What you need to know about this weekend's Paris to Ancaster Bicycle Race
For those who don't know, the Paris To Ancaster bike race is an annual event that draws in thousands of top riders from Ontario, Quebec, and further afield. With challenging terrain, steep climbs, rugged off-road paths, and oh so much more, it's no wonder that this race is known as one of the most exhilarating bike races around.
P2A has always been a testing ground where weekend warriors line up their lanky cabooses at the start line alongside professional road racers, mountain bikers, and cyclocross racers. And nobody goes home until everyone is good and muddy and smiling from ear to ear. It is that epic. So, whether you're a seasoned pro or a first-time participant, get ready to gear up and conquer the Paris To Ancaster bike race. With our insider tips and expert advice, you'll be crossing the finish line like a champ in no time!
Before there were gravel races and gravel grinds, there was the venerable Paris To Ancaster Bike Race.
This year’s event is scheduled for April 29-30 and features a number of categories for everyone from family rides, and shorter distances for those new to the event or riding, as well as much more competitive and challenging categories.
Thinking about the race for next year? Head down to Ancaster to check it out.
What’s with the names?
The race has ditched the categories as distances and instead goes by race names. For instance, the longest 110K distance is now the Cento, and since the courses are always evolving, it keeps is easier. Here is the rest.
P2A Classic: 70K
P2A Bréve: 45K
P2A VIP: Race like a pro, this option allows participants all the services usually reserved for top professional riders and Olympics from buffet breakfasts and post-race valet bike wash to a premium post-race meal and meet and greet with professional and elite cyclists, and much more.
P2A Gravel: P2A is pleased to have been selected as the host for the inaugural Canadian Gravel Championships.
P2A Family: A 20K race designed for families, beginners, and anyone who wants a less gruelling ride.
P2A Kids: This event is awesome, prepping future P2A stars by teaching them mountain biking skills with certified Cycling Canada instructors, hitting the trails, and then having lunch.
What makes P2A great?
Paris to Ancaster is unique. It’s a rare combination of an incredible community event with great energy and atmosphere alongside a top-notch competitive barnburner of a race. Because it’s been around so long, and thanks to the dedication of the race founders, P2A continues to be able to access private land and special trails that are only open to the public this one weekend per year.
For defending women’s champion Maghalie Rochette, it’s the people.
“It’s special because it is one of the rare events I get to do at home in Canada. Thousands of people are racing the P2A, so for me, it’s a great chance to be able to connect with the cycling community in Canada,” Rochette says. “The race itself is also really fun, with exciting off-road segments.”
For gravel racing giant Ted King, it’s about the history.
“Paris-Ancaster’s history is impressive for this still young world of gravel cycling. 1994 as the first year makes this race downright ancient!” he says. “It’s also the perfect mix of paved roads, gravel, some muddy single track sections, and a long number of other things to keep a rider on his or her toes from start to finish.”
Black Dog Racing’s Siobhan Kelly says P2A just hits differently.
“Paris to Ancaster is a coming-home race for me — I’ve been attending it since I was in a stroller when my dad first raced P2A in the ’90s. I love the camaraderie of all the friends, family, and strangers racing together,” she says. “ I get to catch up with people I only see annually at this race, and the big bonus is that I get to sleep in my own bed. P2A is truly Canada’s Spring Classic. It was a gravel race long before racing gravel was even a concept, and I always look forward to this spring fitness test.
If you know, you know
Kelly says, as a spring race, weather plays a huge factor at P2A.
“Dressing for the weather and nutrition are the main tips I’d give anyone new to the Paris to Ancaster experience. The weather in April in Southern Ontario is unpredictable and you really have to be prepared to dress for anything,” she says. “I’ve raced P2A in snow and hail, and even on a balmy spring day. My most useful advice would be: to be adaptable and dress for whatever the weather throws at you.
She adds that it’s important to not sleep on nutrition.
“Whether you’re racing 20km, 40km, or 75km with friends and family, or 100km, fuelling properly plays a big factor,” she says. “I’ve seen a lot of people over the years who cramped and ended their race walking up on the final climb on Martin Rd. with nothing left in the tank. Never underestimate good clothing choices and fuelling.”
King says, to be ready for anything.
“Advice? Be prepared for everything and embrace it as it comes because the distance is on the short end of gravel races but it still packs a punch,” he says.
Although it’s a community-spirited event, P2A is also very popular and there is a big throng of racers at the start and large pelotons during the race that could give newbies serious anxiety. Rochette has some advice.
“One thing that could potentially be scary for someone new to the event is riding with a big peloton. In that case, I would say find a small group and ride at your own pace. That way it is less intimidating than a huge peloton, but the small group you find yourself with can make the event that much more fun as you get to connect with other people and help each other with this challenge” she says.
For the actual terrain, she says just watch it, especially on the technical downhills.
“The best advice I could give is: look ahead and put your weight on your feet when you ride downhill,” she adds.
In the end, three-time champ Gunnar Holmgren says to stay in the moment.
“If you’re racing for the win, then go for it. If you’re riding with some mates, enjoy it. it’ll be fun if it’s sunny or wet.”
For more information on P2A go here.