Why YMM is Home
My journey to Fort McMurray started out as many do. I arrived as a journeyman electrician, but within a few years I transitioned into a new career. I am now a realtor with Re/Max Fort McMurray, and use my 28 years of construction experience to help customers find their new home in Fort McMurray. Helping customers build their story of why YMM is home is something I am passionate about.
YMM is home for me for a few reasons. For many years I had spent time officiating minor hockey games, but as I approached the half century point in my life I made a resolution to become more active. I joined the Northern Lights Triathlon Club and improved my condition to the point that I entered a Gran Fondo – loosely translated as “big ride”.
Often one hundred kilometers or more, these rides are designed for a large number of cyclists at varying skill levels, and offer steep climbs, long distances, and a combination of the two. With roads closed to traffic, an epic route with challenging climbs and thrilling descents, local spectators cheering along the way, beautiful scenery, and a massage and party at the end, all you have to do is concentrate on the beauty around you…if you’re feeling fit and up for a huge ride with a huge group of fellow cyclists!
The training I had done with the Tri Club had not prepared me for this, but the experience did give me the vision to start a cycling club in For McMurray. It wasn’t long after that that a small group of local cyclist started the Wood Buffalo Cycling Club in October of 2012.
Thanks to money set aside in the 2013 budget, three open houses and an online survey, a site has now been selected for Fort McMurray’s first bike park, and is currently under construction on the hills below Ross Haven Drive. Once completed, Fort McMurray will have a world-class mountain bike and trails park, designed for everyone from beginners to expert.
The first true test of the new park will take place during the Western Canada Summer Games in August. Four events will happen for the cycling athletes…events which will require about 100 volunteers to successfully pull it off. Starting with the individual time trials, continuing on to the road race, and then the third day when riders trade their road bikes for mountain bikes, riders will take to the slopes of the new bike park for the Eliminator, a series of head-to-head races where the top two racers advance to the next round until only the four top racers go for gold! The last race will be a mass start mountain bike race…a very exciting finale that both Chris Reitz, my co-chair for the Games’ cycling events, and I are looking forward to!
The Wood Buffalo Cycling Club is encouraging our region to get involved in cycling through other ways, too. Last year the Club hosted four kids’ events called the Trailblazers Youth Racing Series. Designed to encourage youth of all ages and abilities to try competitive mountain biking, the Series was developed by the provincial cycling body and gives young riders the choice to race whichever event matches their own comfort level. With four separate race course offerings with varying technical difficulty levels, each young person can choose their race based on their individual skills.
In Fort McMurray we set out four different courses within the Birchwood Trails and saw kids from two to 16-years old show up to race! The smiles and fun that these kids had during the first year of our Trailblazer program is what makes YMM home.
This year the Wood Buffalo Cycling Club will be holding family rides during the week. The goal is to encourage families to take time from their busy schedules and enjoy the beauty of Fort McMurray on a bike. More details of this program to follow check out our Facebook page for updates.
For cyclists who like the speed of the open road, the cycling club offers recreational group rides that are led by a ride captain who ensures that nobody is left behind. Like the Trailblazers program, groups will be broken up by ability. From complete beginner to seasoned experts you will find a ride that suits your skill level.
Both cycling and the great friends I have met while participating in the Club are reasons why YMM is home for me. If you would like to share what makes Fort McMurray (YMM) home for you, email MyStory@YMMisHome.ca. Your story may be posted on a new community website YMMisHome, and it may even be featured in the next issue of Your McMurray Magazine!