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Sidney Veloce
Vancouver Island Spring 300
Ride Date: April 16, 2022
by Murray Tough

It was a cold predawn start in Sidney. Thick gloves, wool base layer, toque, windbreaker, shoe covers and even toe warmers inside my shoes and I was still shivering while we waited to set off. Mark read out the usual warnings of our likely demise and set us off on the course.

As we traveled down the highway, Mt. Baker was silhouetted against the spectacular dawn sky. We were moving fast in a group of four, too fast to think about stopping for a photo. We continued into the city and our first control.

I'm not sure how to describe this course, except to say that it had many loops and meanders. The first loop took us on a tour of Saanich, behind Mt Doug, past the farms on Blenkinsop Road before joining up with the Galloping Goose for a loop around Metchosin.

The cycle through Metchosin is lovely country road cycling. There are views across the Juan de Fuca Strait to the Olympic Mountains and fields of sheep, peacefully grazing. There are hill climbs to keep you warm and fast descents to keep you exhilarated. A short ride through Langford put us back on the Galloping Goose in the opposite direction. By now there were plenty of walkers and dogs to avoid.

Our next loop took us through Esquimalt, past the Graving Dock. It is always interesting to see what ship is in the drydock. Sometimes it's a massive cruise ship, or maybe a cargo ship but today it was BC Ferry's "Costal Inspiration". A short time later, we arrive at the next control at the ever-busy Point Hope Shipyard.

Onto the Galloping Goose, across the Gorge on the trestle bridge, through industrial Saanich and then north on the Lochside Trail. We pass Swan Lake and cross the long boardwalk over Blenkinsop Lake. A short meander through Royal Oak and we are back on the highway.

Highway miles aren't always the most enjoyable parts of a ride, but they are usually fast. A moderate North wind eliminated any speed advantage. Construction on the highway at Mt Newton Cross Road forced a delightful detour on quiet country roads. There were fields of daffodils set against the backdrop of the Gulf Islands.

The course looped around Lands End with occasional glimpses of Satellite Channel and Salt Spring Island. On Chalet Road, there is a clearing with open views across Saanich Inlet towards Arbutus Ridge. Then another course detour to get around the chasm that was created when last year's atmospheric river washed away the bridge on Chalet Road.

It was a day when the wind blew from every direction. As I headed east on McTavish Road, it was into another headwind, thankfully it was fairly light. The easterly wind brought milder temperatures. I even considered taking off a layer!

The course turned south to the control at Keating Cross Road before heading back up the Peninsula. We zig zagged through Brentwood Bay, Saanichton, around the airport and back and forth through Deep Cove before rounding Lands End. The "Spirit of Vancouver" was very close as she glided along the shore on the way to Tsawwassen.

Then it was down the Peninsula again. By now, the wind had shifted to the west, which brought a marked drop in the temperature. Dark clouds obscured the sun; we had a few drops of rain. Do I stop and put my jacket on? I didn't and I got lucky - no rain.

We looped through heart of Oak Bay, up through the University and then followed the waterfront towards downtown. By now the west wind had gained strength. I rounded the corner towards McNeil Bay, for a battle with the headwind all the way to the last control in James Bay. It was nice to see a cruise ship at the dock after two seasons without them.

The last control was now behind me. I was going to have to work hard for the last 50k if I was going to make the goal I had set for myself.

There were peacocks by the road in Beacon Hill Park. Then back to the waterfront and a spectacular ride eastward - with a tailwind. We zig zagged through Gordon Head before picking up the Lochside trail and the homestretch.

When the sun set, it got cold. I was on a mission to make an irrelevant, arbitrary goal so I told myself if I wanted to stay warm all I had to do was cycle harder. My hands would have preferred that I stop to put on my warm gloves. Deal with it, we're not stopping. My GPS was warning of a low battery. Maybe I can ride fast enough to finish before it dies, we're not stopping. I learned later that it stopped recording about 2k short of the finish.

Sidney is in sight. The moon is just starting to appear from behind the clouds, it eventually became a spectacular full moon reflecting off the water. A plane on final approach is trying to outshine the moon with its bright landing lights. Can I ride fast enough to cross the flight path ahead of it? The race is on! I reach the flight path as the plane roars overhead.

And then it's over. What a great way to spend a day. The entire day. Eat, sleep, ride.

 


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