Cycling event started and finished in downtown Fonthill
Niagara’s hosting of the 2022 Canada Summer Games may have been delayed a year by Covid, but well worth the wait, according to spectators and athletes. Featuring 18 sports and some 250 events at 19 venues throughout the region, the Games involved 5000 athletes, coaches, support staff, and volunteers. It was the first time in two decades years that the Games were held in Ontario, showcasing Canada’s future generation of Olympians and Paralympians.
Road cycling has been part of every Canada Summer Games since 1969, and is one of the few sports to have been featured in the Olympics since its inception. Four men and four women cyclists from each province participated in the Canada Summer Games road race hosted by Pelham on Thursday, August 18, starting and finishing by the new arches above Pelham Town Square.
The women’s race of 69 kilometres was held in the morning, and involved six loops of the course through Pelham in perfect weather. Laury Milette, of Quebec, finished first in 1:58.32, followed by Anabelle Thomas, of Alberta, and Isla Walker, of British Columbia.
In the men’s 110 kilometre road race held in the afternoon, which included nine loops of the route amid a rainy downpour, David Olejnczak, of Ontario, took the gold in 2:45.20, with Charles Duquette, of Quebec, finishing second, and Braden Kersey, of British Columbia finishing third.
Kevin Anzik, the Sport Lead for the Summer Games cycling races, told the Voice that the men’s race in particular was a nail-biter.
“In the men’s race, the riders had gone maybe three laps when it started to rain,” said Anzik. “By that point, four riders had broken away from the peloton [the main body of racers] and were leading the pack by more than a kilometre. With the downpour making the corners so treacherous, there was no way those in the pack were going to catch the front four without risking a crash. With five laps gone, one of the leaders got a cramp and had the withdraw, so it was just the group of three in the front for the last five laps. The Ontario racer [Olejnczak] put on a burst right at the end of the race, and beat the second place rider by the length of a bike wheel. It was incredible.”
Anzik was effusive in his praise for the local volunteers.
“The Amici Per La Vida Cycling Club, from Fonthill, was amazing. Because they know the course and they know the town, I was able to really utilize their skills and their knowledge in running the event. They were such good people, and hard workers! Even the police said to me after the race, what a terrific job the course marshals did.”
Pelham transportation activist and volunteer Bea Clark was the protocol lead for all six of the cycling competitions at the Games, responsible for the medal ceremonies. She told the Voice that the road race was staffed by about 80 volunteers, all with very specific roles.
“It was a long day,” she said. “I was there from seven in the morning until eight at night. It was all very exciting, with the three medalists in both races finishing within seconds of each other. And the ‘13 for 13’ cultural celebrations in Peace Park were jam-packed, with people really enjoying themselves.”
Clark said that there were a couple of bike accidents during the racing, but no serious injuries.
“I chose to be involved with the cycling events because I'm interested in walking and cycling,” said Clark. “It was pretty special for me to be part of it here in Pelham.”