|Newsletter - 2014 Archive|
Cowichan Populaire 50, 100 & 161 km
Despite reports of torrential rain north of Duncan, 38 riders set out on the 2nd offering of the Cowichan Populaire on a cloudy but dry Saturday morning. Thirty-seven finished, with one mechanical DNF and no other unfortunate incidents.
Initiated in 2013, the Cowichan Populaire gives riders their choice of 50, 100, or 161 km routes, the latter being of course an Imperial Century. The idea for the longer option is to provide a stepping-stone distance for riders who have perhaps completed one or two metric Centuries, but are not entirely sure about moving up to the official brevet distance of 200 kms. Another objective for the event is to introduce the pleasures of riding the Cowichan Valley to those who may only know it from passing through Duncan on the Island Highway without sampling its many attractive back roads. (OK, the route does include a section of Highway #1, but that's just to remind us of what we're missing.) This year's event seems to have done well in both respects, with participation in the 161 km route up to 10 from 3 last year, and a noticeable and welcome influx of riders from Victoria and other faraway places.
A highlight of the ride was the strawberry and whipped cream refreshment served by Graham Fishlock at the Westholme control, although it may have taken some of the shine off the more traditional Gatorade and bananas at later controls. Even with more pedestrian resources, Carol and Stephen Hinde at Lake Cowichan and Ross Pratt at Shawnigan Lake managed to motivate their clientele sufficiently that everyone was home by 4:15 p.m. The indefatigable Croy family got things going by registering everyone efficiently at the start and still managed to get the ride done themselves, which is more than can be said for the organizer - unfortunately, there was no volunteer pre-ride this year.
A lesson learned in the first presentation of this populaire in 2013 is that starting an Imperial Century at 10:00 just doesn't work. Unless you're Craig Lylack or Dan DuFeu, you just won't get finished at a reasonable time of day. So this year the 161 km riders started at 8:30, which got everyone finished by dinner time and also shortened the day for the control volunteers, as well as reducing chaos at registration, so this approach looks like a keeper.
As noted, this is only the second running of this event, but it may be instructive to compare participation with last year's. In 2013, the registration was 21, 10, and 3 riders for the 50, 100 and 161 km routes respectively. This year's numbers are 13, 15 and 10. It should also be noted that this year's ride shared the weekend with the Ride to Conquer Cancer on the mainland, Boomer's Ride on the Island, and of course our own Eureka 1000 and Triple S brevets. Two points are a poor basis for identifying a trend (climate change deniers take note) but in the circumstances, the numbers for this year may indicate growing support for the event and also for longer distances, which may lead to more Randonneurs down the road. Let's hope so!
June 15, 2014