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Banff Bike Fest June 13-16 – Interview w/Stuart Back Director, In-Resort Services

by Barry Lyster

May 24, 2013 (Banff, AB) – Banff Bike Fest, which runs June 13-16, has been growing each year since it began in 2008. The popular Alberta stage-race features strong men’s and women’s fields and last year Pepper Harlton (Pedalhead Road Works) won the Elite women’s overall while Aaron Schooler (Team H&R BLOCK) took the men’s race. But it also features a festival of cycling events for the whole family with lots of activities in downtown Banff.

Recently Banff Bike Fest announced an exciting partnership with the Tour of Alberta which will see the highest placed U23 Albertan rider at this year’s Bike Fest join the U.S. Continental cycling team SmartStop presented by Mountain Khakis and race at  the Tour of Alberta this September. We caught up with Stuart Back, Director, In-Resort Services at Banff Lake Louise Tourism, to learn more about this initiative, and Banff Bike Fest’s plans going forward.

What are some of the unique challenges holding a cycling event in a National Park?
Stuart Back: Banff is an iconic destination.  With lots of people coming from different places, the challenge is making it unique for everyone.  Healthy lifestyles, like cycling, go hand in had with our mountain environment.

Was it tough to get all of the powers that be on board with supporting this event or is cycling widely recognized as a draw for tourism in Alberta?
SB: Our community fully embraces cycling.  It is part of the fabric of our place.  Tourism Alberta absolutely see’s cycling as a draw.

Is there anything new being added for 2013?
SB: This year we have added a couple of longer, cycling events for the whole family.  On Saturday you can ride the  Bow Valley Parkway to Castle Mountain Chalets for a fundraising BBQ in support of the Bow Valley Mountain Bike Alliance, or cycle to the Cave and Basin on Sunday for Father’s Day and relax in the new picnic area.  As usual, we will also be holding our Balkan Restaurant Little Kids Crit and our annual Cruise for a Cause which has adults dressed in costume doing a lap on the down town criterium course.

Tell us more about the “Making the Tour” program for the top U23 Albertan. Any plans to develop a similar program for the top woman?
SB: As a compliment to the way Bike Fest is run, and with the high calibre of racers we have, we have created a great opportunity to give a special award to one local strong rider. At this year’s Banff National Park Bike Fest, The Tour of Alberta organizers, the Alberta Peloton Association (APA) and Banff Lake Louise Tourism, are offering a unique opportunity to the overall Alberta winner, under 23 years of age, to join the U.S. Continental cycling team Smart Stop presented by Mountain Khakis in the Tour of Alberta this fall. As the women’s peloton continues to grow, we will be looking at adding more categories and equal opportunities along side the men.

Has there been any increase in interest from teams outside of Canada?
SB: Each year we get more interest from riders and  teams from outside Canada. We see increases in growth in our future.

What benefits can you see for your event with the additions of the Banff Gran Fondo and the Tour of Alberta?
SB: We see tremendous momentum with participation in cycling.  We also see potential with cross participation in other activities we are able to offer in our recreation-rich environment.  This helps solidify Banff and Alberta as a destination for those seeking recreation.

What is your vision for the development of cycling in Banff? What would you like to see happen in terms of events, infrastructure?
SB: The reality is that our destination is in a National Park.  We have been able to blend our activities with keeping wildlife and the natural environment our priority.  The latest creation of the Hwy route from Banff to Jasper is one of the successes we have achieved while keeping the balance.

Is there anything on tap for mountain biking in the National Park in terms of opening more trails to cyclists and/or hosting events and races?
SB: Over the years we have seen improvements in our trail network for cycling and there has been and increase in awareness from the public.  I am sure there will be other events in our future which will utilize the resource.

Thanks for your time and all the best with this year’s event.
SB: Thanks

Read more about Banff Bike Fest HERE.


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