Québec is famous in the mountain bike world for hosting the challenging UCI World Cup Downhill race at Mont Sainte Anne, a ski resort just 40km – about a 30 minute drive – from Québec City. I had just one afternoon to spend at Mont Sainte Anne, so when I arrived my guide, Christian, had a Scott Spark 60 ready for me.
Riding the gondola to the top of the mountain seemed to take forever. On the way up I saw many rocky downhill runs I was relieved we wouldn’t be riding down. The pitch got steeper with about 1/3 of the way to go to the summit at 800m (2625 ft) where there’s a nice view of Québec City. We started our descent on one of the “easy” trails – it was a pretty rocky ride, with baby heads covering the wide singletrack. I was getting tossed around a bit since my bike was too big and the extra length seemed to be pulling me down the mountain and through rough lines. The initial descent was a lot rockier and bumpier than most east coast trails I’ve ridden. There’s an old saying about Mont Saint Anne – if you can ride at Mont Sainte Anne you can ride anywhere! I was determined to make it down this mountain, hopefully in one piece.
We headed southeast toward the base of the mountain to the cross country trails. Twisting, swooping, and less rocky singletrack plus smooth doubletrack and service roads make up about 150km or just under 100 total miles of trails, including the trails on the back side of the mountain. We even rode several newly constructed trails where it was tough navigating my long bike through the fresh dirt and tight switchbacks. A couple of falls off the bike were inevitable. When you finally pop out of the woods, there are some nice views to the south.
I got just a sample of what Mont Sainte Anne has to offer, and I have a new-found respect for Canadian mountain bikers! Your XC trails are tough, and your downhill trails are just plain sick. By the time we got back, the gondola was on its last 4pm run and the downhill riders were cleaning off their bikes in the parking lot. I was surprised that it wasn’t very crowded for a Friday afternoon. The village and rental shop were shutting down too, so I headed back to Québec City.
The city was bustling with activity after a big bike race, the Grand Prix de Cliciste de Québec, which took place earlier that day. Québec City hosts many major cycling events and the excitement of this race and energy in the crowd was proof of the city’s fervent cycling culture. This UCI World Tour competition consisted of 16 laps on a 12.6km course through Québec City’s historic district and along the St. Lawrence riverfront.
Québec City itself is bicycle-friendly and cycling is definitely part of many residents’ lifestyle. It’s always refreshing to see bikes and cars harmoniously sharing the road. In fact, a bike tour is a great way to explore this city. Visitors won’t want to miss the downtown area of Old Québec and a bike is ideal since like most urban areas, parking is sparse and one way streets abound. From the famous Château Frontenac on the cliffs above the St. Lawrence River westward to the vast urban park the Plains of Abraham, there are dozens of historic buildings, monuments, and the like to peruse by bike.
I wish I could have stayed a few more days in Québec City to explore more surrounding mountain bike trails or the Route Verte, North America’s most extensive bike route covering over 4,000 km (over 2,440 miles) across Québec province. If you’re a mountain biker or cyclist, consider a trip to Québec City. The city is like no other, its history and European charm combined with proximity to world-class bike trails and other outdoor adventures makes it a truly special place!