Yesterday was the third annual Tour de Victoria, the brainchild of our local Giro d’Italia champion, Ryder Hesjedal. I’ve wanted to do this in previous years but didn’t for very good reasons, like an impending world championship race of my own, or just not being trained for the distance. This year, I hemmed and hawed all summer, leaning “against” as September passed and I spent far too much time travelling and far too little on my bike. So, I did the clever thing and asked people who were well-trained for the distance and very excited about the Tour whether I should do it. Well, duh. I entered the 140km event, which loops through Metchosin and around the Peninsula.
Our glorious summer ended with a cold stop on yesterday’s equinox. Really cold. It was showering lightly before the start of the
race ride and went downhill from there (“This is not a race, it is a mass-participation cycling event,” said the announcer. “Riiiiiight,” murmured the crowd of MAMILs.)
But enough about the weather! It was wonderful to ride in a huge peloton. It was energizing and affirming to be among hundreds of cyclists streaming along behind the police escort that pulled the group out to the Colwood Lagoon. One of the things Tripleshot Cycling does well is school its membership firmly in the conventions of group riding. I really enjoyed the feeling of being part of something much bigger than our club when (most of) the huge pack turned out to speak the same language, pointing out obstacles and potholes, waving around cars, and moving together well.
We were turned loose from our police escort just in time to hit the first challenge, a steep climb out of the Lagoon. I realized I might be in for a long day just about then, as I got passed by a cyclist with one leg. I learned later that Phil Chew is an amazing athlete and that getting passed by him is a privilege, because it meant I’d been in front of him somewhere along the way.
I won’t belabour this note with a blow-by-blow description of the ride. The first half of the course is tough because it’s loaded with big hills and descents that are sketchy when the pavement’s dry, but downright alarming when wet. I found myself being the Token Local (all my Tripleshot buddies were long-gone ahead) in a group of visitors unfamiliar with the roads. “Good God, how long does this hill go on?” they asked on Munn. “Two good pushes, then you’ll think you’re done, and then there’s the last little horror,” I said. “…and be really careful going around this next turn” on Ross-Durrance, I said. Most of the major corners had a rider laid out on the shoulder, still on the trajectory line he’d taken when his wheels stopped gripping the pavement in the turn. My rear wheel briefly broke loose at Kangaroo and Lindholm, but I’d half expected it to and was ready. Lister Farrar’s emergency handling skills clinic saved the day again. Thanks, Lister.
The ride breaks neatly into its second half as you come screaming down Willis Point Rd out of the hills. This half is hard because you still have a long, long way to go. It was made harder by the gale that blew in. When we turned straight into it in Sidney, it was sheeting rain, and my fancy-schmancy ventilated cycling glasses completely failed me – rain streamed down my helmet and forehead into the gale passing through the vents, and then blew directly into my eyes. Huge breaking combers rolled along the beach. I doggedly hung onto a group in order to avoid slugging upwind alone, but this effort pretty well cooked me.
The Strava trace tells the story: I put in some rock-star performances in the early parts of the ride, but the Queen of the Mountain awards faded to “this is the third-best time you’ve been over this segment,” to Strava tactfully noting that, yes, I had indeed passed over the segment in question, but let’s not discuss performance. My lower back failed on the Ash Road hill and I lost my group into the distance and rode mostly alone the rest of the way, except for the shining moment when this impossibly skinny kid in Garmin Sharp kit rode by with a peloton of equally sleek cyclists. Ryder somehow managed to be everywhere on the course and was simply lovely for the brief moments we spoke. Then he rode off and I started cramping up. At least I had a glorious tail-gale pushing me toward the finish.
All along the way, I’d thought to myself, “Hey, I dressed just right for this.” It was wet and miserable, but at least the water was warm, relative to winter-rain-misery. I even finished thinking that except for my aching back, I was pretty OK. But as soon as I shambled off my bike, a cascade of cramping, back pain, bonk, and hypothermia took over. I remember arguing with a guy in the chute, telling him I was fine, fine, fine, fine, dammit – and then I was huddled, sobbing, on a massage table, begging someone to tell me what had happened to my bike while they wrapped me in blankets and force-fed me some dreadful kind of bar. I doubt the signature I scrawled on the medical form with frozen, pruned, shivering fingers would stand up in court.
The massage therapist patched me up well enough that I was able to get home, although each pedal stroke was excruciating. I spent the afternoon sipping tea and napping, more completely destroyed than I’ve been after anything but a marathon. Vic2Cow was longer, but I think the combination of weather and being off my bike too much this month was deadly. And for all I’ve had some really long rides recently, I’d always stopped to stretch and snack before. This time, I ate on the fly and did not put a foot down for five hours… that can’t have helped.
I’ve looked through the results and they are useless. They are useless because they’re a bunch of names that bear no connection to the wonderful men and women out on that course yesterday. “Joe Blow, John Doe, bla bla bla…” Where, I wonder, is Green Shorts Guy, who pushed me to the finish? Where is Tenacious Wheelers Guy, who never, never, never gave up? What about Braided-Hair-Blonde-Woman, who climbs like a dream? Big Cyclocross-Bike-Guy, who had a draft like a barn door? I saw Orange-Jacket Guy in the med tent, but he’d taken his jacket off and had to introduce himself to me. I’m grateful to every single one of them, along with all the volunteers who actually stood in that miserable gale for hours and hours and hours, keeping us safe, holding traffic, making for the fastest, sweetest left turn onto Ash I’ll ever make. And, I must mention Geoff Wong and his family, who waited at the Uplands gates in that weather with cups of stirred Coke, without which I don’t think I’d have been able to finish. Thank you, thank you, to all of you.
Except for you jokers who talked me into this.
 Middle Aged Men in Lycra