CLARE, N.S. - The sounds of cowbells clanking, crowds clapping, and pots and pans banging could be heard throughout the Municipality of Clare as visitors from near and far lined the streets to cheer on the nearly 1000 cyclists as they rolled through the Gran Fondo Baie Sainte-Marie course.
The fourth annual event and Atlantic Canada’s largest Gran Fondo took place on Sept. 23. Cyclists had a choice of cycling 161 km, 120 km, 67 km or a 35km course.
Over 1,000 cyclists were registered for the event but Gran Fondo Baie Sainte-Marie posted on their Facebook page that they would like to thank the 970 cyclists who participated, along with the 200 volunteers and many sponsors who made the event happen.
Most of the cyclists were from Nova Scotia, but more than 200 came from other provinces in Canada, 35 cyclists from the United States and a couple riders from countries including Australia, Austria, Germany and the United Kingdom.
This participation rate this year is an increase from the 2017 event which hosted 917 cyclists.
Veronique Gelinas, Stephanie Blais and Helene Couture travelled from Trois Rivieres, Quebec for the event.
“Clare is a beautiful place and we feel like home here,” said Gelinas.
The trio took part in the 120km ride, it was there first time cycling in Nova Scotia.
“It’s a perfect day for a bike ride. If all goes well, hopefully we’ll be back again next year,” Gelinas said before the trio headed for the starting line.
Cyclists got to ride past many of Clare’s key landmarks, including Universite Sainte-Anne, the only French university in Nova Scotia. Eglise Sainte-Marie Church, the largest wooden church in North America. Belliveau Cove Park, Eglise Saint-Bernard Church, Bangor Sawmill, Mavillette Beach, Elise Sainte-Alphonse Church, Smugglers Cove Provincial Park and Eglise Sacre-Coeur Church
Greg Danchuk made the trip to Clare from Banff, Alberta.
“I think this is a great event, you can tell the whole community is involved with it,” he says. “Everyone is outside, standing in front of their houses, cheering you on. They’re just waiting for you to cycle by. You don’t see this at most other races.”
Danchuk often trains by cycling in the mountains in Alberta.
“I think that gives me a bit of an advantage to the local riders because of the sea-level roads here.”
Paula Burns from Lethbridge, Alberta met Danchuk at the event. The pair became friends and decided to ride together.
Burns is originally from Digby but has lived in Alberta for a number of years. She heard about the Gran Fondo and knew she had to make a trip back to her hometown to take part.
“I wanted to do this for a while, but this year I finally just decided to go for it,” she said.
William Lucas from Tiverton participated in the 35km ride. To prepare for the ride he usually bikes 30km, three or four times a week.
He did the 67km ride last year but found it too long.
“With the shorter ride I can keep a better pace.”
Tom and Darcy Wefers from Toronto, heard about the Gran Fondo Baie Sainte-Marie at the Toronto International Bike Show last year.
“We often said we’d love to bike next to the ocean,” says Darcy. “Then we saw a brochure in Toronto, there was a picture of the ocean and I think on the other side was a picture of a lobster and we were sold instantly.”
The couple took part in the 161km ride but have competed in several longer rides in Ontario.
“This is just a practice ride for us, we’re not here to race. We’re here for the view,” he adds.
The Gran Fondo Baie Sainte-Marie planned a children’s ride on Sept. 22. This was the first year for the new event and 95 kids aged 5-12 entered.
Organizers also had a fiddler, Leon Stuart, playing classic Acadian songs near the Bangor Sawmill to entertain cyclists as they rode by.
View a full list of the results from the Gran Fondo Baie Sainte-Marie HERE
You can visit the Gran Fondo Facebook page by clicking HERE.