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Friday, August 19, 2022
 
 
P10522 - Cyclists lined up outside St. Angela church on Erie St. ready for the 1964 race to begin. Courtesy of St. Angela Merici Church.
 

(By Aldo Sfalcin, Via Italia Bike Race Association)

The Erie Street Bicycle Race has become an important tradition in the Italian community, and in the city of Windsor.


P10522 - Cyclists lined up outside St. Angela church on Erie St. ready for the 1964 race to begin. Courtesy of St. Angela Merici Church
.
  The first bicycle race was held on November 2, 1958, with the help of Gianni Sovran, who was then an avid bike fan of the Italian community.
Inspired by a painting, which he had seen on the wall in the St. Angela Merici Church Hall, depicting the “Giro D’Italia Bike Race”, Mr. Sovran dreamed of holding such a race in the city of Windsor. He discussed the idea of the race with his nephew, Ezio Orlando, who, at that time, was actively involved in the sport. Ezio had once said that he had brought the sport of bike racing with him from Italy in his baggage.
 
The first Erie Street bicycle race held November 2, 1958. Courtesy of Alfio Golini.
  At that point, Mr. Orlando, together with three other bike racers—Peter Girardi, Vince Muzzin and Silvio Muzzatti, spent a great deal of time searching for a suitable location for the event. They decided upon the l.7 kilometre course of Erie Street, Parent Avenue, Giles Boulevard and Howard Avenue—the course which is still being

The first Erie Street bicycle race held November 2, 1958. Courtesy of Alfio Golini.
  used for the race today, in the heart of the Italian community.
The preparations, which were necessary to conduct the first race, were many. Mr. Tullio Meconi, who was then part of the Windsor Italia Club, presented the idea of holding a race to City Council, and requested permission to close the streets for the event. City Council agreed to the proposition, on the condition that the Chief of Police also supported the event. Accompanied by a priest from the parish of St. Angela Merici Church, Mr. Ezio Orlando went to discuss the race with Mr. Gordon Preston who was Chief of Police at that time, and an enthusiastic sport fan. Mr. Preston willingly granted permission to hold the race. In addition, he volunteered his services, as well as those of four Windsor officers, two of whom were on motorcycles, to assist at the race. The work of these gentlemen was very much appreciated. It is also interesting to note that Mr. Preston was also the official starter of the race.
 
Original members of the cycling club. Courtesy of Alfio Golini.
  In a very short time, Mr. Ezio Orlando and his team spread the news of the race to other cycling fans, who were eager to offer their assistance to ensure the event's success. Many people aided with the preparations for the race. Such people as Alfio Golini, Toni Dadamo Sr., Frank Padovan, Alfio Papa, Emilio Paducci, Joe Ala, Nicolino DiDonato,

Original members of the cycling club. Courtesy of Alfio Golini.
  Alfredo Morando, Marco Palazzi, Elio Danelon, Marisa, Luigi and Renato Chemello, and others, helped in a
number of ways, such as collecting contributions, registering riders, controlling traffic, etc…
 
P10753 - Erie Street bike race circa 1973. Courtesy of Aldo Sfalcin.
  In addition to those who generously offered their services, there were many companies, organizations and people who donated gifts and money as prizes for the winners of the race. In order to raise money for the event, Triphon Van Hooren, who had raced back in his native Belgium and loved the sport, visited companies in the city, such as

P10753 - Erie Street bike race circa 1973. Courtesy of Aldo Sfalcin.
  Hiram Walker Ltd., asking for support. Mr. Van Hooren also donated the winner’s trophy for the race. In addition,
Mr. Mike Walden, who at that time was the president of the Wolverines Bicycle Racing Club in Michigan, donated the racing numbers and the safety pins which were used for the event. Darcisio Basili donated and assembled the announcer’s stand. His son, Peter Basili, later made the same contribution for another race. In addition, Eros and Alderina Zaghi of Alderina’s Fashion Boutique became involved with their donation of a handmade woollen racing jersey on which was written “Windsor Champion” and a bouquet of flowers for the race winner (A jersey was also donated this year, from Eros and Alderina).
 
P10752 - The Erie Street bicycle race organizers organized a race in downtown Windsor, circa 1971. Courtesy of Aldo Sfalcin
  Mr. Ezio Orlando called the event, “The Tour of Windsor”. On the day of the first race, in 1958, over 15,000 enthusiastic fans crowded Erie Street to watch Mr. Tom Liptrop, of Hamilton, Ontario, win the race and take home fifty dollars, the champion’s jersey, the trophy, and flowers. The results of the race were as follows: Billy Freund –

P10752 - The Erie Street bicycle race organizers organized a race in downtown Windsor, circa 1971. Courtesy of Aldo Sfalcin
  second place, Vince Muzzin – third place, Silvio Muzzatti – fourth place, Bill Olsen – fifth place, Claire Young – sixth place, Pete Girardi – seventh place.
 
P10754 - Aldo Sfalcin with Miss Italia following the Erie Street bike race, 1975.  Courtesy of Aldo Sfalcin
 

It is due to the spirit of these first men and women, and to the hard work, sense of commitment, and vision of many since then, that the race has continued through the years, and hopefully will continue to be a tradition, and a culturally important event for the sport of bike racing in Windsor’s Italian community. For many years, the Erie Street Bicycle Race has provided an opportunity for riders from all over the world to visit our area to compete against other Canadian riders, many of whom are from the city of Windsor. The race has served to bring the community closer together, as friends and


P10754 - Aldo Sfalcin with Miss Italia, following the Erie Street bike race, 1975. Courtesy of Aldo Sfalcin
  families gather on the streets to cheer those riders from Windsor, who have devoted long hours of hard work in training to represent our area in the event. It has given our local businesses and organizations the opportunity to offer donations, to keep the tradition of the Erie Street Bicycle Race alive, and to support an event which serves to build the community.
 
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The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.

 

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