Montréal’s other top-tier racing Grand Prix
When people think about the Montréal Grand Prix, they think elite teams featuring the sport’s best professional racers on a challenging course. And that’s exactly what you get with the city’s other world-class Grand Prix, the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal. With many tens of thousands of cycling fans expected to once again take to the streets for this annual event, we offer you a survival guide designed to help optimize your day at the race.
Essential event info
The eighth edition of Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal takes place September 9-10, 2017. On Saturday, September 9 the Critérium National races (short men’s and women’s races) take place on Parc Avenue starting at 3:30 pm. On Sunday, September 11 the main Grand Prix men’s race will happen on a road course that winds around Mount Royal Park on Mount Royal. The race gets underway at 11 am, and the start/finish line is on Parc Avenue across from Parc Jeanne-Mance, in between Duluth Street and Mont-Royal Avenue. Of special note: admission to the race is free for everyone.
What you’re getting into
The Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal features the cream of the crop of Planet Earth’s pro cyclists, fierce competitors who have also raced in the Tour de France, the Summer Olympics and other top-tier cycling events. This year, 18 World Teams, the Canadian National Team and the Israel Cycling Academy will converge on Montréal for one of only three Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) World Tour races in North America. The athletes, many of them returning champions, represent some 30 nationalities from four continents.
The race by the numbers
Number of teams: 20
Number of laps: 17
Length of each lap: 12.1 km
Total race distance: 205.7 km
Duration: More than 5 hours
Lap altitude difference: 229 m
Top 5 places to watch the race
- The uphill climb along the Voie Camillien-Houde, the roadway cut up through the eastern slope of Mount Royal (one of Montréal’s original tramway routes), is a popular spot and spectators line all of its curvy, 1.74 km route.
- The wide and tree-lined Chemin de la Polytechnique, in front the city’s esteemed École Polytechnique, is also a highly-recommended watching spot.
- The start/finish line, on Parc Avenue just north of the Georges-Étienne Cartier monument across from Parc Jeanne-Mance, is at the heart of the action.
- The hairpin turn on Parc Avenue south of the start/finish line is the site of much hair-raising jockeying for position.
- The terrasse in the Fans’ Village. Because it’s a terrasse.
What to bring
As there will likely be a lot of walking and standing over the course of the competition, comfy shoes are a must, as is sun protection and sunglasses. If you have an insulated cooler bag or backpack, that will prove brilliant for carrying water, sandwiches and snacks for any impromptu picnics in the park. Also, bring your camera – in addition to catching the action on the course, there will be opportunities to take photos with the riders (which is encouraged).
What not to bring
Don’t bring anything heavy, bulky or cumbersome. You will likely want to move between different vantage points to take in different aspects of the race, so travel light. The lines of fans along the race route can be quite dense in the popular spots, so don’t bring lawn chairs, big umbrellas or anything of that nature unless you plan to spectate from afar.
Other useful info
Weather or not: The race will run rain or shine. Note that when it’s rainy, the race is even more challenging and, to many watching, more exciting.
The Fans’ Village: Located in Jeanne-Mance Park across from the race’s Parc Avenue start/finish line, the family-friendly Fans’ Village features many exhibits related to cycling, as well as food and refreshments and the official Grand Prix Cycliste store. There will also be loads of fun activities for kids, prizes to be won, the aforementioned terrasse and giant screens to take in the race.
Word you should know: Peloton. The peloton is the main group, or field, of cyclists that leads the race. They set the pace.
Biking to the beat: The weekly Tam-tams jam sessions are also on Sundays at the site of the Georges-Étienne Cartier monument. Tam-tams typically draws thousands of Montrealers to Mount Royal every weekend for spontaneous music and dancing, colourful crafts and first-rate relaxation. Be sure to check it out.
If you’re looking for VIP treatment: As mentioned, this is a non-ticketed event free for everyone. But for those with money burning a hole in their bike shorts, there are four VIP packages available. The Leaders’ Club Package includes a ceremonial champagne toast, preferential access, a tour of the World Teams’ paddocks, meeting with cycling celebrities, a signed jersey and more. The Leaders’ Club Package Plus even gets you a ride in the VIP follow-car, affording one the opportunity to live the race at peloton pace, and there are also VIP group and corporate packages.
Jamie O’Meara, blogger
Jamie O’Meara is a writer for The Montreal Gazette, C2 Montréal, Moment Factory and more. He also manages the PR Team at the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival and is the former Editor-in-Chief of alt-weekly newspaper HOUR Magazine.