Cycling enthusiasts to once again brave the circle route

Riders will have support vehicles carrying cyclist’s belongings and making sure no-one finds themselves in distress without aid.

On June 23, cycling enthusiasts from around the province will be taking part in the Victoria Gran Fondo starting in Victoria, and passing through Port Renfrew, Lake Cowichan, Duncan, over the Malahat, and back into Victoria in a grueling 10 hour bike ride.

David Sudbury, one of the organizers and instigators of this event which started formally four years ago, says that this 269 kilometre performance cycle tour is for cyclists who take riding seriously. “We look at those guys who are training each weekend.” Most of the cyclists who participate already ride between 100 and 120 km on their days off, either ex-racers or those that are training for other events.

But he adds that the ride is also a way to “demonstrate what tourism looks like on a bike. This ride calls you, it beckons you to see what’s up there (around the next corner). A lot of riders are fixed on the kilometres, but it’s not about the the kilometres, its about the geography and the environment.”

However, many of the riders do not realize how tough this route is, says Sudbury. Thus, it is mandatory for all riders to check in at designated stops to refuel and rest before carrying on.

With weather changes and lack of cell reception in some areas, along with other challenges that come along with the ride, Sudbury says “by the time you reach Renfrew, you’re wondering if you’re doing the right thing.”

By the time riders reach Lake Cowichan, Sudbury says “it’s civilized, you’re now in wine country.”

Riders will have the support of five or six vehicles carrying cyclist’s belongings and making sure that no-one dehydrates or finds themselves in distress without any aid. There will also be a few motorcycles that will run interference if need be.

The ride will begin at 6:30 a.m. sharp at the Hotel Grand Pacific. From there, cyclists will head down Highway 14 and pass through Sooke. Once in Port Renfrew they will stop for chili and chicken vegetable soup, provided by Tomi’s Home Cooking, at Port Refrew’s recreation centre.

These 85 cyclists will then begin the long trek up to Lake Cowichan. Sudbury says they will reach the town between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., and will stop for more food and a bit of rest before heading on towards Duncan. And he says they don’t mind a little encouragement as they pass through town.

Sudbury says that he, Carl Ullrich, and Robin Willard, the other men behind this event, like to cap the number of riders because there are “logistic issues with numbers over 85.” The main one being that being that they would like to maintain a certain level of quality within the event, one which brings serious riders together in a safe environment. “You don’t want to be with people you don’t know, that’s an opportunity for disaster. You gotta trust the people your with and you’ve gotta have a certain consideration for what you’re doing. This ride allows those sorts of people to come together.”

Sudbury says that though they do keep track of rider’s overall time, the Victoria Gran Fondo is not a race. “There are no prizes, and riders are not encouraged to race.” The ride started as a way to bring cyclists together to train for other events, and Sudbury says “I feel there is success if more than three people show up.”

He thanks the town of Lake Cowichan and Joseph Fernandez, the town’s chief administrative officer, for being a great supporter of the event.

“We are hugely thankful for the use of Central Park. It’s a perfect spot and the town has been easy to work with.”

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