Wheels in motion

Cyclists prepare for inaugural Tour de Victoria and Victoria International Cycling Festival

Former professional mountain bike racer and Olympic athlete Seamus McGrath and rookie long-distance cyclist Angela Krewda have bikes on the brain as they prepare for the inaugural Tour de Victoria. Krewda is borrowing a friend’s road bike to tackle the gruelling 140-kilometre course in Saturday’s event. Getting rookie cyclists enthusiastic about riding for fun or with a competitive spirit is the idea behind the tour

Former professional mountain bike racer and Olympic athlete Seamus McGrath and rookie long-distance cyclist Angela Krewda have bikes on the brain as they prepare for the inaugural Tour de Victoria. Krewda is borrowing a friend’s road bike to tackle the gruelling 140-kilometre course in Saturday’s event. Getting rookie cyclists enthusiastic about riding for fun or with a competitive spirit is the idea behind the tour

After 15 years as a celebrity mountain bike racer, Seamus McGrath became a rookie again – this time behind the scenes of the cycling world.

The 35-year-old was enjoying new-found retirement from professional racing last year when he came up with the idea to organize a day of distance rides through Greater Victoria.

“On the bike it came to me,” said the Colwood resident, Olympic athlete and director of the inaugural Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria, which happens Saturday.

“Bike riding comes naturally to me. That’s about it. I definitely don’t have event planning experience.”

What started out as three rides ballooned into the new Victoria International Cycling Festival, a seven-day celebration of cycling and bikes. As of last week, 1,100 cyclists are registered for the 140- and 90-kilometre rides, plus a few hundred are expected for the downtown four-kilometre community ride the same day.

From films to sprint racing to bike decorating, the festival has become the perfect antidote to McGrath’s retirement from pro riding.

“I’m just looking forward to seeing people crossing the finish line with smiles on their faces,” McGrath said.

Angela Kewda understands the nerves that come with tackling something not only new, but big – very big.

The Victoria resident regularly cycles to work at the University of Victoria, but she has never ridden 140 kilometres in one go.

But with a special road bike borrowed from a friend, Kewda is opting to tackle the more gruelling course Saturday, which she expects will take her more than seven hours to finish. Still, there’s the draw of cycling with celebrities, such as Tour de France racer and Metchosin resident Ryder Hesjedal.

“This has been a year of cycling discovery,” Kewda said.

For a schedule of events, please visit www.tourdevictoria.com and www.vicf.ca.

emccracken@vicnews.com