Friday, July 19, 2024

Italian Festival wraps up with Preston Street bike races

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This year’s edition of the Ottawa Italian Festival ended Sunday with a two-wheeled blast of speed from the cyclists in the 50th annual round of Preston Street Bicycle Races.

Organized by Bike Race Ottawa, the day featured fixie (single-gear bike) races in the morning, a women’s elite race at noon and youth races in the afternoon. Races took place on a four-corner loop encompassing Preston, Adeline, Rochester and Aberdeen streets. For spectators, the corners were the best spots to catch the most action.

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One racing highlight was the performance of Canada’s former Olympian, Alison Jackson, a world-class athlete. She was the celebrity cyclist of the day on Sunday, winning the women’s elite race and charming the crowd with her engaging personality.

Alison Jackson was the winner of the elite women’s race Sunday. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA

Between the bike races, the Italian vehicle parade that drew big crowds on Saturday, plus the throngs who took in the food and culture offered by businesses along Preston Street, many of which expanded their patios for the occasion, organizers estimated the turnout to be around 100,000 people for the festival’s grand-finale, street-party weekend.

“We’re back to regular numbers,” said Lydia Di Francesco, chair of the festival, noting how the weather worked in their favour this year. “Last year was a little rainy and windy, and we had the (wildfire) smoke the week before so there was a lot going on. We’ve had a lot more attendance this year.” 

The first week of the festival featured cultural experiences such as a historical walking tour of Ottawa’s Little Italy neighbourhood, masterclasses in wine, pasta and coffee, and a partnership with the National Gallery of Canada to explore the Italian artworks in the collection.

The weekend street party saw the closure of Preston Street, the main thoroughfare of Little Italy, from Carling Avenue to Somerset Street West.

Alison Jackson (left) was the winner of the elite women's race Sunday.
Alison Jackson (left) was the winner of the elite women’s race Sunday. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA
The 50th year of the Preston Street Bicycle Races ended the Ottawa Italian Festival on Sunday, June 16, 2024.
The 50th year of the Preston Street Bicycle Races ended the Ottawa Italian Festival on Sunday, June 16, 2024. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA
Alison Jackson was the winner of the elite women's race Sunday.
Alison Jackson was the winner of the elite women’s race Sunday. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA
Benjamin Brousseau-Noël was the winner of the 11 a.m. race Sunday.
Benjamin Brousseau-Noël was the winner of the 11 a.m. race Sunday. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA
Alison Jackson was the winner of the elite women's race Sunday.
Alison Jackson was the winner of the elite women’s race Sunday. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA
Carol Deavy took part in the masters category of the women's elite race Sunday.
Carol Deavy took part in the masters category of the women’s elite race Sunday. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA
Camille Desrochers Laflamme (right) took part in the elite women's race.
Camille Desrochers Laflamme (right) took part in the elite women’s race. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA
The elite women put on a speedy show for spectators to enjoy Sunday.
The elite women put on a speedy show for spectators to enjoy Sunday. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA
The elite women put on a speedy show for spectators to enjoy Sunday.
The elite women put on a speedy show for spectators to enjoy Sunday. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA
The 50th year of the Preston Street Bicycle Races ended the Ottawa Italian Festival on Sunday, June 16, 2024.
The 50th year of the Preston Street Bicycle Races ended the Ottawa Italian Festival on Sunday, June 16, 2024. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA
The 50th year of the Preston Street Bicycle Races ended the Ottawa Italian Festival on Sunday, June 16, 2024.
The 50th year of the Preston Street Bicycle Races ended the Ottawa Italian Festival on Sunday, June 16, 2024. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA
The 50th year of the Preston Street Bicycle Races ended the Ottawa Italian Festival on Sunday, June 16, 2024.
The 50th year of the Preston Street Bicycle Races ended the Ottawa Italian Festival on Sunday, June 16, 2024. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA

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