Ryder Hesjedal

World class cyclists coming to Toronto this weekend

A trip down to the Portlands on weekday evening in the summer is enough to establish that Toronto has quite the contingent of hardcore road cyclists, often referred to (sometimes in a derogatory fashion) as roadies. Decked out in spandex garb blazoned with the logos of ProTour teams, looking at these folks (and sometimes riding with them), I often get the sense that Toronto is a city deprived when it comes to professional bike racing.

There are, of course, a number of reasons for this - most notably our climate and geography. If you want to be an elite cyclist, you can't train in a city with no major climbs and that only permits comfortable riding eight (maybe nine) months of the year. There's also the fact that cycling - even when Lance Armstrong was leading the way - has always struggled to capture the North American imagination.

That's a bit of a shame. Anyone's who's even casually followed the Tour de France will undoubtedly admit just how captivating bike racing can be. Yes, it's more exciting in the mountains, but sprint finishes are also remarkably entertaining. And one way of all but ensuring a sprint finish is organizing a criterium, which is essentially a race that consists of laps around a closed circuit of around a couple kilometres or so.

Well, that's exactly what we're getting this Sunday with the Queen's Park Grand Prix. Normally as race like this wouldn't be much cause for much excitement, but with Toronto-born Michael Barry and Ryder Hesjedal (from Victoria) participating, the event has become more alluring. Both Barry and Hesjedal rode in the Tour this year, with Hesjedal finishing in an impressive 7th place in the general classification.

There's a variety of categories of riders who'll be racing on Sunday, but the main event is certainly the Men's ProAm, which is only open to elite riders. A field of 110 cyclists will race 80 kilometres in short laps around Queen's Park starting at 12 p.m. To be honest, the majority of the riders are no-name amateurs, but you can bet that they'll be gunning for the bragging rights of knocking off one the two ProTour riders in the race.

I'd be surprised if one of Barry or Hesjedal doesn't win this thing, but with the other riders working in teams and the possibility of crashes - crits are often crash-fests - anything can happen.

For more information, check out the race's website.

Photo from Team Garmin-Transitions Flickr stream

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