This was the 2nd year that Norie and I rode the Victoria Populaire and even though last year was amazing, this year topped it. Although the weather was warmer and sunnier last year, what made it special this year was that Tai and Ekou rode it with us. Everyone in the McGillivray clan had a great time and I’m super proud of Tai and Ekou (and of course Norie as well) for completing this not so small feat.
We were up pretty late the evening before cleaning bikes and making sure everything was in good working order and packed. The alarm clock went off way too early, but it allowed us to catch the 6:40am ferry off Denman Island so that we could make it to Victoria for the 10:00am start. Surprisingly, nobody had a nap on the way down and we saw a spectacular sunrise just before we hit Parksville. We arrived at the University of Victoria where the ride began and finished with plenty of time to sign in, unload the bikes, and chitchat with people I haven’t seen since last season.
The group doing the 100km version were off right at 10:00am and the rest of us doing the 50km route were let go shortly after. My first plan was to stay in sight with people ahead of us so that I wouldn’t have to look at my route sheet and just follow (I didn’t have a handlebar bag and my route sheet was in my back pocket). That plan got thrown out the window due to a couple of traffic lights that weren’t feeling especially kind towards us and I was soon digging into my back pocket. I was pretty sure of the route from Beacon Hill Park to Mattick’s Farm from last year’s ride, but I was a little fuzzy on beginning part of the ride, so I had to do some navigating. Luckily, it wasn’t that difficult. From Beacon Hill Park up to Mattick’s farm was mostly along the coast, so it was beautiful to say the least. The snow capped mountains of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state were beautiful and made a perfect backdrop for the ride.
The 1st control was around the 22km mark and we were all feeling good. No issues with the bikes, weather or feelings, so we were ready to take on the rest of the course. I was actually surprised that we weren’t in last place! A couple of cookies, a drink, a few pictures, then we were off again. I didn’t want to sit around and chitchat for too long or else things start getting cold. Ekou took the lead and led us all the way to Mattick’s farm another 15 or so kilometers up the road. We rode by some beautiful houses that we could never dream of affording along with some spectacular scenery. The route is really well thought out and Victoria doesn’t feel like a big city unless you’re right downtown. The roads were fairly quiet and there were a lot of other cyclists and runners out enjoying the day, just like we were doing.
When we got to the 2nd control at Mattick’s Farm (it surely didn’t look like any farm on Denman Island), the kids were a little chilled so we got some hot drinks to warm us up to go along with the snacks supplied by the organizers. A bathroom break was also in order. We were there hanging out for a good half hour before hitting the road again for the final stretch to the finish, but I must say it was one of the friendliest controls I have visited.
Part of the last leg was along the Lochside Trail and the kids really enjoyed riding this part of the ride. They thought it was so cool to be riding on a boardwalk. The hot chocolate revitalized the kids and were even racing each other at some points. The final kms zoomed by quickly and we were upon the secret control in no time ~ well some time actually did go by as we were seeing people who were doing the 100km route coming up behind us. From the secret control to the finish was a short ride and it was nice to be riding in the sunshine. At the finish control, Ekou was so excited that he got a pin for finishing the ride. Although he had seen some of my pins from previous rides, it didn’t register with him that he would get one as well. He felt like he was a real randonneur!
It was great to see other kids out there on the ride and we would all like to thank Mark Ford and all the volunteers for making the event a great success. The kids are already asking about the Nanaimo Populaire . . .
We even made the picture page at the BC Randonneurs website … http://www.randonneurs.bc.ca/VicPop/photos/2013_photos.html
Here are a few more pictures to round out the ride.