For Ryder Hesjedal, this year’s Tour de Victoria is truly a family affair.
Although his father, Leonard, has ridden in the last couple of events, his mother, Paige, will ride in the Tour de Victoria on Aug. 17 for the first time.
“It’s great to have my parents involved, the more the merrier,” Ryder said. “The whole idea behind the Tour de Victoria is to involve families and the community in an awesome day of cycling.”
This year marks the ninth edition of Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria, which the namesake launched to give back to the local cycling community and get more people out of their bikes, especially families. Participation continues to grow, with more than 1,750 participants involved in 2018.
“We’re on track at this point to surpass that this year,” said Hesjedal, who credits the event’s shift to Saturday and the availability of rides for a variety of skill levels as reasons for the steady growth. “It reflects on the popularity of cycling in general and the success of this event, which is quite encouraging.”
Riders can sign up for the five to six-hour challenge of the 160-kilometre Factor race, or ride distances of 140, 100, 60 30 0r 15 kilometres that better suit their fitness level.
The popularity is in part a result of the legacy Hesjedal established that extends throughout the Victoria cycling community and far beyond. He earned two world championships as a mountain bike cyclist and was arguably on his way to a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics before a flat tire derailed that effort.
After switching gears to road cycling, Hesjedal gained international attention competing in the Olympics, the Vuelta a Espana and the Strade Bianche in Italy in 2010, where he finished fifth. His hill-climbing strength made him a factor in the Tour de France during that time and he posted his best finish, fifth overall, in 2010. After scoring his first and only Grand Tour win at the 2012 Giro d’Italia, a devastating multi-rider crash in the 2012 Tour de France derailed what was shaping up to be another stellar performance.
Hesjedal, 38, retired from competition in 2016, but is still active in the sport and attends many events as part of the promotional work he does for UK-based Factor Bikes and Castelli, a renowned Italian maker of cycling clothes and accessories.
“I’m living life, not racing but lots of fun rides,” said Hesjedal, who grew up in the Highlands, Colwood and Metchosin and now lives in Victoria.
“It’s great to see the Tour de Victoria grow and become a fixture. It’s not an easy endeavour to put on a safe, enjoyable event of this size. It takes a small army to pull this off,” he explained.
“The event wouldn’t be possible without the support of the many volunteers, partners, sponsors and communities involved. It’s coming up on 10 years next year, which is pretty phenomenal.”
In the meantime, Hesjedal looks forward to seeing as many people as possible at this year’s event. “The Tour de France is on and hopefully that motivates people to come out and do the best they can,” he added. After all, summer is cycling season.”