Road cycling grows in popularity

Gerry Morrison, and Greg Sanger participated in a team time trial at the B.C. Summer Games in Vernon in the early 1980s.

Tuesday night Ten Mile Time-Trials started in 1978. The original course was an out and back, starting at Glenmore School, heading north on Glenmore Road with a turn-around just short of Mc Kinley Road. A very good time was anything under 25 minutes.

Initially, we sent out the fastest guy first, usually Ted Landale, who started the stop watch and carried it with him. He would then have a time for the rest of us as we came in to finish. Later, we had real volunteer timers, who were usually the wives of two of our riders, Dalyce McMullin and Darlene Landale.

The course was moved to its present location on Old Vernon Road in the 1980s, as Glenmore Road became too busy. This series has been ongoing into its 35th year. The present course record of 18:37 was set on July 6, 2010 by Svein Tuft, an eight- time Canadian Time Trial Champion and World Silver Medalist in 2008. He was a recent member of the Tour De France winning Team Time Trial, and finished the event as one of three Canadians.

I was witness to his course record and that was set after he went off course on the first attempt, so he came back and started again. His first attempt was 18:50. It will likely be quite some time before the record is broken. We did not have the benefit of aerobars, wheels, helmets and clothing in the early days. This would likely have eliminated close to a minute from our times over the 10-mile course. 

Criterium or circuit races were held weekly around Hunter Court, which was sparsely populated then. Road races often started at Glenmore School travelling out to Okanagan Centre Road through Okanagan Centre with a turnaround at the north end and back the same route.

Traffic was sparse on Glenmore Road then. As the road got busier, road races were moved to a circuit course in south east Kelowna. Knox Mountain Hill Climbs were held periodically as part of the time trial series. Greg Sanger held the record in the early years at 10:35,  riding a heavy steel bike, aluminum wheels with down tube shifters and much higher gears than used today.

Since then, the course record was set at just under nine minutes by a cycling professional from the Coast several years ago

Other locals whom I remember as active racers at the time as well as Ted Landale were: Rick Goletski, Cam Stark, Lawrence Mc Mullin, Steve Wagner, Mike Twack, Steve Caulker, Les Swenson and Chris Clarke. These riders formed the basis of our Four Man Team Trials at the B.C. Summer Games held annually, starting in the late 1970s.

The B.C. Summer Games in 1980 was one of the first major cycling events hosted by our city. Greg was responsible for organizing the cycling part of this event. It was a big training focus for many of us local novice cyclists and my first introduction to serious road racing. We continued on in subsequent B.C. Summer Games, but eventually an age restriction made it no longer possible to compete. Cycling also got a big boost from triathlons, which became popular locally in 1982 with the first Apple Triathlon and Ironman events in Penticton.

Aluminum, titanium and carbon fibre eventually replaced the chrome-moly steel frames. Some of us long timers still own and ride steel-framed bikes. They provide a ride quality that neither carbon fibre nor aluminum can replicate. A newer, lighter stainless steel frame has come on stream in the past three years and is wonderful to ride. Titanium comes closest to providing the buttery-soft road feel of steel and aluminum-the harshest ride. Most road-racing bikes are now made of carbon fibre as they are lighter, stiffer and can be made into several aerodynamic shapes.

Cycling has come a long way since my early involvement. I note a significant increase in cyclists over the past five years as more boomers and younger women take up the sport. The arrival of the many Century Rides and Gran Fondos has really helped promote the sport. We do have fine weather, many bike paths, scenic new roads and hills to climb away from the main traffic routes. If one spends some time cycling in the mountains of Europe where roads are often narrow with no bike lanes, fast aggressive drivers and the weather can often be iffy, you will appreciate our wonderful cycling

locally. However, Europe does offer long, steep mountainous climbs and fast tortuous, technical descents not available anywhere in North America. Any avid cyclist should try to experience at least one European cycling trip, preferably in Italy, France or Spain where cycling is really embedded in their culture.

Gerry Morrison was born in Kelowna in 1947, and received his early education here. He attended UBC and the University of Washington in Seattle. He moved back to Kelowna in 1976 with his wife, Susan. He is now retired from an active periodontal practice in Kelowna, but continues to pursue his life-long love of sports: cycling, rowing and cross-country skiing.

This article is part of a series submitted by the Kelowna Branch, Okanagan Historical Society. Further information would be welcome at Box 22105, Capri P.O., Kelowna, B.C. V1Y 9N9.

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