Inspired by the Paris-Roubaix, the Paris to Ancaster is Canada’s spring classic and has taken place since 1994. In terms of length, this event offers different race possibilities starting with 20k going all the way up to 45k, 70k (the most famous one) and 100k which was added this year bringing new challenges to the riders. During the event there is also a VIP and kid’s race. The Paris to Ancaster route is composed of several gravel roads, rocky farm lanes, hills and a few muddy sectors.

Michael van dem Ham, the first-place finisher, gave us a retrospective of his entire race experience including the race strategy and tire choice:

Well, we did it! After admittedly floundering for the first couple of gravel races of the season, it feels pretty amazing to have everything come together at Paris to Ancaster, Canada's biggest gravel race, and take home the win. With almost 3000 participants, Paris to Ancaster has been a staple of Canadian racing since it started in 1994 and, in my mind anyway, is the perfect blend of tactical road racing and all-out efforts on gravel, through fields, and on features that would be more at home in a CX race than anywhere else.

It was a big group of riders for the first hour of racing, but just like in the spring classics in Europe, things got serious the second we started to hit the technical quad and dirt road sectors. A small group with myself, Adam Roberge, and a young junior racer name Theo DeGroot got off the front after attacking a long and hard quad road and worked together right until the last couple of KM to keep the chase group at bay. Having done the race a few times before, I figured my best shot at winning was to attack the final muddy descent and hold a gap up the finishing climb. Well, I was not right! Yes, I attacked that descent, but I also managed to crash and twist my bars almost immediately. For a second I thought my race was done, but I managed to get up pretty quickly, realized the bars were straight enough to ride and closed the gap to Adam and Theo on the rest of the descent. From there, I took the front again and immediately got on the gas up the final climb in an attempt to ride the fact that I was a little blown and my legs were one hard effort away from cramping. Well, either it worked or everyone else was as done as I was because I managed to hold it to the line and take my first P2A victory.

Equipment Notes: (#)

-33c Challenge Almanzo at 49/50psi - I choose to run a narrower CX tire because Paris to Ancaster has a lot of road and smooth gravel sections in it that are punctuated by very technical quad roads and a couple of CX style downhill mud chutes (the most significant of which comes about 2km from the finish line). My experience in the race is that people who run wider 40c tires use too much energy on the road bits and have a hard time making the important selections when they happen. Plus, since the most technical sections are muddy and downhill, the narrow tire seems to cut through the mud and you don't need to worry about pedaling traction.

- Giant Revolt in the short setting - With the race being equal parts road race and gravel race with a little CX thrown in for good measure, the snappy and responsive geo in the short setting on my Revolt was perfect to follow attacks on the road and make attacks off of it.

- Fox Transfer SL Dropper Post and Easton AX Lever - I used these exactly once all race, but it was still worth having. With the most decisive feature being the mud chute near the end of the course, I planned all race to attack there and hopefully ride solo to the line. Well, instead I crashed there, but thanks to the dropper post was able to bridge back up to the leaders and attack up the next climb to take the win.