Cycle fest rides into awesomeness

Tour de Victoria a success, say organizers

Tour de France hometown hero Ryder Hesjedal (pointing) heads out with fellow riders on the inaugural Tour de Victoria from Belleville Street.

Tour de France hometown hero Ryder Hesjedal (pointing) heads out with fellow riders on the inaugural Tour de Victoria from Belleville Street.

Mission accomplished.

Those are among the first words Seamus McGrath said as he reflected on the success of the inaugural Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria.

“My original vision of how this event could look and feel and operate – that’s exactly how it went on Saturday,” said McGrath, the tour’s founding director.

The same can be said for the weekend lineup of cycling events in the new Victoria International Cycling Festival, which kicked off Friday night and continues in downtown Victoria until June 12.

Enthusiasm among spectators was high during several new features, from a 400-metre sprint to the longer time trials, as well as the returning Bastion Square Grand Prix and Tim Bits kids challenge.

“The vibe, the feeling of them was all great and I have a feeling they’re all going to grow and become really part of the (cycling) culture,” said festival organizer, Rob Fawcett.

Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria attracted 1,350 cyclists from as far away as Nova Scotia and Texas. Upwards of 800 riders registered for the 140-kilometre course, about 400 for the 90-km and 150 participants cycled the four-kilometre community ride in downtown Victoria.

More than 500 volunteers were involved, including more than 300 road marshals, who ensured vehicle traffic and cyclists didn’t mix at intersections throughout 13 municipalities.

The event was marked by some minor collisions between cyclists, others suffered from rain-related hypothermia, and there were traffic tie-ups in James Bay where crowds gathered for cycling and to watch the start of the annual Swiftsure international yacht race on Saturday, said tour spokesperson Kim Van Bruggen.

The Swiftsure has, in part, prompted organizers to move the date of next year’s Tour de Victoria by a month to June 24. The extra time will also allow more cyclists to train for the event longer and in better weather, said Van Bruggen.

It’s still too soon to know if the Tour de Victoria will once again coincide with the cycling fest, which could be expanded from two weeks to a month next year, said Fawcett. “The objective is to grow the festival. How it will take shape, we’re not exactly sure yet,” he said.

emccracken@vicnews.com