With travel restrictions preventing us from doing the annual Hurricane Ridge ride over in Washington State we decided we had to look for a new challenge. Having always heard about the old Victoria Gran Fondo Loop we decided that this would be the one. This “big loop” takes you north from Victoria up to Port Renfrew and then back towards the east side of the island via Lake Cowichan on a paved logging road. Once you hit Lake Cowichan you continue east to Duncan before turning south again and riding along Shawnigan Lake. Once you are at the end of Shawnigan Lake you just have the climb out and then the journey down the Malahat and back to Victoria. At an estimated 270km (ended up being 261km from Trek Store back to the Trek Store), this is one of those workouts that had me nervous. Having never ridden over 200km I knew that this would be a good test. Even though we weren’t out to “race” it, I knew it was going to be a long day on the bike. Now having done the ride and thoroughly enjoying it, here are some post ride tips to help you around the loop should you decide to give it a go.
Big Ride Tips
Break it up. The key to a ride like this is much like racing Ironman, you have to break it into small chunks and not think about it in it’s entirety. Having definitive destinations along the way (Renfrew, Cowichan, Duncan, Shawnigan etc.) definitely makes the ride seem broken up and gives you natural checkpoints to shoot for. This was a big bonus of riding this route.
Eat early and eat often. If you can bring some real food along the way (small sandwiches, rice balls etc.) you will be glad you did. 270k is a long way to go on gels and bars, especially if you are not out there racing it. You might as well get your calories and energy from something you enjoy eating and that you look forward to. Save the race day nutrition for race day and use that as back up emergency fuel on this one.
Hydrate. If you are at all like me and you tend not to drink much on training rides, this is something you have to correct. You don’t want to get into a dehydrated state on a ride of this length. Even on a cool day you want to make sure that you are consuming enough liquids. Shoot for close to one bottle an hour and make sure that you have refueling locations lined up if you don’t have a support vehicle.
Don’t go too hard at the beginning. Yes, there is always that temptation to get KM’s covered quickly in the beginning while you are feeling good. This can end horribly if you are struggling in the final hours. Measure your effort. Start out conservatively and know that even if you could push it a couple of kilometers an hour faster in the first hour or two it might mean you are struggling to turn the pedals over in hour 6, 7 and 8.
Have Support. One of the things that makes a ride like this enjoyable is great company and great support. On our ride we had both. We had a total of 12 riders and 4 support vehicles, so we were definitely set for the day. With this kind of preparation and with the extra tubes, wheels, nutrition etc. etc. we had enough to get a tour team through a stage. And as luck would have it, we had zero flats and zero problems. Count this as one of the few wins in 2020.
As an athlete, I have come to realize that I really look forward to the challenge of finishing something that scares me a little. With no racing on the horizon this ride might have been one of the only times in 2020 where I got to wake up knowing I was about to embark on something that was going to test me both physically and mentally. Although it was slightly different than race day nerves, there was still a similar feeling of excitement, anticipation and yes, dread. If you are looking for that feeling, I highly recommend taking on an adventure like this and roping as many friends into doing it with you as you can.
A big thank you goes out to our support crew; Marsha, Carole, Lisa, Dave, Mike, Jenn,
And the folks that took on the ride; Dan, Shannon, Nico, Gerald, Mike, Jenn, Rob, Jess, Nathan, Debbie, Sandy.