Ontario’s best amateur road cyclists took part in the fifth annual Tour de Waterloo in Woolwich and Wellesley on June 22. And it didn’t take long for the elite to separate themselves.“It broke at Hawkesville Hill on the backside and that break stayed away the entire race,” organizer Blake Ellis said.
Just about seven kilometres into the 133 km route, a small group of racers used the steep climb on Ament Line between Kressler and Herrgott Roads to push away from the pack of 260.
“Our break started working fairly well, making our way around the course battling crosswinds,” winner Bruce Bird of the Wheels of Bloor team stated in his race report.
Bird eventually broke free of the lead group to take the race in a time of 3:08:36 with an average speed over 42 kilometres per hour. The 2012 Canadian National Road Race champion and Kitchener native Ryan Roth finished second while KW Classic winner Gaelen Merritt placed 16th.
Some 590 riders competed in the 46 km, 76 km and 133 km races, which started in downtown St. Jacobs, stretched around Conestogo Lake, passed through Wallenstein, Millbank and the Village of Wellesley before finishing back on King Street.
The event raised upwards of $40,000 for the Grand River Regional Cancer Centre and KW Counselling Services through registration fees and donations.
Waterloo Cycling Club member Chris Pippy placed 22nd on the 76-kilometre loop. He said it was a challenging, but rewarding course.
“There were a lot of rollers and punchy climbs. Hawkesville and Greenwood (hills) were hard.”
Teammate Rob McCarty finished just seconds ahead in 16th. He agreed.
“Waterloo isn’t notorious for being hilly, but it is compared to the Toronto area. There are a lot of rolling hills here, and it’s a lot prettier too. You can go a long time without seeing a town or traffic. I love the area.”
Former Para-Olympian Mark Ledo took the 46-kilometre race for the second straight year, averaging a speed of 36.4 kilometres per hour on his handcycle.
About fifteen minutes behind Ledo, Francis Bui and John Fenton crossed the finish line together, after becoming fast friends on the course.
“I’d never met (Bui) until two hours ago,” Fenton said after the race. “We took turns pulling until we reached the end,” Bui added.
Alex Hyndman was the fourth rider overall to finish the 46 km loop and second para-cylist.
“It was nice and fast with a lot of up hills, but just as many down hills,” he said. “Right off the start they kind of corralled us for first kilometre… Right after the train tracks past the (Northside Drive) hill they just let us go and it was fast paced right from there.”
Changing the course to start along King Street for the first time worked well, Blake Ellis said.
“(Participants) loved the course; all three routes were really nice. The rest stops were well manned and looked after. They loved the venue and all the food.”
The post-race celebration is a point of emphasis, Ellis added.
Kitchener’s Juno award nominee Allysha Brilla contributed her “soul-funk” sound to the festivities.
The race marked the final Cycle Waterloo event of the season, having followed the KW Classic earlier this month and the Steaming Nostril in March.
Bruce Bird summed up the event in his race report.
“It was fantastic to see so much local support for the event, chip and finish line timing, multiple feed stations, road support, good signage, great prizes, live entertainment, expo area, pre and post race food and meal options, a neutral start, single loop course around the beautiful countryside, and clear straight lines to the well setup finish area. It’s no wonder this event continues to grow and is drawing the top riders in the area.”