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ACP Centenary 400 - Vancouver Island Edition
PBP Ride Date: July 15, 2023 (Pre-ride)
by Murray Tough

We decided on an early start for the Vancouver Island edition of the ACP Centenary 400. We wanted to get riders safely over the Malahat before Saturday morning traffic became heavy. For readers who aren’t familiar with the Malahat, it is an infamous section of the Trans-Canada highway. There are long sections with only two narrow, winding lanes. There is no room to pass. Daytime traffic is heavy and often impatient. For cyclists it is a long climb on shoulders that range from narrow and debris filled to wide and clean. In heavy traffic it can be a miserable ride. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It started out as a perfect riding day. Markus and I set off at 5:00 AM, half an hour before sunrise. Despite the early hour, the sky was already bright. We left James Bay and rode past the iconic BC Legislature, around the Inner Harbour, past the Empress Hotel and through downtown. The streets were almost deserted.

The forecast was for yet another bone-dry day in our summer long drought. Neither of us had fenders. What we hadn’t counted on was that Government Street, would have just been cleaned. The road was as wet as if it had just poured.

We soon reached the start of the Malahat. The sun we just up and, as expected, the traffic was light. The morning air was cool—perfect climbing weather. Without traffic, the climb was delightful. We had spectacular views across the Saanich Inlet and the of the Gulf Islands. We stopped for photos at the summit but the best views are at the “Split Rock Viewpoint” so called because the viewpoint is separated from the traffic lanes by a big rock that they must have blasted through when they built the highway. More photos and then a fast descent to the exit at Mill Bay Road. The most notorious section of the route was safely behind us.

Back at sea level, the ride along the beach on Mill Bay Road gave us a beautiful, close-up view of the Saanich Inlet. From there, we rode past vineyards on Telegraph Road, through the village at Cowichan Bay and around the peaceful Cowichan Estuary. The ride to Genoa Bay has a different landscape around every corner. It varies from rocky shoreline to what should have been lush farms but, with the drought, the farms were starkly brown.

By the time we reached Lake Cowichan it was getting hot. We envied the people tubing on the river. We stopped there for an early lunch before tackling the Pacific Marine Highway. As we began our climb, so did the temperature. By the summit, we were both recording temperatures of 35 deg C. The sun was relentless. But the descent brought relief. By the time we reached the shade of the valley, we started to feel the effects of a cool breeze off the ocean. As we rode past Lizard Lake, it was still quite warm. Cars from the lake users had overflowed the parking and were lining the side of the road. A short time later, at Fairy Lake—with its famous little tree—it was chilly. There wasn’t a single car on the side of the road. Did the locals known that it would be warmer at Lizard Lake?


The climb out of Port Renfrew felt like the hardest climb of the trip. It isn’t the longest but it offers no rest until you reach the summit. Once we reached the plateau, we had undulating hills and a spectacular view across the Juan de Fuca Strait to the Olympic Mountains. There was fog in the Strait that eventually reached the highway and brought the temperature down to a damp and chilly 12 deg C. In Jordan River, we took a brief stop. After the fast descent, we were both feeling a bit chilly and decided it was time to add a layer. Note to self: don’t add a layer at the bottom of a hill. We weren’t far into the next climb when we both conceded that we were getting too hot.

There was a control at the East Sooke Grocery Store. I purchased some Gatorade and asked the store clerk to sign our control cards. She was astounded, if not incredulous, when we explained what we were doing and the route we had taken.

The ride continued its hilly journey through Sooke, East Sooke, Metchosin and Lanford. By the time we got to Langford, the heat was back but the big climbs were behind us.

We stopped for a sandwich at Wilkinson Road, about 315km into the ride. It would be our last meal break. The ride around the Peninsula felt like a victory lap. The temperature had moderated and there were no big hills left. At Hunt Road we had only 30k to go but I couldn’t go any further without putting on a sweater. We took moment to look up at the sky. Far from the city lights, the stars were brilliant.

We rode the last few kilometers with clear views of the lights along the US shore on the other side of the Juan de Fuca Strait. At this point, we were pushing into a moderate headwind. We made the last two turns, which at 180 degrees should have given us a tailwind for the last 500 metres. Somehow, we were still in a headwind. “How is that possible?” I asked. But then we were at the finish, so the answer seemed irrelevant.


Go to: ACP Centenary 400 Results (All Regions)
Go to: Island ACP Centenary 400 Event Page (Database)

August 1, 2023