May 28, 2015 (Hamilton, ON) – The sky was clear, the sun was rising, the temperature was heading to 20C and after a brutal winter the cycling gods were smiling on the first Gran Fondo for National Cycling Centre Hamilton dubbed the Niagara Challenge “Ride into the Future”.
It was 6 a.m. Saturday, May 9 and Rick Lee was bustling around the parking lot at Jackson Triggs Winery in Niagara on the Lake quickly flipping open tents and tables, like some adult puzzle game, and making sure signage for the main sponsor Pattison Outdoor Advertising was up front and obvious.
The NCCH head coach was first on the scene for the centre’s Niagara Challenge Fondo. Conversation was limited to, “How you doing, bud,” before another table popped up.
The fondo through the wine country and past Niagara Falls was spectacular. “It was an awesome ride,” says Joe Weissmann, who travelled 250 km from Millbrook, Ontario for the ride. “It was a total thrill to ride with elite young athletes, I couldn’t believe the power they were putting out and their style,” he says.
There were three loops from the winery, out and back. The 100 km and 50 km routes went through town and along the Niagara gorge, complete with a cooling shower, courtesy spray from the Falls, before heading back to the winery. There was also a more leisurely 25 km circuit.
About 160 people were on hand with over 100 riders while others came for the post-ride wine and dine at Jackson Triggs. The “Ride into the Future” event was also an occasion for the NCCH Awards Presentations that recognize and honour riders and staff with some fun categories as well – see list of winners below. So far in 2015, those young riders have produced over 150 podiums for the cycling development centre.
The day ended on a high note for head coach Lee. He won the main door prize, a set of carbon Energy Lab wheels and then quietly put the winning ticket back. The next NCCH Fondo from the winery is Aug 30… see list of award winners and more photos below.