Tour de Victoria offering a pro-racer experience
Cycling enthusiasts locally and beyond are tuning up their bikes for the inaugural Ryder Hesjedal Tour de Victoria on May 28.
The Tour de Victoria, flagship event of the newly established Victoria International Cycling Festival, offers 1,500 cyclists the opportunity to ride side by side with some of Canada’s top cyclists and Olympians, on roads cleared of traffic. There is even mechanical support and food and drink available along the way.
“We want to give people the experience that is normally preserved for pro-racer types.” says Seamus McGrath, Tour de Victoria director and two-time Olympic mountain bike racer. “The course is challenging and features some of the best cycling available here in Greater Victoria.”
As well as Victoria local Ryder Hesjedal, Canada’s top male cyclist and Tour de France star, other athletes who will be leading and joining the event include Olympic medallist triathlete Simon Whitfield, Olympic cyclist Andreas Hestler, medallist rower Silken Laumann and former NHL star Trevor Linden.
The tour starts in front of the Legislature on Belleville Street and consists of three courses. The 140-kilometre course, which most participants have signed up for, is for the fit rider and should take anywhere from four to seven hours. The 90-km, for the reasonably fit rider, will take up to six hours. The community ride, a one-and-a-half-hour tour around Beacon Hill Park is open to riders of all ages and levels of experience, celebrating the family and social aspect of cycling. All proceeds from the event will go to local charities, including Power to Be.
“At the most basic level, the Tour de Victoria promotes the sport of cycling and all the health, environmental and community benefits cycling provides,” says McGrath. “It’s about love for the bike.”
McGrath, originally from Ontario, says the ride also showcases Victoria as a prime place for cycling. “I used to spend winters here because it’s the only place in Canada where you can put in good riding year round. I fell in love with the place and put down roots. And now I want to give back to the sport and to the community.”
This year, participation is capped at 1,500, but organizers expect the ride to grow, hoping to have 5,000 participants in five years time.
The Tour de Victoria is a bike marathon or ’gran fondo’ (Italian for big ride), rather than a race, says McGrath. Gran fondos are becoming popular in North America, the most recent example being the Vancouver-to-Whistler ride which had 4,000 participants in September.
“You don’t need a $6,000 bike,” says McGrath. “It’s more about offering a challenge to the average person and the enjoyment of cycling.” M
To register online visit tourdevictoria.com. You can also register in person on Thursday and Friday at the Parkside Hotel. You can register for the family ride on site on day of the event.