A mass participation cycling event in Victoria lead by Tour de France 7th place finisher and local cycling phenom Ryder Hesjedal AND “Captain Canuck” Trevor Linden?
Sure, sign me up!
Why not fit that in amongst all of the half marathons and triathlon training I’ve been doing lately. Might as well do it, since I just bought a proper road bike and my work happened to be a founding sponsor. It’s hard to say no when you’re working at the event’s headquarters.
I have to admit, though, I was incredibly nervous about riding it. I signed up for the 90 km route, and only managed to do only one 75 km ride a week before the event. That felt surprisingly okay (no aches, pains or exhaustion), so I knew I could tackle the distance—it was just the pack riding and the weather I was worried about.
On the day of the event, I lined up somewhere mid-pack with a few cycling friends. Instead of hitting the porta potties, downing a gel and starting up my Garmin—things I would normally do before a race—I was rushing around trying to find somewhere to store my bag (HUGE thank-you to the guys at the Trek Pro City Racing tent for looking after my things… I owe you one!) and praying no one would crash into me when we all took off. Thankfully I managed to stay upright, pushed off and clipped-in no problem when we crossed the starting line.
The 90 km route went out to View Royal, along Burnside Rd and out into the Saanich farmlands before heading through Cordova Bay, Sidney by the sea and Oak Bay, which took us back into downtown Victoria along scenic Dallas Rd—a true tour de la 13 municipalities!
I was still a ball of nerves until we made it out of the Prospect Lake area. I didn’t practice any downhill on my road bike and Burnside Road was pretty twisty and hilly. I would end up slowing way down as everyone whizzed by and had to work extra hard to climb the following hill.
After Burnside Road, I started to take in the scenery and enjoy the ride. Although I still love running, this event was a nice change from a foot race; I saddled up next to several different people along the way and chatted, something that usually doesn’t happen in a competitive running event.
The leisurely ride turned into a challenge for me when the sky opened up and we had to ride through a downpour. I wasn’t dressed for rain, and started to get cold, fast. I pulled into a feed station to have another gel and pulled out almost immediately to keep moving. My feet and hands were ice blocks and it must have showed—so many riders commented that I looked cold!
During this downpour (I think we were out in Sidney at this point), the lead pack of 140 km riders passed us. I could say that I saw Trevor Linden and Ryder Hesjedal ride by, but really all I saw was a big blur of spandex! Other elite groups passed by us mid-pack 90 k’ers, and it was interesting to see how they worked together when riding in a tight pack; they all yelled when crossing a road or when another rider was passing, and pointed out hazards to riders behind them along the route. At one point I saw a rider in front of me stick his hand down to his side and wave it before hocking a loogie over his shoulder. Ah, so that’s what that gesture means. Thanks for the heads up, dude!
At about the 65 km mark the rain stopped and the sun reappeared, along with my good mood. Lots of people were out cheering us on, and the volunteers and road marshals offered encouraging words as we passed by. Aside from really feeling the burn on a few big hills, my legs were doing really well. I think I averaged a speed of about 26 or 27 km per hour, which was much faster than I expected to go.
I think I crossed the finish line at around the 3:45 mark, although I’m not entirely sure since I forgot to bring my Garmin and the event wasn’t timed. Dave got me on camera (see my cameo in the video above) just as I crossed the finish line and asked me how my first grand fondo was. I told him it definitely won’t be my last!
Big thanks to the organizers of the Tour de Victoria for putting on a first-class event and to all of the awesome volunteers and road marshals for keeping us safe and happy. Also thank you to everyone who came out to cheer—we all really appreciated it!