Cyclists boast about North Bay’s hospitality during provincial road races

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Bruce Bird came to North Bay to compete in the provincial road championships, but stayed the August long weekend with his family because of the memories, hospitality and family activities.

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The cyclist from Scarborough, who has competed in national championships from around the world couldn’t say enough positive things about Cycle North Bay, which organized three racing events in the city and in East Ferris attracting more than 500 racers from across the province over the weekend.

“It’s a time machine, like a high school reunion,” Bird told the Nugget after finishing second in Saturday’s provincial criterium championships near the Jack Garland Airport.

“I see things have changed. Driving down Main Street like many other communities, the shops, a lot of shops aren’t in the area that they were, there was a lot more going on and I can see that it is recovering. I’m glad that we are here to help. So many people have drove here for the weekend from across the province.”

Bird said the racing was why he returned to North Bay for the August long-weekend, but he and his family packed the four days with activities when he wasn’t on the bike.

“We went to the farmers’ market, and to Cheapskates, Darkhorse Comic Store, Greco’s on Algonquin, the blues music festival at the waterfront, they did a great version of Little Wing, the vibe with the sunset and the warm breeze was fantastic, it was magical and then to top it off we went to a late night movie and enjoyed a big bag of popcorn,” he said.

“My son, Xavier, wants to go back to Greco’s and another movie. He’s even looking at (Nipissing) university.”

Bird said when he heard Cycling North Bay was going to host the provincial road championships he knew he had to attend.

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“My memories go back 30 years when I tree planting, which I did for several summers based in a few towns. It was back in 1991 at Dreamy Haven Campground, we stayed there for five weeks. We slept their every night and then would drive out in our vans 60-90 minutes to different sites where there was forestry work being done and they wanted trees planted,” Bird said.

“That was an awesome experience. We also worked in Temagami and once a week we would come into town. We would do our laundry, go to the beer store and then head to the Empire Hotel. It was such a great time. We would also walk down to the lake,” he said.

“When we found out last year Cycling North Bay was playing host I was like this is so great. We are here. What can I do to help?”

Normally Bird doesn’t compete in the circuit competitions, he prefers the 90-139-kilometre road races, but after seeing his 14-year-old son sign up to compete he thought he would give it a try.

“It’s a race around in a little circuit and to be honest it scares me a little bit. When I knew he signed up for it I was like OK I gotta do it too.”

Bird said cycling has allowed him to relive some great memories and tour the world doing a sport he loves.

“I started at the age of 40. I was playing men’s league basketball, but as you get older you head toward golf, long walks, cycling and yoga.”

The cyclist has competed in several national championships, including securing a second place finish during a national championship in Bosnia, Sarajevo.

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“What an experience, I don’t think I would have ever went there. Cycling is a language. People all understand what it is – they come from around the world,” Bird said.

“You can see signs of the war. We take so much for granted. We might get upset about politics, but we don’t have people taking over the land and killing everyone. It opens your eyes a little.”

Bird plans to travel to Italy for this year’s national championships and to Scotland in 2023.

Sandra Fletcher and her husband Roland also travelled to North Bay from Toronto to enjoy a weekend of competition.

Sandra Fletcher, a member of the Saddle Sisters of High Park, placed second in her age category.

She said Sunday night will be a “carb load, lots of rest and stretches” before jumping on her bike to compete in the 77-km road race Monday in East Ferris.

Roland Fletcher said Ontario races are an excuse to see different parts of the province.

He was pleased with his 6th place finish and is looking forward to the beautiful race route in East Ferris Monday.

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