Pacific Populaire


Pacific Populaire - A Brief History


Randonneur Cycling began in BC when the four founding members - Gerry, John, Dan, and Wayne - qualified for and then completed Paris Brest Paris in 1979. By the mid 1980s the growing group of Lower Mainland randonneurs was looking for a way to introduce new people to the sport. "Populaires" are short, unofficial randonneur events with some of the flavour of official "brevets" or "randonnees" (200 km+). These fun rides had been used elsewhere to introduce people to randonneur cycling. Sometimes populaires are also thought of stepping-stones to 200 km brevets. According to Dan McGuire: "My recollection is that Randy Clelland organized [the 1986 populaire] as a warm-up for the 200 and Marty Wanless promoted it to gain membership, and it went on from there."

No records or pictures remain from the early years, but we do know that the first event started near Vancouver City Hall, at the small covered plaza at the VanCity building, Cambie and 10th. The 100 km route put together by Randy Clelland was similar to the 100 km route used until 2003 when the SE Marine, Queensborough Bridge section was replaced. The 50 and 25 km routes were added later, probably in 1989 and 1990 respectively.

Rider participation grew quickly in the late 1980s peaking in 1990 with over 700 finishers. The new interest has been attributed to the enthusiasm of the randonneur committee of the day, to the efforts by Dave Johnson and the marketing skills of Marty Wanless, organizer/co-organizer 1988 - 1990. 1990 was the year when the event was first called the Pacific Populaire.

1991 was the centennial year for randonneur cycling's central event Paris Brest Paris and participation in the sport was elevated by this event. Following PBP 1991 there was a collapse of interest in randonneur cycling in BC (brevet participation halved in 1992.) Interest in the Pacific Populaire declined more gradually. In 1995 the start/finish was moved to the Plaza of Nations to tie in with the 'outdoor summer sports show', and the event almost disappeared - nobody rode the 25 km route, only 2 riders did the 50 km route, and fewer than 100 rode the 100 km route.

1996 I took over as ride organizer to begin the rebuilding process, which started with moving the start/finish location back to Riley Park. I ran the event for the five years before Danelle Laidlaw took over in 2001. She and her team of volunteers ran the event for the next 17 year before Will Danicek took over in 2018. Participation gradually increased through the 2000s peaking again in 2017 with over 800 finishers. The event was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid-19. Anna Bonga took over as organizer in 2022.

Eric Fergusson
With input from Dan McGuire, Gerry Pareja and Danelle Laidlaw.

Vital Statistics Table

Finisher Pins

Past Ride Organizers & Committies