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Dreams of participating in the Tour de France are nurtured in all four corners of the globe.

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

Now 41 and married with a five-year-old child at home, Peter Sanowar has never raced the Tour de France much like the overwhelming majority of competitive cyclists.

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

Along the way, Sanowar also found time to excel in the AAA hockey ranks, adapting to the Sudbury Cara Nickel Capitals team that won silver at the Air Canada Cup (now the Telus Cup). ) in April 1998.

And although he entered the ice quite young in his hometown of Cornwall, his mind quickly turned to an athletic interest that was clearly different from the rest of his hockey teammates.

“My dad (born in Trinidad and Tobago) always had a bike,” Sanowar recalled recently. “From a very young age we used to do these couple rides around the outskirts of Cornwall to visit Stan and Eva.”

It would be Stan and Eva, the former owners of the house that became the Sanowar farm in this area.

“From an early age, I was fascinated by the Tour de France,” continued Sanowar. “I was telling my parents while I was doing rounds of the neighborhood that I was going on the Tour. I remember one of our neighbors got rid of an old 10-speed, so my dad took it apart and repainted it in Greg LeMond colors and that’s what I used.

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A move to Grade 6 is never easy and although Sanowar had family like that — “there was a kind of connection, but mostly with summer visits” — his immersion in Sudbury’s sports scene has certainly been facilitated by his hockey prowess.

“Hockey is obviously very big in this town and popular with kids that age,” suggested the Laurentian University economics and finance major, who worked as a project manager for a property restoration company over the past few years. of the last decade.

“I kept playing hockey and started moving up to different levels, but cycling was always there. I still have this vague memory of riding a bike with snow on the ground with kids telling me it was illegal to ride a bike in the winter in Sudbury.

As most people who follow this column will already know, virtually every road cycling route in Sudbury – for half a century, anyway – has passed through the Sudbury Cycling Club, and specifically coach Battista Muredda .

That contact had to wait as Sanowar first made his way through high school at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary, enjoying some success with their track and cross country programs.

“The passion for cycling has always been there, but it wasn’t until a few years later that I found out about the whole Delki Dozzi thing,” he said, referring to the club track.

In a city that lives and breathes hockey, Sanowar is probably still thankful that cycling’s success came quickly after his introduction to CSC.

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“I remember my dad mentioned there was a cycling club here; that’s how I got in touch with Battista and decided to go out.

“It started off as kind of cross-training for hockey when I started around 13 years old. But Battista can identify who has talent that can be trained and brought to a competitive level.

“Shortly after, I bought my first Marinoni. That’s where it started.

While there is no denying the rich and deep history of excellence within CSC, it would also be fair to say that the numbers began to dwindle somewhat when Sanowar burst onto the scene in the early to mid-1990s. 1990.

“I was one of the youngest back then,” he exclaimed, following in the footsteps of David Speers and Eric Wohlberg.

“These names were sort of thrown on the track; they were long gone. It wasn’t until later in my life that I met Eric and had the opportunity to participate in national team projects with him.

Quickly, Sanowar filled this void of excellence.

“You start with club-level races and the next thing you know, you find yourself driving halfway across the province on Friday after school to watch those junior races. You’re doing half decent there and it’s a fairly quick progression.

All of this meant that by the time he reached his senior year of Midget AAA hockey, Sanowar had a decision to make.

“Being featured 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 junior trials but decided not to accept them because cycling had become so busy for me and I was making great progress quickly.

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Whether in individual time trials, road races or even criteriums, Sanowar was at home on a bike.

“I found myself excelling in all areas,” said the man who won the Espoir provincial road race title in 2002 while riding for the Gears Racing Institute. “Every race I attended was first place, second place, at least a top three finish. When you do well on the O-Cup circuit, you start to realize you’ve got something.

Still, as much as reaching the pinnacle of riding in Ontario is a hell of an accomplishment, the truth is that it’s only 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 go to a race, whether it’s in the United States or wherever, and you really realize the caliber of some runners,” Sanowar said.

Still, one can enjoy the ride along the way (pardon the pun).

“Once you get national level status, you have training camps in Southern California and Arizona and then you go back to Victoria (National Training Center) for threshold testing. VO2 lactate, etc.”

And then there is the beauty of the Alps – almost every day – to enjoy.

“We raced in southern France, we raced in northern France, southern Italy, northern Italy,” Sanowar noted of some of his favorite destinations.

“It’s not always pleasant,” he added with a laugh. “Torrential rain, wind, cobblestones and farmers’ fields – it’s not always with the sun shining.”

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

“It’s a way of life when you reach a certain level — the schedule is very busy, the discipline is demanding. I had a gradual change; it wasn’t just an abrupt end. I was racing for a commercial team where we had international riders competing in North America. My business team sort of folded, so I went to school, graduated, and met my wife at Laurentian.

Although horse riding has taken a back seat to parenthood in recent years, her son’s early involvement in the sport has sparked a renewed interest in him.

“I now ride to maintain a certain level of fitness, but I also ride for peace of mind,” Sanowar said.

“Most of the time I will ride alone.”

And maybe, just maybe, Sanowar will revisit the Tour de France visions and dreams of his youth.

Nickel City Nostalgia airs bi-weekly in the Sudbury Star.


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