Tour of Alberta: Course Marshalling for the Win

I came across a tweet asking for volunteers for Tour of Alberta 2015. I'm an avid cyclist, but will admit I know little about bike racing. I did watch Tour of Alberta 2013 downtown when it was in Edmonton, and I intended to watch this year. But I'm perpetually drawn to volunteering, and am glad I clicked submit on that volunteering application because it was awesome.

I had to attend a short orientation held at City Hall the week before. I signed in, got a spot, and learned a bit about the tour. I would've like to learn more about my volunteer job, but received a handbook via email right before the event that helped. I was still a bit unsure about the whole day but I'll do anything for a (florescent high-vis yellow) free t-shirt. (Also a free sandwich and snack which was a nice touch.)

The most unclear part was the timing. I was given a time to sign in, but really, it was 2 full hours before the start so I just stood around for 2 hours. I get that you want all volunteers to be in place for the start time - but I was never told the start time, nor told what time I had to be in position. Only this ridiculously early time to hang around. It drives me nuts when I get treated like a tardy child. Don't give my a 2 hour early call time because you think I'll be late. I'm never late. Very annoying.

For awhile I stood around and watched the family ride (which I also never knew about, and would've participated if given an opportunity - not so fab marketing here). There were some cute kids out and just generally a lot of people have a fun time riding the course. This went on for an hour and then more volunteers started showing up. Were they told different times than me? Who knows.

Cute little guy on his glider - that there is the future of this sport!

I switched my spot so a couple could be together and it was the best thing that happened to me all day because my new spot was epic! I guess a course marshal's job is to keep people safe. To keep people off the road, to keep debris off the road, and to generally ensure the riders' safety from the crowd (and vice versa). We told people when to cross the road and when to not cross the road. We kept people well onto the curb and answered a few questions. Fortunately the race went off without a hitch and besides certain self entitled people ignoring our orders to not cross the road, all was well and no one got hurt.

The riders made 11 laps. We knew they were coming when the paid race marshals started blowing their whistles. Then the front cars swung around our corner, then the riders, then all the following cars. They went around the other part of the course and a few minutes later this was all repeated on the corner across from us. So we basically go to see each lap twice.

As usual the best part was chatting to the other volunteers. I was paired with a younger guy from the States, and he knew tons about bikes and bike racing so he was super informative. I learned a lot.

My spot was perfect. I got to see the riders up close. It was so cool - they were going so fast you could barely see them. And the noise, so neat.





This is what it was really like. The first bit is from across my corner, but watch till the end - that was my corner!


It was a really good day. I will definitely volunteer next time Tour of Alberta stops in Edmonton, and heck, maybe I'd volunteer other places too. And I'll certainly travel to see it next year - maybe in the mountains. That would be so cool...

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