Club Name: Interior Grasslands Cycling Club
City: Kamloops, B.C.
It’s a Sunday afternoon in mid-spring, which usually means high temperatures in Kamloops, B.C. But all of British Columbia has been locked in chilly doldrums this year. As members of the Interior Grassland Cycling Club gather at Riverside Park overlooking the Thompson River, the cool air is a relief to some. By consensus, the club will head out on a familiar route. In whichever direction the members travel, they’ll ride past rolling hills of sage, antelope brush and sparse pine where rattlesnakes and black widows reside.
Kamloops is located in the dry Thompson-Shuswap region, the northern-most part of B.C.’s large area of arid grassland. Though Kamloops is one of B.C.’s mountain bike playgrounds, with hundreds of kilometres of spectacular singletrack, the Interior Grasslands club is heavy with roadies. The bunch that rides together on Sundays also meets on Thursday nights for short road races, individual and team time trials, hill climbs and the infamous Australian Pursuit, where slower riders start first and then are chased by progressively faster cyclists.
The club, only six years old, has 60 members. Club president Peter Bartel says there are long-haul bike-tourists and other non-roadies in the organization who want to take advantage of the club’s insurance. But as far as the racing goes, he admits that the Grasslands club is “strictly roadie.” The Thursday night races are mostly time trials – out and backs with a tailwind one way and a headwind the other. One regular road race course along Dallas Road follows the route of the upcoming B.C. Summer Games event. Club members will be volunteering to marshal the course during the Games. Members of the club not only participate in local races, those in the Okanagan Valley to the south and throughout B.C., but also in competitions in the U.S. One rider tackled the grueling Race Across America last year and has qualified to race it again this season.
Bartel said the strength of the club comes from having members from all walks of life, strong leadership, experienced coaching and many volunteers. Even the comparatively mild climate of Kamloops includes a cycling-unfriendly winter. During the cold months, local shops hold wind trainer races and some members make the six-hour drive down to Burnaby to ride in one of only two indoor velodromes in Canada. Because of Kamloops’s tremendous summer heat, adequate hydration is of special concern to cyclists. Bartel says that plenty of water is vital for excursions around the city. The wind is another factor, though the club’s president sees strong headwinds as “character building”. The Interior Grasslands Cycling Club uses its website as an information hub with training tips, an interactive club calendar, race results and registration and printable race waivers.
Rob Sturney is a B.C.-based freelance writer who has ridden 2,600 km over and around the Canadian Rockies.