P2A Celebrates 25th Anniversary
CANADA’S CYCLING CLASSIC
The year was 1994. A couple of guys with event-timing equipment wanted to fill a gap in their calendar and thought it would be fun to hold a Paris-Roubaix tribute race. The idea wasn’t unique, as others had a similar thought and other tribute races already existed. But Tim Farrar and John Thorpe, along with Chris Kiriakopoulos, had the town of Paris, Ont. in their sights for the start. And so Paris to Ancaster (P2A) was born.
The idea was to host a “road race for mountain bikers or a mountain-bike race for road racers” over a course, avoiding roads as much as possible, according to Farrar. While the two main stretches of rail trail (the Grand River and Jerseyville rail trails) were easy to decide on, the rest is primarily private property. It took the organizers a couple of years to attain enough sectors to make the full course work. While the course changes from year to year based on permission, many of the landowners have been long-time supporters, with one privately owned sector being included for every edition.
THE EARLY YEARS
While Farrar, Thorpe and Kiriakopoulos couldn’t foresee how popular P2A would become, there were early signs. That first year they hoped for perhaps 100 people. According to Farrar, “We had to delay the start to sign everybody up. Two hundred and sixty-six finished that year.”
From the first year, the race has ended with the Martin’s Road hill. It starts out relatively easy and ends with a steep pitch now filled with cheering spectators. The original start was at the Syl Apps Sports Centre in Paris, and according to Paul St. Pierre, the only rider to have raced every edition of P2A, no one knew what to expect between the two ends. The 70km race now starts at the Green Lane Sports Complex near the Grand River, which is well suited to the large field of racers.
The in-between sections change from year to year. This is due in part to the use of private land and in part to weather. However, a couple of sections have not changed, and they help define the very character of the race. Readers who have raced any of the P2A distances know what I’m talking about before I even finish the thought, and are already remembering their own experiences in the Powerline and Mineral Springs mud chutes. If you are reading this and wondering, because you haven’t raced it, just search for “P2A mud” to see for yourself. There are rumours that people have lost shoes in the strength-sapping deep mud.
There are still some final approvals to secure before the route is confirmed and, as always, the organizers won’t publish a route map in advance, so the mystery of the in-between continues.
There will likely be more farm lanes, gravel roads and the return of sectors missing from the past few editions. Farrar also mentioned a tunnel for the 2018 edition – perhaps locals can guess where. He went on to say, “As ever, the race-day route depends on conditions on the day. Powerline and Mineral Springs mud chutes remain in their traditional condition and decisive role in the race.”
In addition to delivering a challenging course, the organizers also deliver a stimulating field for the top racers. It’s a tradition to have Pro racers from around the world participate in both the women’s and men’s first wave. This year will see Canadians Gunnar Holmgren (hoping to defend his 2017 title), Ruby West,
Jodi Wendland and Matt Surch line up with international racers who include Rebecca Fahringer (the top woman in 2017), Helen Wyman, Margreit Kloppenberg and Ian Field. Expect the race to be fast and furious from start to finish. According to Farrar, “Canada, France, U.S.A., Great Britain and Denmark are expected to be podium threats/top five in both men’s and women’s races.”
Registration continues to be capped at 3,000 overall, with each distance having its own cap based on start-line capacity. As of this writing, there are still some spots available in later waves, although a VIP entry gives access into any wave or distance. The first three waves in the 70km distance have been full for quite a while, so if you’re late registering, a VIP entry is the only way to be near the front at this point.
One significant change for 2018 is that there will no longer be race-day registration-package pick-up. This difficult decision made by the organizers is intended to help smooth both the start and the results at the finish, so be sure to get your package before race day. Ahead of the Sunday, April 29 race there is a Demo Day on Saturday with exhibitors such as Cannondale, Giant, Garneau and Milton, Ont.-based Canadian Cycling Supplies, to name a few. It’s an opportunity to try out some great gear and bikes while you pick up your registration package.
Who will win the 25th edition? And what special trophy will they win? Those questions will be answered in a few short weeks. And if you’re wondering how to train for this “Classic,” you’ll find some great tips on the Paris to Ancaster website at www.parisancaster.com.
Paris to Ancaster has become an iconic bucket-list Classic.
Gunnar Holmgren wins the 70km race at P2A in 2017.
“P2A mud” is something you won’t soon forget.
Many cycling rock stars such aslegendary Steve Bauer have takenon P2A.
Words of wisdom
P2A founders (l-r) Tim Farrar, Chris Kiriakopoulos and John Thorpe