Tour de Cowichan Valley Ride Report

It all started around 8:15 Friday evening when I took the ferry off Denman.  Packing was much easier this time as experience kicked it (but there is always still something to learn).  I had a couple of errands to do in Courtenay before I headed down Vancouver Island to Chemainus, and just as I was leaving Courtenay, a big bright full moon rose above Denman Island to light my drive down.  It was a nice, quiet, slow drive and allowed me to get my head in the game for what faced me the next day.  Finding the starting point for the ride was easy and I found a Tim Horton’s parking lot not too far away to sleep in.  On the Chilli 200, I could fit my Rocky Mountain Blizzard and myself in the back of the truck no problem, but with the BDB Pelican sitting a little taller (handlebars/stem), I couldn’t angle it enough to allow room for my sleeping mat and bag, let alone me.  I ended up sleeping in the cab kinda stretched out across the front seat.  Needless to say it wasn’t the best sleep I ever had.

The alarm went off just after 5am and it was time for breakfast.  I walked across the parking lot, ate breakfast and used the washroom to change into my cycling gear before heading to the Utopia Cafe, the starting point for the Tour de Cowichan Valley 200km brevet.  The checkin was simple, allowing me some time to chat with people and make last minute adjustments before the start.

We were off into the cool morning just after 7am and a group broke away right from the get-go.  I wasn’t going to chase them this early in the ride, so I settled into a comfortable pace and ended up riding with a couple of others before realizing we missed a turn.  Backtracking half a km, we caught up with the main group fairly quickly.  A few started to pull away from the main group again and I followed.  Once we got into the hills I couldn’t keep up and that was the story of the day.  On the ride up the Cowichan Lake, Jeff, Tobin and Vik pulled in behind and we ended up riding the next 100km or so together.  Like the 1st control near Cowichan Lake, all the controls were maned/womaned and provided treats and smiles.

We came out of the fog as we worked our way down the same road we came up and it was fairly flat with the odd roller thrown in between Duncan and Cobble Hill.  There was one hill that hit me pretty hard and from then on I getting beat up by the hills for some reason.  There were a few grunters along the way up to Shawnigan Lake and the Kinsol Trestle and I was happy to see the control at 116kms.  I hadn’t been off the bike for more than a couple of minutes at the 1st control, so we lingered a little for lunch at the 2nd control.  Great staff and amazing brownies laced with some sort of caffeine I’m told.  Add a can of Coke and a sandwich and we were off again.  The next control was at 151km (fairly short) and the last was at a pub, so moral was high.  I try to get the first half of the ride down fairly quickly and then have the mental comfort of hours “left in the bank” ~ meaning I rode the first 100kms in 4 hours, so I have 9.5 hours to complete the 2nd half and still be within the allotted time.

After the ride around Shawnigan Lake there was a “secret” control just as we were about head down to Mill Bay and the Trans Canada.  It was nice to coast for a while and at the bottom we were met with the beginning climb for the Malahat.  We climbed up to the Bamberton turnoff and had another great downhill to coast to the 3rd Control.  By this time Jeff and Tobin had pulled away.

I really enjoyed the last 50kms as the roads were quiet and scenic, and the afternoon lighting was pleasant.  It was good talking and riding with Vik, whose blog, The Lazy Randonneur, I’ve read and now finally got to meet. With about 30kms to go I figured I could make it in by 4:30pm, so I got into a nice groove and pushed through the remaining distance.  We were mainly on backroads all the way into Chemainus and the final control was at the Horseshoe Inn.  What better place to end a ride than a pub!  The fish and chip, along with a cold beer tasted great.  All the BC Randonneur riders and volunteers I’ve met have been great and it was nice to relax with them after a day in the saddle.

Next on the schedule is a 300km brevet ominously call “The Hills are Alive” on April 21st.  Since I got beat up by the hills, I figure I need to ride more of them so I hope to attend this ride if the weather and my schedule permit.  I wanted to improve on my time from the previous 200km brevet and managed to shave almost an hour and a half off.  On the 300km brevet I plan on not worrying about time and go at a comfortable pace since there will be a lot of hills to climb. Interestingly, The original data provided before the ride had the elevation gain at 1094 meters, but in reality it was 1934 meters of climbing. Here is the info/data from my Garmin Edge 500 GPS cycle computer.

Here are the final results from the BC Randonneurs website.

Here are some pictures from yesterday’s Tour de Cowichan Valley 200km brevet. Not the best pictures, but at least I took some this time.  On the Chilli 200, I carried around my camera in my back pocket and never took it out once.

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6 Responses to Tour de Cowichan Valley Ride Report

  1. thelazyrando says:

    Thanks for riding with me John! Also thanks for taking pictures!

    I’m curious what the real climbing was?

    =-)

    safe riding,

    Vik
    http://www.thelazyrando.com

  2. Pingback: Tour de Cowichan 200K… « The Lazy Rando Blog…

  3. RandoRay says:

    Nice write-up, John. Sounds like you had a good ride. Aside from unofficial “populaires,” the Tour of the Cowichan Valley has been the initiation ride for many budding randonneurs, myself included (on the original route).

    Good to hear you are readying yourself for the Spring 300. I’ve had the, er, pleasure of riding this Stephen Hinde classic (first run in 1986) several times, as well as supporting it.

    If I may offer some advice, ride this one at your own pace and save something for the last 50km. It’s one of the best routes the Island has on the schedule.

    Bonne route!

  4. denmankayaks says:

    Thanks guys.

    Ray ~ any chance of seeing you at any of the brevets this season ~ either as a rider or volunteer?

    Cheers
    John

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