Paris to Ancaster Inaugural Canadian Gravel Championships

The Paris to Ancaster gravel race was just named the first Cdn gravel championship. It’s at end of April 2023. Has anyone on the forum ridden P2A? I can’t quite figure out if it is a leg breaker of a race. I’ve never raced a gravel race before, so not sure how to judge difficulty level. TBH they all look really hard. After last week’s podcast, I was thinking rolling road race plan, but they also touted the century plan for gravel. Any thoughts on which might be better if looking at the 70 or 110km? Thank you.

I’ve ridden portions of the course. I would say you’d be set with the Rolling Road Race plan. The final kicker to the finish line is steep and there a couple other sections along the route where big watts and handling skills will be a boon.

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I did the 70k route this past spring, which was actually about 56 km, if i remember correctly; I did not miss the extra 14 km. I was closer to the back than the front, so my experience was much different than yours will be. There were a couple of choke points that you will presumably not have to deal with by getting off your bike and walking slowly with the crowd.

The route is a mix of pavement, packed gravel roads, loose gravel, farmer’s fields, rail trails and sections of thick, goopy mud. I think that they water the muddy sections to make sure that they have not dried out before the race. It is rolling, but other than in a couple of fields, the climbs were not too bad until the end. There is a steep climb to the finish. It was a lot of fun, even though i believe that i contracted COVID in the shuttle bus!

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I’ve raced it once a few years ago. It’s a race of attrition where you hit technical sectors off-road (could be fields, single track, rail trail, mud sections etc), come out on a road and then hit another off road sector. This repeats over and over again!

It really depends how competitive you are. I was in the lead group the whole day, so it was absolutely full-gas in the sectors and then a regroup (rinse repeat). For me it was very heavy on V02max, but if you are further back it would be more of a tempo/threshold effort.

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You can watch sections here.
Paris to Ancaster 2022 ~ 70km - YouTube

If you haven’t raced gravel before I am not sure I’d pick this one for my first attempt.
Bike handling is paramount especially in a group.

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Oh no! COVID for the win! Glad you still found it fun. It sounds intense.

Thanks. If I do it I’ll be in the back. Just looking to find a Canadian race that won’t destroy me. Lots on the west coast, but I can’t even fathom that – yet.

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I haven’t raced before so the bike handling in a group is a real consideration. I’m in the prairies so getting experience on trails/races before April is basically impossible. Thanks.

If you plan to be further back, then you will be in control of your pace and not be dictated by others. I would suggest you build up your endurance and threshold as much as possible, and work on your off road handling skills. The off-road sections are not entry level - you will also want to know the conditions on the day so you can plan for the best tire setup. It can be very muddy depending on the year.

In terms of hills it is just small rolling hills - nothing long. The hill in the last km is unfortunately one of the hardest!

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P2A only ran a version of the 100K route last year. The route changes slightly year to year and is not public in advance as it uses some private lands. Most of the routes are fairly flat with one 1.3K 5.8% climb before the finish. Portions of the climb are steep. There are always some tricked out mud shutes where you ride as far as you can and then hike-a-bike through near knee deep mud. They are short. There are a few farm crossings where the road or path is more like a cyclocross course.

The shorter 70K and 40K courses do have some maddening pinch points on single track forest trails but I think they may be less of an issue in the “Cento” and at the front end of the race.

Most of the course rolls fast and flat.

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As per previous replies, the race is largely a combination of farm lanes, rail trail, paved and gravel road, with some field crossings, single-track, and double track thrown in. Last year the 70km had some downed logs which most of the field dismounted for, five or six mudded bits of a 100 or more yards, and two 500 yard(ish) bits of mud which most mid-field riders walked.
From a training perspective, there is nothing particularly serious to contend with. It’s basically a three hour ride with a bunch of one to three minute efforts (hills) thrown in. How hard you go is up to you. You don’t want to go in un-trained because if it’s raining it could turn into a long slog, but otherwise it’s a typical spring outing with the requisite gooey bits and a steep final climb.
That said, bike selection is important … last year I pinch flatted and I wasn’t the only one. I also lost 5 minutes or more clearing mud from my rim brakes. It’s a sticky spring goo that picks up straw and sticks and doesn’t clear naturally or easily. This year I’ll ride it with a proper gravel bike set up tubeless.
As for your technical chops, don’t worry about it … it’s a big field with varied abilities. Amongst the Cervelos and 3Ts you’ll see people in running shoes, milk crates on their rear rack (yup), helmets on backwards (yup) and all manner of creaky old bikes. The volunteers are fabulous. The finish hill is type-two fun and it’s got a festival vibe all round. I’d say have at it.


Ooooh, thanks. That last paragraph gives me some hope should I decide to do it! :+1:

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I signed up to do P2A again, but the weather forecast is miserable. If there is no miraculous change in the forecast, i am going to bail. No-one is paying me to do this. If you are doing it, have fun!