A pair of Cycle Waterloo races Friday and Saturday will see riders from around the world take closed-circuit courses in Kitchener and Cambridge, part of the organization’s “Speed Weekend.”
“These cyclists competing in the event are from all over the world,” said Waterloo Cycle’s Blake Ellis. “Last year we had Australia, UK, all over the U.S. The lady that won last year in Kitchener was from Vancouver. And the guy that won on Saturday was from Vancouver. We have people from all over the place – we just had a gentleman register from Austin, Texas.”
Cyclists will race in a 1.3-kilometre loop in both events. They are aiming to win the $1,500 prize for first place. This year, Cycle Waterloo is giving out a total of $26,000 in prize money and rewards.
One rider who won’t be making a long trek is Hawkesville’s Scott Brubacher, who’s looking forward to the races.
“In comparison to the Hawkesville cycling event in mid-June, you race at a much higher intensity and speed,” said Brubacher, who will be participating at both locations this year.
The first event will take place at Kitchener’s Victoria Park on July 27 at 1 p.m. This particular event has been a tradition for the past five years, with an estimated 4,000 spectators and cyclists participating.
“I would say that if you’re sending a message out, that these types of races are very fun to watch,” said Brubacher. “Because it’s a criterium race (multiple laps around a closed circuit), it’s a completely different style of racing on a short circuit loop. It’s in the one city block in Victoria Park on Friday night. So you can stand in one spot, and there are cyclists going past you almost all the time. It’s very exciting to watch. It’s absolutely thrilling.”
The second event is at the 2nd annual Fieldstone Criterium of Cambridge, with the first race beginning at 12 p.m. This is the second year in a row for the Cambridge event, which brought in approximately 2,000 attendees in 2017. Both events are nationally sanctioned. It is the only so-called crit race in Ontario that is on the national calendar.
“It’s like Formula One racing,” said Ellis. “So they come around every minute and twenty seconds. So you see the riders all the time. They come by the start-finish line, and so that’s how you get good crowds; you see a lot of people coming through the start-finish line all the time. And it’s fast – they’ll go 70 kilometres an hour.”
Cyclists will be a mix of professional and amateur, with the layout of the day increasing in intensity.
“The amateur races kind of lead up to the two pro events,” explained Ellis. “The pro women’s race goes off at 5:40 in both locations and 7:15 for the men’s pro race in both locations. So that’s why we try to have it inclusive from amateurs and pros. And we have great support from both cities.”
Racers must be somewhat experienced in cycling to participate in these events, according to Ellis.
“Even though they’re amateur riders racing in the event, those guys are still licensed riders, and they’ve been riding other events throughout Ontario or wherever they are from,” said Ellis. “So it can’t be someone that just rides down the street, just show up and register. Last year in the pro race we had 70 cyclists. If it was just some guy off the street, it could be pretty dangerous. It’s not only the pro guys, but you also look at some of the other guys, and they’re extremely strong cyclists. So that’s why we try to keep it just to the licensed riders.”
While not just anybody can compete, Cycle Waterloo invites everyone to observe.
“We encourage everybody just to come down and watch,” said Ellis. “Especially the kids. Because that’s how we get kids on a bike. When they come and watch an event like that, they get so excited about it. The first year we did it in downtown Kitchener on King Street, and we were tearing it down. And kids were riding around the big waterfront, ice pad kind of thing outside of city hall. They were sprinting around it as a group of kids. And it was just so fun to watch these kids that were probably about 10 do that after the races. It’s just fun to have kids down there watching. We have music going; we have announcers going all the time announcing what’s going on with all the riders. It’s a great family atmosphere.”
More details are online at Cycle Waterloo.