Is Hamilton the Girona of Ontario?
With two new teams and an increasing number of local riders, the city is becoming a cycling hub
In the 90s, many high level cyclists trained with Mirek Mazur out of Hamilton’s Dundas community. He helped develop multiple national champions, Pro Tour medalists and Olympians in the region and had a major part in Canadian riders winning three medals at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996. In 2003 Hamilton hosted the road World Championships. It was only the third time the road World Championships had been held in North America, and the event was huge. 800 cyclists from 50 countries raced up and around the Niagara escarpment. Since the road World Championships, the city has grown more than 10 per cent in population, and there appears to be a second wave of high level cyclists and teams coming out of the growing Hamilton region.
The cycling in and around Hamilton is decidedly better than that of the neighbouring city of Toronto. Aside from being close to some local climbs, the city is also less traffic heavy than Toronto, and has seen a steady increase in its number of commuting cyclists. The metro Hamilton region now has a population of 763,445 but in 2020 will boast three cycling teams as part of its local sports bodies. The oldest, the National Cycling Centre Hamilton (NCCH), was created as a legacy organization after the 2003 road World Championship. The centre is known for their high performance young racers, and counts two team Canada members, a PanAm and World Cup medalist and a three time U23 national road race champion among their alumni. On top of the NCCH, two new Hamilton teams, Hamilton United and Valley Velo, have been announced for the 2020 season.
Hamilton United Pro Cycling (not to be confused with the Hamilton United Elite Soccer Club), is being driven by multiple time Canadian national champion Ryan Roth. The team will be competing in Ontario events, Select North American UCI events, and some US Criterium series and consists of 21 elite male and female racers. Roth is a major proponent of the 4HEALTH program, a concept being developed by a number of organizations including the Canadian Center for Mental Health and Sport, which provides awareness and training in the areas of physical, mental, financial and social health.
Also joining the Hamilton hotbed of cycling teams,The Valley Velo Training Group and Team is a new team based out of Dundas. Dundas, nicknamed the Valley Town, is located at the bottom of the Niagara Escarpment, meaning they are surrounded by some of Ontario’s better climbs. Right off of Dundas’ main street is Sydenham Road, one of the most popular climbs in the area and a favourite of Olympic medalist Clara Hughes.
Valley Velo is a women’s team, run by former Canadian Elite National Road Team members and coaches Sue Palmer and Julia Farell. Along with an all level training group, the team will also include a podium focussed Elite and Development Racing Team. The team grew out of the the 2019 Women’s Road Cycling Initiative run by Palmer and Farell, where female endurance athletes came to Dundas for structured and supported training. They are still actively accepting athletes for the 2020 season and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org .