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Early dreams of the Tour de France fuel future interest in cycling
2022-07-02
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Dreams of competing at the Tour de France are fostered at various corners of the globe.

Cornwall and Sudbury – Ontario, not England – would not necessarily be two of the outposts that cycling fans would expect to top that list.

Now forty-one years old, married with a five year old at home, Peter Sanowar never did race the Tour de France – much the same as the overwhelming majority of competitive cyclists.

The proud member of the Sudbury Cycling Club did rise to the level of an elite national team caliber threat, competing in Europe and across North America, with provincial titles and the like to his name.

Along the way, Sanowar also found time to excel in the “AAA” hockey ranks, suiting up with the Sudbury Cara’s Nickel Capitals team that captured silver at the Air Canada (now Telus) Cup in April of 1998.

And though he would first step on to the ice quite young in his hometown of Cornwall, his mind would soon wander to an athletic interest that clearly differed from the rest of his hockey teammates.

“My dad (born in Trinidad & Tobago) always had a bike,” Sanowar recalled recently. “From a young age, we would go on these duo rides on the outskirts of Cornwall to visit Stan and Eva.” (that would be Stan and Eva, the previous proprietors of the house that became the Sanowar homestead in that area)

“From a young age, I was fascinated with the Tour de France,” Sanowar continued. “I would tell my parents as I was doing laps of the neighbourhood that I was going on the Tour. I remember one of our neighbours disposing of an old ten speed so my dad stripped it down and re-painted it with Greg LeMond colours and that’s what I used.”

A move in grade six is never easy and though Sanowar had some family up this way – “there was sort of a connection, but mostly with summer visits” – his immersion to the Sudbury sports scene was certainly facilitated via his prowess in hockey.

“Hockey is obviously very rampant in this city and popular with kids of that age,” suggested the Laurentian University Economics and Finance major who has worked as a project manager for a property restoration company for the past decade or so.

“I continued with the hockey and started to move on to different levels – but cycling was always there,” said Sanowar. “I still have this vague memory of riding my bike with snow on the ground with kids telling me that it was illegal to ride your bike in the winter in Sudbury.”

As most folks who follow this column readily know, pretty much all routes of road cycling in Sudbury, for the past half century anyways run through the Sudbury Cycling Club – and specifically coach Battista Muredda.

That contact would have to wait as Sanowar first made his way to high-school at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary, enjoying a degree of success with their track and field and cross country programs.

“The passion for cycling was always there, but it wasn’t until a few years later that I discovered the whole Delki Dozzi thing.” (the Delki Dozzi track is the home of the Sudbury Cycling Club)

In a city that lives and breathes hockey, Sanowar is likely ever-thankful for the fact that cycling success came quickly, following his introduction to the SCC. “I kind of remember my dad mentioning that there was a cycling club here; that’s how I kind of came in contact with Battista and decided to come out.”

“It was initially as a sort of cross-training for hockey when I first started around 13 years old. But Battista can identify who has talent that can be coached and brought to a level that is competitive.”

“Not long after, I bought my first Marinoni. That’s where it started.”

While there is no denying the rich, deep history of excellence within the SCC, it would also be fair to say that numbers had started to wane somewhat as Sanowar burst on to the scene in the early to mid-nineties. “I was one of the younger ones out there at the time,” he exclaimed, following in the footsteps of the likes of David Speers and Eric Wohlberg.

“Those names were kind of thrown around at the track; they were long gone by then. It wasn’t until later on in life that I ran into Eric and had the opportunity to race on national team projects with him.”

Quickly, Sanowar filled that void of excellence.

“You start with club level races and the next thing you know, you find yourself heading halfway across the province Friday after school to attend these junior races. You do half decent there and it’s a progression that happens pretty quickly.”

All of which meant that by the time he reached his final year of Midget AAA hockey, Peter Sanowar had a decision to make. “Being showcased on TSN in a national final, you’re playing against some of the best kids in the country at that age,” he said. “I was offered tryouts at juniors, but decided not to accept them because cycling had become so busy for me and I was making great strides quickly.”

Whether it be in individual time trials, or road race events, or even criterium, Sanowar was right at home on a bike. “I found myself excelling right across the board,” said the man who went on the capture the Provincial Espoir Road Race title (2002) while riding for Gears Racing Institute.

“Every single race I would attend, it was first place, second place, at least a top three. When you’re doing well on the O-Cup circuit, you start to realize that you’ve got something.”

Yet for as much as reaching the pinnacle of riding in Ontario is one heck of an accomplishment, the truth is that it’s but a small piece of the pie when a more international perspective is brought to light.

“You think you’re doing well, provincially, and then you get into a race, whether it be in the U.S. or anywhere else and you really get to realize the caliber of some of the riders out there,” Sanowar emphasized. Still, one can enjoy the ride along the way (pardon the pun).

“Once you make a national level status, you’ve got training camps in Southern California and Arizona, flying back to Victoria (National Training Centre) for VO2 lactate threshold testing and so on.” And then, there is the beauty of the Alps – on most days – to enjoy.

“We raced in southern France, we raced in northern France, southern Italy, northern Italy,” noted Sanowar of some of his favourite destinations. “It’s not always nice though,” he added with a laugh. “Torrential rains, wind, cobblestones, and farmers’ fields – it’s not always with the sun shining.”

By the time the sun set on his competitive career, Sanowar was more than ready to move on.

“It’s a lifestyle when you get to a certain level – the schedule is very demanding, the discipline is demanding. I had a gradual shift; it wasn’t just an abrupt end. I was racing for a trade team where we had international riders competing in North America. My trade team kind of folded so I went to school, finished my degree and met my wife at Laurentian.”

Though riding would take a backseat to parenting these past few years, the early involvement of his son in the sport has generated a renewed interest on his part. “I ride now to maintain a certain level of fitness – but I also ride for peace of mind,” said Sanowar.

“The majority of the time, I will ride alone.” And maybe, just maybe, Sanowar will re-visit the visions and dreams of the Tour de France of his youth.

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