve ever trained on. It’s quiet, narrow, winding, and takes you up to over 2250 m on several occasions. I knew very little about New Mexico before arriving and have been pleasantly surprised. I was expecting to be bored out of my mind and counting down the days until I could leave.
To further my argument that cycling takes you to hidden treasures, one of my all-time favourite races from my days as a cadet racing for Team Manitoba has to be the Snake Alley Crit in Burlington, Iowa. The defining feature of the criterium which takes place in May in Burlington’s downtown is the ‘snake’; a 5 switchback climb on a brick road with an average gradient of 12.5 per cent. Assuming I’d never have a reason to go back to Iowa, I would love to return just to do this race. The snake is likely my favourite one-block stretch of road in the world.
While I feel that cycling has certainly taken me to many places I’d otherwise have never been, there are many ‘cool’ places I hope cycling will take me. I dream of going to Australia and New Zealand, Indonesia, France, Norway and Spain to ride and/or race. There are many others, but those might be the ‘coolest’. I’m looking forward to finding out where my bike will take me this season.
Oliver Evans is a 19-year-old cyclist from Winnipeg, who is currently based in Victoria. He races on the road with H&R Block Pro Cycling.