By Robert Pearson
The Ontario Police College Criterium bicycle race is returning to Aylmer as part of the 2019 Ontario Cup series on Sunday, May 5.
“We will be returning to Springbank Park in London next year and we are very thankful to OPC,” said Race Director Amy White of London Centennial Wheelers (LCW). “It is an amazing location for a bike race”
The annual Springbank Road Race, organized by LCW for over 50 years, moved to OPC in 2018 because the traditional Springbank Park location, in London, was under construction.
Last year the OPC race was won by Joyce Spruyt in the women’s elite division, and Ed Veal in the men’s elite division.
Ms. Spruyt, who attended OPC and is now a London police officer, also won the Springbank race in 2015. “Joyce is definitely a favourite for this course,” said Ms. White. Competition will be strong. “There are some Ontario teams growing talent that will also have contenders for the podium.”
Ed Veal, winner on the men’s side last year, was the main attraction of the 24-Hour Track Attack at the Forest City Velodrome in February. He set a new Canadian record for the longest distance rode in a 24-hour period when he rode 735 kilometres.
“I really enjoyed the race last year,” Ed Veal said, “but unfortunately I won’t be able to defend the title this weekend as I am down in Georgia racing SpeedWeek.” Mr. Veal was eager for a strong showing from his Real Deal Racing team. “My hope is even if I can’t win it in 2019 that another member of the squad defends the title on my behalf.”
Local racer, Jeff Schiller, who has won the Springbank Criterium six times in the past 15 events, is expected to race at OPC, and was rated by the race director as a favourite to win this year’s race.
As in 2018, the women’s elite race will offer prize money to a longer list of finishers to continue encouraging participation. The prize package for the women’s elite race was planned to award the top-ten finishers; the men’s elite race, and all other races, were planned to award the top-five finishers.
“LCW has always been committed to providing at least equal prize money to the Elite Women’s field. Providing equal payouts to men and women at a local race is a small step towards equalizing women’s racing,” Ms. White said. “Things have come a long way, but they still have far to go at the elite/pro levels.”
Spectators were encouraged to arrive prepared for any weather, as “the race goes on rain or shine.”
The races are scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m., and continue through the day with the final event planned to start at 3:30 p.m. (elite men). The elite women race at 1:15 p.m. Kids races, which include a draw for a free bicycle, will start at 12:40 p.m. and entry is free.