We are now down to just two more sleeps until the first bikes hit the track at Wild Rose MX Park in Calgary for Round 1 of the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series. As I sit here waiting for my flight to one of the coolest cites in Canada, I can’t help but think of why I love going to Calgary for a national race. From the first time I rode at this awesome track back in 1998 to present day, I always love being at this facility to experience top level motocross racing. With downtown Calgary in the background, the racing has always been great at this track, and there’s no reason to think that it won’t be the same this weekend. With a new series, a great cast of riders and the incredible amount of hype that comes with any opening round, let’s get ready to drop the gate. To celebrate Round 1 in this amazing city, here are my reasons I love going to Calgary:
Almost every time I fly to Calgary from Toronto, somebody famous is on my flight. One time it was the famous host of Hockey Night in Canada, Ron McLean, another time it was former NHL player Doug Gilmour, and then there was the time that four-time Canadian motocross champion Colton Facciotti was on my flight (actually he was just famous to me). Well, just like clockwork this time it’s Jim Cuddy and the entire Blue Rodeo band. If you don’t know who that is then please close your computer and move on. These guys are Canadian legends, and Jim Cuddy actually lives pretty close to me. I wish, in fact, that he’d pull out his guitar and play something while we’re painfully waiting for this flight. Anyway, it seems like everyone loves going to Calgary.
Another reason I love going to Calgary is the scenery, of course. Being a born and bred Ontario gent, anytime I get to see the Rocky Mountains I get excited. I know the people who live there must take it for granted, but I think it’s cool to being able to look towards the west and see those magnificent snow-capped rocks. Whenever you’re at the track on race day, you can look in one direction and see downtown, and then look the other way and see the mountains. I don’t know of another motocross track in the world that offers these cool and contrasting views.
With the city being so close to the mountains, it’s obviously been a major tourist destination for many years. Because of this, there are endless things to do in Calgary. There are great golf courses, incredible places to eat, miles of running and biking trails, and just about everything else you can imagine. If you’re sitting around waiting for race day to arrive, there is never a shortage of things to do.
Considering that this race is outdoors, it’s pretty amazing just how close the main hotel is to the track. You can literally walk to the track from the Blackfoot Hotel or drive there in about two minutes. Yes, it may sound strange, but one of the things I love about the race in Calgary is the Blackfoot Hotel. During the busy national series, where everyone is just in a hurry to race and then travel to the next event, the Blackfoot Hotel offers the rare opportunity for the riders, teams, and industry people to relax and hang out. There’s a sports bar, a comedy club, and the rooms are actually very nice. Call me crazy, but I love staying in hotels and the Blackfoot Hotel is one of the best of the series. Also, if you’re a fan and want an autograph from one of your favourite riders, the lobby of the Blackfoot Hotel is the place to be.
Sadly, this hasn’t happened for the past few years, but for a long time one of the reasons I enjoyed attending the national in Calgary was that I was able to hang out with Ross Pederson. Ross used to make an appearance at this race every year and it was always good to catch up with him. I was fortunate enough to have turned pro in 1989 and compete with Ross for the final four years of his illustrious career. I could go on and on with some really cool Ross stories from both on and off of the race track, but that sounds more like a potential best-selling novel than a web column. Ross was a true old-school legend and it’s always good to catch up with him. These days it always seems like he’s working when this race takes place, so it’s been a while since I’ve him. Hopefully he can make it this weekend!
Once you get past all of the cool things that Calgary has to offer and you arrive at the actual track, you’re instantly blown away. To ride this track is very cool, to race on this track is exhilarating, and to watch a race on this track is extremely fun. I’m not sure if it’s the layout, the soil, or if the riders are just energized from being so close to downtown, but the racing in Calgary is always great. Over the years we’ve seen riders from JSR, to Bobby Kiniry, to Brett Metcalfe, to Mike Alessi, to Matt Goerke, all put on incredible displays of riding in front of a massive crowd. Of all of the great races I’ve seen in Calgary, I think Brett Metcalfe’s come from behind ride in 2013 is my favourite. I think he started outside of the top 20 in the final 450 moto of the day, and then charged all the way to the lead and the moto win. The weather was really hot that day, and because there was no threat of rain, the track crew tilled the track very deep. The result was a track that rutted up very badly and looked more like a USA national than most Canadian races. These conditions didn’t appear to bother Metty as he passed everyone to take the win. I love watching our top riders race in deep ruts; most make it look so effortless when it’s really anything but. I can’t wait to see what the crew does with the race track this weekend for the opening round.
So, the city of Calgary is great, and there are a ton of things to do while you’re in town. The track, the racing and the fans, everything about this event is amazing. However, the final reason I love this race is because my brother lives in Calgary. My annual trip to Calgary represents the only time I get to see him and we always have a good time hanging out. So like Anaheim 1, Red Bud, or even the MXONs, if you ever want to book a motocross vacation weekend, you should try the Calgary National. As a race fan and a fan of this city, I can guarantee that you won’t regret it. If you do decide to come to Calgary, though, make sure you book a room at the Blackfoot Hotel, and bring a Sharpie so you can get some autographs. Now I might go and chase down Jim Cuddy and see if he’ll sigh my hat. See you in Calgary!