Spandex shorts glistened under the morning sun, mosquito repellent was being tucked away into carry bags, and cups of steaming hot coffee were being filled for the 40 cyclists about to start the Great Annual Saskatchewan Pedal (GASP).
At 7:30 a.m. Sunday, July 17, when most people are still padding around home in their pyjamas; a group of avid cyclists were getting ready to set off from Humboldt on a six-day cycling trip around the east central part of the province.
But not before they were treated to a Saskatchewan-themed hearty breakfast prepared by chef Jenni Willems, and organized by Local Bounty, a group that aims to connect Saskatchewan chefs with local food producers.
Bringing the Saskatchewan Cycling Association, Local Bounty and Willems together for this event was a small first step, said Connie Achtymichuk, Saskatchewan's Provincial Vegetable Specialist. Achtymichuk has been involved with GASP for several years through her husband, who usually rides in the support vehicles that accompany the cyclists from one point to the next.
She saw the opportunity to create a link between the local farmers and the tour, and acted upon it. It was the first time that a breakfast had been part of the annual ride, and judging from the results, it won't be the last.
Willems was busy dishing out her farmer's sausage scramble, along with a hunk of whole wheat flax bannock, and a dish of haskap granola breakfast sundae to each of the hungry cyclists on Sunday morning. All of the dishes, she explained, were made with ingredients grown by local food producers.
The young chef was chosen to attend a Slow Food symposium in Turin, Italy in 2008 as a champion for using local foods. This year, Willems was named a "Top Foodie Under 40" by Western Living magazine. She is proprietor of the New Ground Café in Birch Hills.
At breakfast, men and women of all ages, shapes and sizes were gearing up for the long ride ahead of them. For some, the daily average of 100 kilometres would be a challenge; for others it would be just a short jaunt, said Bob Cochran, the GASP tour representative. Cochran has been cycling it himself since the year 2000.
In all, the six-day tour covers 600 kilometres. Organizers have dubbed this year's tour the 'Golden Ocean' for the vast fields of canola and mustard along the rural routes.
Some of the cyclists have travelled from as far away as Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia to take part in the tour.
This is the third time Harry Atkinson, of Sidney, B.C., has done the trip. Atkinson comes to Saskatchewan to do the GASP because he enjoys it, but also because this is where his roots are.
"I love having the opportunity to come back here, and I keep giving myself the challenge to do another year," said the hearty 71-year- old.
Dennis Findlay, originally from Semans, and now living in Toronto, just finished another week-long cycling tour in Ontario, the Great Waterfront Trail Adventure.
"A week ago Saturday I just finished this one," said Findlay indicating the front of his jersey that shows a map of the route he cycled. "I heard about this one, and I decided I could link the GASP with a visit to family here in the area before heading out to visit friends in Vancouver."
The tour ends back in Humboldt next Saturday, July 23.