Cyclists race to Windsor Park Sunday

Unlike some longer road races out in the country, it’s also easy to make it back to the finish line for the action at race’s end.

High-tempo turns, team tactics and break-aways are on their way to Windsor Park during the Oak Bay Bikes/Victoria Wheelers Criterium this Sunday.

“It’s one of the most spectator friendly,” said Ian Phillips, a regular volunteer with the Victoria Cycling League. “It holds your attention the entire time because there’s something happening all the time. There’s usually a bunch of break aways and a sprint to the finish.”

Race organizer Jenny Skinner of the Victoria Wheelers Club agrees and would like to see more of the community with their lawn chairs out along the two-kilometre loop.

“I would love to make this more European-style where people are out and cheering and having barbecues on their lawns and making an event of it themselves,” Skinner said. “With every race and every year it develops more and more.”

Unlike some longer road races out in the country, it’s also easy to make it back to the finish line for the action at race’s end. The closed track race has been happening for about 15 seasons in its current incarnation, though bike races at Windsor Park have been traced back to the turn of the century.

“You have Olympic athletes, national athletes and first-time racers coming out,” Skinner said. “You get to see high performance athletes and first-timers out on the road. That we can play a small part in athletic development and that the community is so connected and you can play a part in the connectivity – it’s great.”

The race, which is expected to draw about 80 to 90 racers of all abilities, is also held in conjunction with a women’s clinic this year, upping the number of female competitors.

There’s also been an influx of teenaged riders to the sport in Victoria within the last year, with the criterium’s C division, comprised of young and novice riders, nearly doubling in size from last year’s event. Young riders will come from across the Island to participate with some travelling from Campbell River and Comox to ride the velodrome each Tuesday and Thursday after school.

“The more races that are available, the more riders come down,” Phillips said.

The first of the three-part race series kicks off this Sunday, May 19 from 8 a.m. until noon at Windsor Park. Subsequent races are set for the same time and place, July 7 and 28.

Despite the speed, the turns and the occasional crash, the event is a relaxing one to watch, Phillips added.

The roads surrounding the perimeter of Windsor Park will be closed from 7:30 a.m. to noon. Racers register at the site up until five minutes prior to the 8 a.m. start. For more information, visit victoriawheelers.ca.