Canada's classic spring bicycle race Paris to Ancaster is back
P2A steps up to sponsor Canada's national cyclocross teams
It’s what some call ‘mystique.’ And P2A has a great big old slab of it.
The race has long been a proving ground for young cyclists, especially those who cyclocross. There continues to be a large contingent of the top cyclocross riders in the country that circle the P2A date on the calendar. Many of whom from the men’s and women’s national teams.
Throw a bushel of UCI Continental team riders into the mix, and the local weekend warriors, and it makes for some seriously competitive racing and epic good times.
The race, founded in 1994 by Tim Farrar and Jim Thorpe, was inspired by the 122-year-old Paris-Roubaix race in France. There are a number of distances available, the most popular being the long 70K race followed by a 40K, 20K and kid’s race.
For years now, the founders of P2A have made it a point of pride to support members of the cyclocross national teams, who attend Paris To Ancaster year after year, such as three-time defending men’s champion Gunnar Holmgren.
Holmgren, fresh off his foray to Europe where he competed in three cyclocross World Cup races, is looking forward to defending his title this spring. And although he appreciates the level of competition at the race, he is a big fan of the positive vibe.
“I think I enjoy the atmosphere at P2A the most,” he says. “It’s a unique event where all different types of riders come to race or ride on the same course. It’s also a brutal course and everyone is pretty tired at the end where there is good food and lots of stories to tell.”
This year, in the 26th running of the race, the relationship between P2A and Canada’s national cyclocross team has been formalized with the race becoming an official sponsor of the team.
“This was actually the first time any Cycling Canada discipline that wasn’t in the Olympics has gotten a sponsor on its own,” says Farrar.
This five-year financial commitment from P2A will directly help the National Team program by offsetting the costs associated with providing mechanical and coaching support to national team athletes while at international competitions.
“In a sense, P2A is simply doubling down on a year’s long commitment to provide what support we can. The National Cyclocross team athletes and staff can count on us for the next five seasons…at least,” he adds.
“This is really exciting as it’s the first time we’ve had a sponsor step in to help one of our non-Olympic disciplines,” says Kris Westwood, Head of Performance Operations at Cycling Canada. “Cyclo-cross is a fun and safe yet challenging introduction to cycling for many athletes that has high performance targets in its own right; many of our current track, mountain bike and road national team members had their first world championships experience in cross. And of course, the success of the Paris to Ancaster Bike Race is testimony to how popular this branch of cycling is in North America.”
And the 2019 Paris to Ancaster, is shaping up to be one of its most competitive.
Farrar explains that number UCI Pro Continental teams will be heading to the race including some of those who are part of the new Floyd’s Pro Cycling team, backed by former pro cyclist and teammate cum whistleblower of Lance Armstrong.
“There is also an entrance from a UCI Continental team based in Boston, and two of those guys just represented the U.S. at Cyclocross Worlds,” says Farrar.
Holmgren says the competition at the race has always been good.
“Many cyclocross pros race even though it’s their off season but the pro mountain bikers have already raced a few times so they are ready to go,” he says. “Last year Jeremy Powers and Anthony Clark raced, both high level cyclocross pros from the states. Also, on the women side there is lots of competition with some European pros making the trip over the pond to race.”
At this race, although there are portions on the road, gravel and mud, so although no one discipline is perfect, it does favour a rider used to a mixed bag of trail tricks.
“It is no secret the kind of bike and the kind of rider that does well at Paris to Ancaster is basically the cyclocross rider,” says Farrar. “Basically they are super-fit for a one-hour race, so stretching that to two hours for P2A is not an issue. They can get through the mud, hop the ditches, but also have the skills to ride in a road race.”
There have been route changes over the years, and again this year to a minor degree, but the spirit of the race remains. The challenge, the people and the mud.
“It has that history, and the big parts haven’t changed so you can compare yourself year to year,” says Farrar. “Once you’ve done it, you know what it’s like to go down that power line mudslide, that’s part of it. And certainly the finishing hill is kind of a trademark.”
If one has hiked the Niagara Escarpment, it is easy to imagine the size and pitch of said hill.
“It’s around 100 metres, like any other point on the escarpment with the steepest point being 13 per cent,” says Farrar.
“It’s pretty steep for a gravel road,” he adds, with a laugh. “Lots of people walk, put it that way.”
To register for the race go to parisancaster.com and be sure to do so before Feb. 28 after which there is a price increase.