Welcome to the ITU Edmonton Grand Finals!

As we countdown to the 2014 ITU Grand Finals in Edmonton, Canada, 27 Aug-1 Sep, we take a closer look at the host city and discover a vibrant sports scene

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The ITU World Tri Series Grand Final in Edmonton, starting on 27 August, marks the culmination of the Series’ longest season, and arguably its most thrilling, to date. On its trajectory, the WTS juggernaut has picked up passport stamps in Auckland, Cape Town, Yokohama, London, Chicago, Hamburg and Stockholm (23-24 Aug).

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Edmonton is playing host to its first WTS Grand Final but has been a popular stop-off on the ITU’s World Cup circuit for many years, even hosting the previous one-off World Champs format in 2001. Since then the city has organised nine World Cups (between 2002 and 2013), four PATCO Junior tri Pan American races and a stand-alone paratriathlon race in 2012.

Known for choosing vibrant cities around the globe to showcase the sport, the ITU has picked a true winner for athlete and spectator alike with Edmonton – Canada’s fifth-largest city and a true sports-lovers’ mecca. Known as a runners’ city, Edmonton also boasts one of the country’s most beautiful national parks and numerous open spaces, where you can truly purge your cycling, snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, picnicking, wildlife-observing, endorphin-releasing urges.

So, what exactly is on offer for GB’s finest elites and age-groupers when they arrive? Plenty, as we discover here…

Activities

North Saskatchewan River Valley

20 major parks, including over 160km of multi-use trails, where can enjoy walking, running, cycling, snowshoeing and cross country skiing. At 7,400 hectares, it’s the largest urban parkland in North America and 22 times the size of New York City’s Central Park.

http://www.edmonton.ca/activities_parks_recreation/parks_rivervalley/river-valley-parks.aspx

Elk Island National Park

Popular site for touring cyclists, canoeing, camping, hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. But the biggest attraction is undeniably its herds of plains and wood bison, which create a few extra challenges for the cyclists – buffalo poo on the bike tyres!

http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/elkisland/index.aspx

Edmonton Canoe

Series of canoe programmes  on the North Saskatchewan River or Astotin Lake in Elk Island National Park for active minded individuals. Weekend trips and guided tours available, too. Rent a canoe by the hour or full day. $25.00 for 1 hour, $40.00 for 2 hours, $60.00 for the day.

www.edmontoncanoe.com

River Valley Adventure Co.

Sports equipment rentals, mountain bikes, roller blades, snow shoes… if you need sporting equipment, this is the place to head. They also offer Segway tours, for those wanting a more sedate view of Edmonton, plus there’s a café onsite. Bike rental prices start from $10 per hour and a maximum of $50 for the full day.

www.rivervalleyadventure.com

Running Room

Founded in Edmonton 30 years ago by John Stanton what started out as a small one-room store in a renovated living room of an old house has now became North America’s largest specialty retailer. They also have a resource-rich website of route maps, gear guides, training, and social causes.

www.runningroom.com

Swimming

The City of Edmonton operates numerous indoor pools in Edmonton: www.edmonton.ca/activities_parks_recreation/recreation-leisure-centres-pools.aspx. (The Kinsmen and Peter Hemingway Leisure Centres both boast 50m pools.) Plus there are five outdoor pools on offer:  www.edmonton.ca/activities_parks_recreation/outdoor-pools.aspx.

Dining

Edmonton is awash with great eating establishments, catering to all manner of tastes and dietary requirements, from Canadian and local food produce to gourmet street food and regular farmers’ markets.

http://exploreedmonton.com/food-drink/all

Accommodation

There are countless hotels in Edmonton, offering something for everyone and all budgets, with all hotels permitting bikes to be stored in rooms.

http://exploreedmonton.com/accommodations

Festivals

There’s never a dull week in Edmonton, with a festival to celebrate all aspects of life usually taking place somewhere within the city environs. Highlights include:

Sonic Boom, Aug 29-31

http://exploreedmonton.com/festivals-and-events/sonic-boom

Symphony in the City, Aug 29-31

http://exploreedmonton.com/festivals-and-events/Symphony-Under-the-Sky

Edmonton International Street Performers Festival, every July http://exploreedmonton.com/festivals-and-events/Edmonton-International-Street-Performers-Festival

A Taste of Edmonton (Canada’s biggest food festival), every July

http://exploreedmonton.com/festivals-and-events/A-Taste-of-Edmonton

Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival (oldest and largest Fringe Festival in North America), every August

http://exploreedmonton.com/festivals-and-events/Fringe-Theatre-Festival

Red Bull Crashed Ice, finals coming to Edmonton in 2015

http://exploreedmonton.com/festivals-and-events/Red-Bull-Crashed-Ice

Canadian Birkebeiner Ski Festival (Canada’s largest classic cross-country ski event), every February

http://exploreedmonton.com/festivals-and-events/Canadian-Birkebeiner-Ski-Festival

Bikeology started in 2001 and takes place each June (aka Bike Month). It evolved quickly to involve multiple events: forums, bike tours, ‘bikey movies,’ ‘bikey breakfasts,’ kid-centered group rides, even the chance to make jewellery and art from bits of old bikes. http://www.bikeology.ca/

Practical Advice

Edmonton: Capital of the Canadian province of Alberta

Currency: Canadian Dollars ($)

Language: English and French

Population: 817,498 (2012 census)

Tourist information website: exploreedmonton.com

Airport: Located 29km south of Edmonton. Taxis and rental cars are available. There’s also the Edmonton Skyshuttle into the city, which provides connections to major hotels and other destinations, located on the arrivals level.

Edmonton Transit service’s route 747 bus service runs every half an hour, which connects passengers to the city’s bus and LRT network.

Some hotels will also offer a free shuttle bus service to and from the airport.

Flight prices: Air Canada flies a direct route from London Heathrow to Edmonton six times per week. Prices start at £530.

Ave. flight time: 8:55hrs.

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Check out more images from Edmonton here: