The Gilles Villeneuve Circuit can be found on the Ile Notre Dame, which is an artificial island in the St. Lawrence River in Montreal. The circuit is the home of the Canadian Grand Prix, and is open to cyclists from April to November. But note that it is closed currently, until 2019. Many local cyclists use it for training. But it’s also just a fun ride! Here is our guide to how to enjoy this great ride. But first, see what the experience of cycling the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit is like in this video:
The video above is from the YouTube channel Bike Montreal, which features many videos about – you guessed it – cycling in Montreal!
We rented bikes in Old Montreal and then followed the 8.6 km route over the Jacques Cartier Bridge onto Ile Sainte-Helene. We crossed Ile Sainte-Helene and from there we cycled over the Passerelle du Cosmos Bridge to Ile Notre Dame. The route is relatively flat, so it’s suitable for the entire family.
We set off from the Rue de la Commune Est – well worth a visit on its own, featuring the Old Port and horse and carriage rides. We followed various separated bikeways (see map) to reach the Jacques Cartier Bridge. This bridge is named for the French Explorer Jacques Cartier, the first European to discover the St. Lawrence River, back in the 1500s. (He also claimed the whole of Canada for France, but history had different ideas.)
The Bridge had ample separated pedestrian/bikeway to allow us to pass pedestrians with relative ease.
Exiting the bridge onto Ile Sainte-Helene we cycled through Jean Drapeau Park. Jean Drapeau was Mayor of Montreal from 1954 1986 (except for the period from 1957 to 1960). He was responsible for the construction of the Montreal Metro, and bringing Expo 67 and the 1976 Olympic Summer Games to Montreal. He also helped bring Major League Baseball to Montreal in the 1970s, although the franchise moved to Washington DC in 2004. Despite these distinguished accomplishments, Jean Drapeau is best remembered for enormous cost overruns in building the Olympic venues. These overruns took the taxpayers over 30 years to repay.
Passing over the Passerelle du Cosmos bridge you arrive at Ile Notre Dame. This island is man-made using the 15 million tons of material excavated in 1965 during the construction of the Montreal Metro. The island was created for Expo 67 and now houses the 4.3 km Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, home of the Canadian Grand Prix.
The Circuit is open between April and November and is used for recreation when there are no other events planned. The evening that we toured the Circuit we noticed many cyclists, and a lot of high end cycling gear. We also noticed that this is a great place to take your road bike and see what it can do. Of course, if you are a tourist you can rent a road bike from one of Montreal’s bike rentals stores for this purpose.
It was a lot of fun to ride around the track a few times, even though we certainly could not keep up with the high-end cyclists. What a different kind of ride that was!
After a few loops it was time to head back to our hotel, so we retraced our steps back to Old Montreal.
We highly recommend going for a very different kind of bike ride at the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit on Ile Notre Dame, Montreal. Montreal cycling with a difference. Viva la difference!
Note: This is part of a 5 part series about Montreal cycling:
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