For many years, the Preston Street Criterium was a single, 100-km race, for all categories.
That changed in 2007 with the addition of a “B” race, and again in 2009 when a women’s race, a junior race and a master’s race were added.
And of course, the ever-popular kids’ races are a crowd favourite.
The men’s race
The men’s race is the one with the longest tradition, the highest speeds and the biggest field. Each year, this race is hotly contested — winning on Preston Street is an important achievement for any Ottawa bike racer, and the worst thing that can happen for the locals is for one of the Toronto clubs to walk away with the bragging rights.
As many as 100 riders line up for this event each year. Riders must be either “elite” (over 18, with an elite licence) or “Masters 1” (age 30-39, or older riders with a special exemption to race in the top category).
New for 2017, the Bill Patterson Award will be awarded to the first Masters 1 rider across the line. The trophy was created in honour of CJOH sportscaster and Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame inductee Bill Patterson, who was a great supporter of cycling in the region. Patterson passed away in 1999.
The women’s race
The women’s race is open to all licensed riders 17 and over. This event has been run as a standalone race on Preston Street since 2010, and is gradually growing in stature as the number of women cyclists increases.
Although the women’s field is smaller than the men’s, this race is always action-packed as riders vie to have their name added to the Preston Street Criterium trophy.
The kids’ races
A perennial crowd favourite, the kids’ races let youngsters from under 5 to 14 years old take to the same course as the elite riders. The youngest racers cover just 50 metres, while the older riders do six laps of the full race course.
These events are lots of fun for the participants, and give the older riders a taste of cycling competition in a great venue and in front of an appreciative crowd.
The other races
Each year, the Preston Street Criterium kicks off with two other events.
The next generation is represented in the race for junior (age 17-18), cadet (age 15-16) and Elite 3-4 (18 and over, but new to racing). Despite the age range, youth usually comes to the fore.
The older generation gets their kick at the can in the Masters 2-3 event, for riders 40 and over. These experienced cyclists always put on a good show, and as often as not it’s experience that triumphs over brute power.