Cyclists to hit our rural roadways

When some 350 cyclists hit the rural roads of Woolwich this Sunday, they’d better hope they didn’t fill up too much on pancakes and syrup at the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival happening the day before.

Event organizer Malcolm Steven says the fourth annual Steaming Nostril will see an increase of at least 100 more riders this year, along with modifications to the course.

“Slowly but surely it’s building into something bigger and bigger all the time, so we’re pretty excited about it,” Steven said.

The first race is the Runny Nose which runs 35 kilometres and is not as competitive as its big brother, the Steaming Nostril.

“The Steaming Nostril event is the longer route and there’s going to be a wave one and a wave two. Wave one is for the more serious riders that are kind of licensed with the Ontario Cycling Association. They’re called UCI licensed. Anybody that wants to race in Ontario and go up levels has to have their license, so we generally ask those that are in wave one they should be a UCI licensed ride,” Steven said.

Wave two is also very competitive, but just a tad slower than wave one. But don’t be fooled because he’s seen some wave two riders beat competitors in wave one.

Registration has increased from last year and they think they’ll see anywhere from 350 to 400 cyclists out for the ride that starts in St. Jacobs and winds through trails and gravel roads for 70 kilometres.

He says the last two winters have been cold, which had an impact on cyclists getting out training. The race is sanctioned with the Ontario Cycling Association, which means they’ll have Waterloo Regional Police paid duty and auxiliary out at all the intersections.

“The really neat thing about Steaming Nostril is it really is a unique ride in that it really is more of a gravel kind of rural road event. We go through farm lanes. We have a lot of people from out of town that come to this event from Toronto and London. We actually have some people that emailed us from Cleveland, Ohio. They’re thinking about coming up as well. They love these gravel kind of races,” Steven said.

This year part of the course will go through a Mennonite farm laneway with some cow trails along a forested area by the river for about one and a half kilometers. He says this should make it even more interesting.

“There’s a pretty steep climb back up to the farm lane to get back onto Hawkesville Road and that’s in about the last five or six kilometers. So that’s going to make it certainly very interesting. They’ll need to dismount from their bikes and carry their bikes probably up the one climb because the trail’s really more for cows than for people and bikes,” Steven said.

Then they’ll ride down the Three Bridges Road over the bridge to the Mill Trail right over to Front Street. The last part is the stair climb, right up off King Street in St. Jacobs to the top of Snyder Park.

“It throws in a couple of really unique different things than any other event really in Ontario or for that matter in Canada. We’ve got a stair climb, we’ve got some different things. We’re really excited. It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Steven said.

There will be lunch and a beer garden too for the cyclists to get a cold brew after the race.

They’re hoping to build this up to be another Paris to Ancaster, a big ride that’s been around for 25 years in Ancaster and sees more than 2,000 riders each year.

They’ve also got a fat bike category and a single-speed category.

“We believe it really supports cycling too in the region. It’s a big part of our mandate to get more people riding bikes and getting out of their cars and all those things. It’s just a lot of fun to put on because it’s a rural road event. It’s not as complex as some of the road events we put on. Probably some of the most complexity is trying to figure out the church times for the various Mennonite churches in the region. We touch on the course near their churches, so we try to time it so we’re either on the road while they’re at church or we’re passing while they’re on their way to church,” Steven said.

He notes that a chance to ride through a unique part of Ontario is a draw for some riders.

“That’s actually where the name Steaming Nostril came from as well. We were riding one night in the fall and we saw up ahead a horse and buggy with the lantern out front and it was really foggy and all you could see was the steam coming out of their nostrils,” Steven said.

The Steaming Nostril and the Runny Nose go Apr. 3 with the Runny Nose starting at 10:40 a.m., and the Steaming Nostril riders beginning at 11:10 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. A bike wash station will be set up and prizes will be awarded at the end of the races.

“We think this is going to become another real spring classic for Canada in due time.”

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