June 03, 2016 (Lachine, QC) – Joseph “Tino” Rossi, who founded the Mardis Cyclistes de Lachine criterium series in 1978, seems poised to hand over the reigns of his legendary series to the owners of Cycle Neron. The news came at a press conference on June 1 in Lachine, a borough of Montreal, for the launch of 39th annual season.
Tino Rossi ©
“The Mardis Cyclistes have known difficult times over the past few years,” declared an emotional Rossi. “This was because of the loss of important sponsors and because of my health. But I promised to assure a replacement before I leave.” Rossi, now 76, has suffered from hip and heart problems in the past two years. The renowned Mardis owner, who was inducted into the Quebec Sports Hall of Fame in 2010, has worn several hats during his cycling career as a racer, a soigneur, part of the organization for the track events at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, a bike shop owner, and an event organizer.
“We are going to associate with Mr. Rossi to assure the continuity of the criterium series,” said Jean-François Néron, one of two co-owners of the chain of bike shops. “We will be here for a long time.”
Jean-François Néron ©
A dozen speakers also took the microphone including Claude Dauphin (Mayor of Lachine), Louis Barbeau (Director General at the FQSC), Dimitrios (Jim) Beis (Montreal Executive Committee Member for Sports and Leisure), Larry Koury (Specialized Canada), and Eric Martel (SS Lacasse sporting clothes).
Louis Barbeau (Director General FQSC) © John Symon
Many speakers underlined the importance of the Mardis series in the development of Quebec’s and Canada’s cycling talent. Barbeau noted that while the three Canadian male road cyclists heading for the Rio Olympic Games have yet to be announced, Antoine Duchesne (Direct Energie) and Hugo Houle (AG2R) – both former Mardis regulars – are likely to be there. “The Mardis are here to stay,” declared Barbeau.
Michel Gaudette ©
Some 75 attendees were in the audience including: Simon Lambert-Lemay (champion of the 2014 senior men’s series), François Parisien (former WorldTour rider), Marc-André Gadoury (responsible for all bicycle affairs for Montreal), Bernard Trottier (founder of a sporting goods chain), Michel Gaudette (the 2016 honorary president of the Mardis) and Yvan Lambert (former Canadiens hockey player). “Our 2015 champion, Jason Lowndes could not be here because he is in Australia,” mentioned Rossi. Lowndes rode for Garneau-Quebecor in 2015.
(l-r) Claude Dauphin (Mayor Lachine), Dimitrios Beis (Mayor Pierrefonds-Roxboro), Tino Rossi (CEO Mardis Cyclistes), Michel Gaudette (Honorary President Mardis Cyclistes), Josée Désilets (Mardis Cyclistes), Jean-François Néron (VP Cycles Nero) ©
Longevity and continuity were common themes in the speeches with Barbeau mentioning that, after the Tour de l’Abitibi, now celebrating its 47th annual edition, the Mardis Cyclistes is the longest-running cycling event in Quebec. Rossi commented that while the Tour de l’Abitibi is older, it has had many management changes over the years, whereas he has always been at the helm of Mardis, which is something unique.
With 10 stage races per season, it will soon be 400 events that Rossi has organized. Recent years have seen the addition of women’s, junior, and minime races, but the senior men’s race remains the main show.
Claude Dauphin (Mayor Lachine) ©
As previously reported, Dauphin announced that the City of Montreal is stepping in with important financial support for the Mardis, but did not reveal any numbers. Longtime sponsor, Saputo (dairies) ended its title sponsorship in 2011, Since then, Jean Coutu (pharmacies) signed on from 2012-2014, and the Canadian National Railways was there in 2015.
Dimitrios Beis (Mayor Pierrefonds-Roxboro) ©
The 2017 season coincides with the Mardis 40th anniversary, also Montreal’s 375th anniversary, Lachine’s 350th, and Canada’s 150th. Dauphin also pointed to how the popularity of bicycling has increased 20 percent in Montreal since 1995. “We have 50,000 cyclists on the lakeside bike path here in Lachine each weekend,” stated Dauphin.
(l-r) Marc-André Gadoury, Michel Gaudette, Tino Rossi, Dimitrios Beis, Claude Dauphin, Jean-François Néron ©
It seems the stars are aligning for Mardis and Rossi as cycling reaches an all-time high in popularity and several key stakeholders will soon have much to celebrate together. It’s been quite a ride for Rossi and team and his venerable series that has gained quite a following over the years with a simple formula of success – bring riders, fans and supporters together for some good old-fashioned racing. Bravo Mardis.