Old Aylmer becomes a cycling race capital—and loves it!
The racing cyclists and spectators may have left rue Principale, but as the 2016 Canadian Championship Criterium organizer John Large said, “Rue Principale is a world-class street now.”
On June 29, several Old Aylmer streets were closed to permit elite cyclists to zoom through the neighbourhood. Four races took place.
First to race were the junior women, followed by junior men, elite women, and finishing with the elite men, which attracted 96 racers.
“To reach that level of competition in Aylmer was a personal highlight for me,” said Large, a former elite cyclist himself. “Many people had no idea what an elite bike race was, and they put their faith in me. I think everyone was happy,” smiled Large.
Old Aylmer businesses were certainly satisfied with the large crowds the event drew on a Wednesday.
“The focus was at the British, but I did a walk-around to see the other establishments, and every place was packed,” said Large. “Other than for the Santa Claus Parade, you don’t see that many people on rue Principale. Many came from Ottawa and told me 'I know the Aylmer Marina, but I’ve never thought to go up rue Principale'.”
Residents also embraced the Championships on their streets, ignoring any inconvenience.
“Going down the back streets last night, I saw residents on Thomas Street with their BBQs going and enjoying the event. I think many neighbours met for the first time on June 29,” surmised Large. “During a walk-around a few nights before the races, one man came running over and I thought, ‘oh-oh, here we go.’ He said 'Listen, next year go down my street, it needs repairs!’” Public works had patched up the streets that were part of the course.
“My whole objective for (dealing with) this style of race, for the criterium, was to build a party and have a bike race break out! People may not come down to see a bike race if they don’t know anything about it, but if there’s a big street party, they’ll come just to check that out.”
Several politicians also enjoyed the event and stayed for the party, to the satisfaction of Mr Large, an Aylmer resident.
Mr Large would like to build on this year’s momentum and attract the same level of athletes in coming years.
“If we get it on the schedule at the right time of year, when big teams are in the region, then we can built a classic event that will persist and benefit us all,” he told the Bulletin.