From January 24–26, Canada hosted the indoor Track Cycling World Cup in Milton. Over the course of four hours, cyclists from around the globe took to the track to compete in 200-lap endurance races and shorter sprints. Canada won four medals in total.
One the first day of the event, Canada won a gold medal in the women’s team sprint event and bronze in both the men’s and women’s team pursuit. Kelsey Mitchell won a silver medal on the second day in the women’s team sprint. The World Cups are also used to qualify for the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo. Mitchell was selected and trained through the Royal Bank of Canada’s Training Ground, a program that identifies hopeful athletes to compete in the Olympics.
The cup also featured some unique races. One exhilarating race that took place was the omnium, in which the last rider in a group is eliminated each lap until one rider remains. The Keirin event, originating in Japan, had riders follow a motorcycle that gradually increased in speed until it exited the track and the riders raced for three laps. Some riders reached speeds of 70 kilometres per hour, and there were several crashes throughout the evening.
The sport itself dates back to the late nineteenth century. Endurance events at that time included ones where riders would race for six days straight in teams, often without food or sleep. At its peak popularity in North America, the results of these races reached the front page of The New York Times, and drew tens of thousands of fans. However, the popularity of the sport has declined due to the increased use of motor vehicles and perhaps as more mainstream sports like soccer and hockey gained increased recognition. Meanwhile, road cycling events like the Tour De France grew in fame.
For interested students, the indoor track in Milton offers the option to try the track, structured training, and certification lessons. While there is no organization on campus for indoor cycling, there is the University of Toronto Road Racing Club, which offers an inclusive cycling community and the opportunity to participate in competitive cycling events. As the organization’s President Boris Dyakov pointed out, cycling is a fun way to stay in shape and build a network of friends.