Paris to Ancaster. Ahhh.
Too muddy for roadies. Not technical enough for mountain bikers. Too long for cyclocross.
And yet, wildly popular.
Maybe it's because it's not perfect for anyone that it works so well as a race. One moment you're drafting in a pack down a long paved road, next moment you're dumped into a muddy field and bouncing over stumps and rocks.
I described the course in a bit more detail on this blog post from 2008, as well as some tips from previous experiences. If you're a first-timer, read it, carefully, and understand what you're getting into!
I have seen everything at this race. And when I say everything, I mean everything...
Don't believe me? How about UNICYCLES? I kid you not, one year there were unicyclists out there. I'm just happy to have finished before them! Tandems, single-speed... a little of everything
For those taking a serious crack at the race, the right tool for the job is a cyclocross bike. I base this on the fact that they keep winning, year after year, and in all the pictures the front-runners are the cyclocross crowd.
This is to be expected given the long road and trail sections. A mountain bike is too upright to be aerodynamically efficient, and knobby tires would grab too much asphault. While the mountain bike would get you through the off-road sections quicker, they aren't very technical, so that alone wouldn't give you enough of an advantage to overcome getting dropped on the roads.
Still, the most popular choice by far is still the mountain bike. I suspect it's just a function of what people have in their garage.
I'm lost somewhere in between - I have a Gary Fisher Utopia, a hybrid. I use cross tires on it (700x32) which makes it roll nicely on the road sections, but the positioning is still as upright as a mountain bike. Not ideal, but I can't justify the cost of a cross bike for this one race per year where I'd benefit from it. (More specifically, I can justify it, just not to my wife's satisfaction... )
Looking forward to this year's edition of the race!