Hundreds of cyclists will be taking to the rolling hills and pastoral setting of the St. Jacobs countryside this weekend for the seventh annual Steaming Nostril race. Run each year as one of the region’s first large-scale bike events of the year, the Steaming Nostril race will see riders of all stripes barreling through the rough-and-tumble rural roadways of Woolwich on Sunday.
Through mud and snow, along gravel pathways and off the beaten path, riders will be challenging themselves against the 65 km Steaming Nostril, and its shorter cousin, the 40 km Runny Nose.
“This is our seventh year, our seventh annual. It’s hard to believe that it’s been seven years. And we’re expecting anywhere from 250 to 300 people,” said Malcolm Steven of not-for-profit Cycle Waterloo, who along with Blake Ellis organizes the race each year.
“I think it’s a gravel grinder kind of trail ride this one. It’s a road event, but it’s really geared more towards the CX or cross bikes, and mountain bikes. So it’s definitely folks that really enjoy riding in the dirt and in the gravel,” says Steven.
For competitive cycler and enthusiast Bruce Bird from Toronto, the Steaming Nostril is a perennial draw.
“It’s a very fun event, and it’s one of the best run events in the province,” said Bird, who participates in the race most years.
“There’s a few things that are really fun about it,” he explained. “It’s kind of the first outdoor event of the season. And because it is, it makes the course unique and challenging. In the summer, you’re never going to find snow on a trail, so when you’re riding there are some sections that might still have some snow or ice on them, and you’re doing a lot of gravel riding.”
For previous participants of the race, this year’s event will look quite similar, though with some minor changes to the Steaming Nostril course, including making more use of the G2G Rail Line Trail.
But perhaps one of the most recognizable, and grueling, aspect of the race is the “longest kilometre” section, which will again be making a return this year.
“We also have section of the course which is nicknamed the longest kilometer,” said Steven, which actually takes riders on part of a local farm, through cow pastures and along the river.
“We use part of [the owner’s] farm, and also go down along the river at a really quite muddy and fun section. So we created a kilometer down there, and riders actually have to get off their bike, and dismount, and carry their bike back up a ridge … and go back towards Hawesville Road.”
A rest stop along that longest kilometre carries shots of local maple syrup, for that last bit of energy to power through the race. “So it adds a real unique dimension to the race and the ride.”
Bird notes that beyond just the interesting course and the scenic route, what makes the Steaming Nostril such a success is the organization behind the ride.
“The way it’s set up and run, Malcolm and Blake have done a great job getting us the right of way. So every time, all around the course, it’s kind of rare that [when] an event like this is organized and you have actual right of way at every intersection,” said Bird.
“When you get to the cross section of the road, there’s a police officer there. You have the right of way. You never have to worry about your safety during this event, and it’s really important.”
The race begins at 10:45 a.m. with the Runny Nose, followed by two waves for the Steaming Nostril, at 11 and 11:05, with riders kicking off at the Waterloo Rod and Gun Club. As of Tuesday, 260 riders have pre-registered for the event.