Veneto Cycling Club
We meet. We ride. We eat.
Veneto is a region of Italy that surrounds Venice’s picturesque Grand Canal and its other waterways. But it’s also the name of a popular cycling club in Woodbridge, Ont. that has put some serious bicycle rubber to the road and established a winning formula, providing both solid cycling experiences and a social outlet for cyclists in the suburban Toronto area.
It all started at the Veneto Centre, a local Italian cultural and recreational centre that was grappling, over Grappa naturally, with a way to attract younger people to the club. And what better way than cycling (and food – lots of food)?
“The goal was to attract a younger generation to the Veneto
Centre,” says Rick Marchesan, the cycling club’s current president. Founding president Sandro Zoppi approached club board member Steven Andreetta about starting the cycling arm of the Veneto Centre, who, in turn, got Fausto Rossetto and Frank Mazzuca on board, and a plan was hatched for the inaugural group ride.
And it went pretty much as expected, which is to say, inauspiciously. “People showed up with road bikes, city bikes and mountain bikes. Some people also had shopping baskets attached to handlebars,” says Marchesan. “There was absolutely no discipline as we set out from the Veneto Centre in Woodbridge and rode out to Brampton along Langstaff Road.”
For a cycling club to be successful, there needs to be guidelines and rides to accommodate differing abilities or else it is chaos on the roads, and that isn’t good for anyone. That’s just what Veneto did, first borrowing the Ottawa Cycling Club rulebook and then drafting volunteer ride leaders to teach and enforce the new rules.
“Little by little, the discipline and the club grew,” says Marchesan. Today, the club, with the motto “We meet. We ride. We eat.”, is thriving. There are numerous weekly rides at many different levels and distances from 40 to 150 kilometres, as well as women-only rides, annual social events (often involving plenty of food) and a regular Sunday afternoon lunch at the Veneto Centre, where the club maintains its own facilities. There is also a website, regular newsletter, indoor spinning sessions and more, thanks in part to the extensive network of sponsors. But it all started with smoothing out the rides.
“The success of the Veneto Cycling Club is directly attributed to its organized rides,” Marchesan explains. “The varying ride levels keep groups in balance and avoid riders being dropped. The VCC members quickly find and adjust to a ride level that they feel comfortable and confident to ride with [and that] matches their current riding abilities.”
The club often cycles up through Ontario’s Caledon area, including the charming town of Belfountain. It’s a lovely region characterized by its rolling hills and beautiful vistas. But the club also organizes destinations rides such as a long trip from Toronto to the Niagara Region. And, of course, two 10-day trips to the Veneto region in Italy every year.
Having a variety of ride levels and rides from which to choose also facilitates social interaction as inevitably riders of the same ability end up on the same group ride.
“A social bonding develops as cyclists share their time together on a cycling journey, [arising] from simple things such as changing a flat to stopping at a local cafe for espresso,” says Marchesan.
This past November, the Veneto Centre played host to the 18th annual OCA Celebration and Awards featuring top riders such as Peter Disera, Jennifer Jackson, Jordann Jones, Bayley Simpson, Katherine Maine and many more, along with rising stars and youth riders as well. Veneto Cycling Cub’s own Mazzuca received the 2017 OCA Board of Directors Special Recognition Award for his passion and “always yes” attitude.
The Veneto Cycling Club has come a long way in a relatively short period of time, and currently boasts a membership of approximately 200, though closer to 400 have made their way through the ranks at one point or another since it was first founded back in 2012.
In 2015 and 2016, the club even hosted the Vaughan Cyclocross Classic, which was a huge success despite the very little experience in running such an event.
“It has become accepted in the cycling community,” says Marchesan. “We often receive referrals from other clubs that direct new riders to us to receive proper training for group riding.”
The Veneto Cycling Club has a winning formula, and Marchesan adds that these days, it doesn’t take a lot of convincing to get people to sign up.
“Great people, great rides and free food, complete with a clubhouse and an indoor spin-sessions room for winter training. If you’re looking for a great cycling club, you’ve found it,” he quipped.
Veneto Cycling Club 7465 Kipling Ave.,
Woodbridge, Ont. L4L 1Y5
The club’s success is directly attributed to its organized rides.
Great cycling and great food... what’s not to like?