Ontario is one of the largest provinces both geographically and demographically which means that there a large number of cyclists competing in a variety of races. The downside is that the races take place across a large area so prepare for long drives and lots of travelling if you want to compete in Ontario. This post will look at some of the many races that take place in Ontario. It will not, however, be a breakdown of the courses or terrain.
Ontario Cup Races
Ontario Cup races are a series of points-based races that take place throughout the spring and fall. Unlike age group races, the categories are based on experience and skill level. Unlike the US which has five levels of elite racing (under 35) Ontario has four levels and three levels of Masters (over 35). Everyone has to start in category four (or 3 for the Masters) and as you gain points in races by placing typically in the top 20, you move up the categories. It takes 30 points to move up to a higher category and after 45 points a rider is forced to ‘cat up’.
Ontario cup races start in March with the Kitchener/Waterloo Classic, The Good Friday Road Race, the Niagara Classic and the Springbank Road Race in London. Most of the Ontario Cup races are Road races, which means they are longer courses or loops rather than short course criteriums. There are eight Ontario Cup races throughout the summer with a championship race in July. Individual Ontario cup races will be discussed in a future post.
There are two centurion races hosted by Centurion Cycling. The Horseshoe Valley centurion in June and the Blue Mountain centurion in September. I raced the Blue Mountain centurion in 2014. The course is beautiful and there is no shortage of hills to climb.
Although there are prize purses for these races, they do not require a UCI racing license nor are they organized by category. Racers corral themselves based on their estimated finishing time. Some ride to win, others ride for pleasure. These events and other timed centurion races are the cycling equivalent of marathons in how they are setup and timed. Because of the length of the race and the amount of climbing, these races are the closest you can come in Ontario to experiencing a stage of one of the grand tour races.
Local and Sportif Races
These races are typically hosted by local cycling clubs. There may or may not be a prize purse and typically they are organized by age group or skill level. Competitors organize themselves by skill and generally require no special licensing. These races attract a number of different racers. Some are casual racers who do not wish to take part in the more vigorous nature of the Ontario Cup series. More serious racers use these races as a training and development for Ontario Cup races.
These races are perfect for beginners because they do not require a UCI or equivalent license to race, often only requiring a one day insurance permit which can be purchased on site or online. The beginner categories of these races are typically less aggressive than category 4 races in the Ontario Cup series. The Tour de Terra Cotta race is an excellent example of this kind of local race. It is popular with both beginners and experienced racers alike. These races run throughout late spring and summer.
Club Training Races
To take part in these races you must be part of a local cycling club. They are less formal and do not have awards or purses. They are used for training and are a great way to meet other racers and learn valuable information from experienced racers in an informal setting. Some clubs keep track of results from these races and offer a token award for the top three racers in the club at the end of the season.