Scenic route introduces randonneuring to local cyclists

VicPop features short course 50k and 100k routes for April 1 ride

Oak Bay cyclists Ken Bonner and Mark Ford with Victoria’s Jim Fidler in their London-Edinburgh-London (1

Oak Bay cyclists Ken Bonner and Mark Ford with Victoria’s Jim Fidler in their London-Edinburgh-London (1

Mark Ford and Ken Bonner meet each Wednesday, “rain or shine,” not far from their Oak Bay homes and cycle out to Sidney.

The tradition started about a decade ago, Ford says, when he was introduced to the Victoria Populaire.

First held in 2000, the Victoria Populaire is not a race but a fun introduction to the sport of randonneuring, a type of cycling known for long distances and non-competitive nature.

“It’s an introduction. If you then progress from there to do a proper randoneeuring event, they’re 200, 300, to 1,200 or 1,400k,” Ford says.

Now 75, he describes himself as a latecomer when he discovered it 10 years ago.

An avid Triple Shot Club cyclist, Ford is readying himself for another London-Edinburgh-London 1,400km ride in 2017.

“It’s very personal because there’s no competition. It’s up to you whether you do it or not, whether you sleep or don’t sleep,” Ford says. “It’s an achievement. There are no wins or losses.”

“Randonneur cycling is everyperson’s cycling sport. Those who want to ride fast can do so, although each event is not a race; those who want to take the time to socialize, admire the splendid scenery, smell the flower blossoms and stop for coffee, can do so,” agrees Bonner.

“As a marathon runner, when I first heard about randonneur cycling, I thought it was a very strange sport, but I planned to ride the full brevet series (200, 300, 400, 600 and 1,000k events in one year), then go back to marathon running.”

Nearly three decades later, at 73 Bonner still seeks the perfect ride, cycling brevets all over North America and Europe and running marathons.

“We randonneurs are not all over the hill, we have plenty of younger riders,” Bonner says. “We particularly would like to see many more female cyclists, as only about 10 to 15 per cent of participants are women.”

The BC Randonneurs Cycling Club invites cyclists of all ages and abilities to welcome the arrival of warmer weather with a scenic mass-participation bike ride around Greater Victoria on April 2.

“The VicPop is a springtime tradition for local cyclists – last year we had 120 finishers,” says organizer Steve Mahovlic.

The event, featuring 50k and 100k routes, is capped at 200 riders. The ride starts at the James Bay Athletic Association clubhouse (205 Simcoe St.) where participants are issued turn-by-turn directions for either route and a control card listing checkpoints along the way. Upon returning to the JBAA clubhouse, riders turn in their control cards in exchange for a Victoria Populaire finisher’s pin.

“Both routes are extremely scenic,” says Mahovlic. “We try to incorporate quieter roads while still showcasing some of the loveliest places to cycle in Greater Victoria.”

Both routes follow the waterfront from James Bay to Royal Oak. From there, the 100 km riders head out the Saanich Peninsula as far as Lands End Road while the 50 km riders take a scenic shortcut through Beaver Lake Park to Interurban Road just north of Camosun College.

The groups come together for the final 17 km, which takes them through Esquimalt and back to James Bay.

No roads are closed for the Victoria Populaire and participants must obey traffic rules, wear approved helmets and ride bikes that are in good working order.

Registration for the ride costs $10 or $20 (cash only) on the day of the event; participants under 16 pay just $5 but must be accompanied by an adult at all times on the ride.

Event day registration on April 2 starts at 7 a.m. for the 100k, and at 9am for 50k riders.

Find route maps at online.