(The top five winners in the Elite 1&2 professional bicycle race standing on the winners podium during the Tour di Via Italia in Windsor, Ontario, on Sunday, September 1, 2019. From left, fourth Ed Veal, second Jeff Schiller, first Ryan Roth, third Chris Uberti and fifth Dan Nordemann-Da Silva. Photo above by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.)
Cambridge’s Ryan Roth, winner of last year’s Tour Di Via Italia street race, returns to the city for the 60th running of the famed event, winning again, and finds himself in a completely different situation. In 2018, he was, he tells Eyes On Windsor, facing the drenching heat of a hot day. This year, the temperature drops accompanied by threatening clouds overhead. In such conditions, different strategies are required.
It turns out the race is filled with strategies. Race announcer Nick Dwyer continually speculates on those strategies as the 50 racers complete 45 laps of the day’s main event, around a circuit that includes a long stretch of Erie Street’s popular Via Italia shopping district. Some of the racers, he recounts, are members of teams and they work collectively looking for advantages to put one of their teammates ahead.
At times, though, the team advantage can be lost in a second. Such is the case of University of Toronto computer science student Victor Nicolet winner of the Master 2/Elite 3 race.
His team is dealt a devastating blow on one corner when eight racers collide. Nicolet’s first reaction is to stop and help. But, realizing appropriate medical help is coming, he makes a split-second decision to continue the race.
Paramedics from Border City EMS are quickly on the scene. The private company provides emergency services to various events in the area. Paramedic Matt James tells Eyes On Windsor, except for the collision, things were relatively slow this year. Also, a factor of the cooler weather.
Despite the chill in the air, the weather does not dampen the hopes and dreams of the racers, who range in age from six to sixty. Marco Polsinelli, holds the day’s oldest rider title. He is 60 and places third in the Master 2 men’s heat. His secret to a spot in the winner’s circle is, “not to worry, be happy,” he says philosophically with the wisdom that follows age.
There are no shortages of operational chores with running the race. Everything from keeping track of the participants and winners, which are dispatched to www.racetiming.ca, carting out the Aldo Sfalcin trophy, to counting down the laps. The latter is handled by Jess Chow, using large boards he painstakingly holds up numbers telling the racers the number of laps that remain in each race.
This is important, says Dwyer. Not only are strategies at play, the racers are also preserving their energy, there are, after all 45 laps and anything can happen. None of the cyclists wants to risk peaking too soon.
Make no mistake, while Roth, who wins the big event, makes victory look easy, it is not. Too often right behind him, and sometimes in front, is last year’s second place winner Burlington’s Mark Brouwer. There are times in the race in which he has the upper hand but Roth let’s nothing deter him, staying focused on the goal, that of winning top spot.
Although in the end, Brouwer places eighth, his wife Miriam does better. In her first entry in Windsor’s contest she places second in the Elite 1&2 Women’s event. She finds herself in a neck and neck fight to the goal line against Jamie Gilgen who wins by a hair. Nicole Bradbury, of Hamilton, takes top spot in the Masters and U17 suggesting there might be something in the air. Like Gilgen, Bradbury wins by a few inches.
The race attracts competitors from across the province, and a number of American cities including Detroit and Cincinnati to name a few, all because of the work of Sfalcin who put the first race together in 1958. It has been held every year ever since.
Although fans line both sides of Erie Street, arguably the best seat in the house happens to be in a restaurant. At MotoBurger, Alan Henderson, who has been attending the races for 30 years, sits in the comfort of a street facing bar.
When the dust settles, the results of Ontario’s oldest historical, international street race is in the record books. It is, reports announcer Dwyer, the best sponsored race in the province and a thrill to watch.
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.