We waited a long time for our chance to take off down the 20 kilometer course that wound its way through downtown and through Montreal’s docklands. It was almost 8:30 pm, and more than 17,000 riders would follow this course, on streets blocked off and staffed by green-shirted volunteers, who would whoop and holler and cheer us on as we rode past.
It was my first Tour de Nuit, and when the start was announced I felt that chill of excitement that participating in a mass event brings on. We took off in a massive wave, and later I found out that until 10 or 10:30 pm, people would be doing the same thing, starting out on Rue Rachel and passing us as we looped back heading for the finish.
Though it wasn’t a race, I found myself pushing hard to go faster and faster, especially when we went down a tunnel and people on both sides were pushing hard to go faster. Hell, I’d gun it and make it to the beer tent before my friends! But in a bike race with thousands, there are always people with stronger legs and better bikes. At one point I asked a green shirt how many people were ahead of me, since I couldn’t see anyone up there ahead. “Oh, lots, he said,” proving that my speed was no match for the Lycra-clad.
Riding through blocked off streets at night is a joy, something that anyone who loves bike riding should experience at least once in life. At the end, after an hour of hard pedaling, we had finished the course, and beer awaited us in the VIP tent. I kept thinking that this is the kind of event we should have in our town, or in Northampton.
Does anyone think we can get the cops to block off a 12-mile course to bring a few thousand people into downtown Northampton some summer night? Judging for the whoops, hollers and the 17,000 who paid $21 each to ride this course, the answer is YES!
This ride is designed so that families can join in, and we saw plenty of eight and ten year olds, riding their own bikes, keeping up with the crowd…and no doubt looking forward to the end where there was a ferris wheel, food booths and a pop rock group singing their favorite tunes…if they could stay up after a 12-mile bike ride with mom and dad.