Photos and story: Record number for Tour de Victoria

The number of cyclists taking part in Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria hit a record on Saturday as local and international participants turned out for a day that delivered perfect weather.

“This is a huge destination event,” Seamus McGrath, race director, said Saturday.

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“We have people from Australia, Malaysia, the U.K., Ireland, Spain, tonnes of people from the (United) States come up, and people from across Canada.”

More than 60 per cent of this year’s 1,800 participants came from outside Greater Victoria, he said.

McGrath believes the numbers of riders increased because more rides were added, giving cyclists the opportunity to cover 160, 140, 100, 60, 30, 15, or seven kilometre distances. As well, the ride was moved to Saturday from Sunday, which allowed riders from out of town to remain overnight and experience Victoria.

Riders ranged in age from two to 80 years of age, he said.

Weather was “perfect. It was 23 degrees and sunny,” McGrath said.

“Views of the Olympics (mountains) popped open for the first time in weeks. There was no smoke. There was no wind. It was a cyclist’s dream.”

He expects the charity Opportunity International will take in about $30,000 from the event. The amount isn’t known yet for the second charity being supported, Ryder’s Cycling Society of Canada, but last year it received about $10,000, McGrath said. Ryder’s Cycling Society supports youth cycling initiatives.

Hesjedal, who rode competitively until 2016, took part in the 160 km ride and is thrilled with the participation numbers.

“It was incredible,” he said.

“It is the biggest yet. I think that speaks a lot about the cycling community and cycling in general.

“It’s a lot of work and a lot of effort to make this kind of day happen for the cycling community,” said Hesjedal, who praised the support from the community in general. The event is supported by 230 volunteers.

“It brings people together and that’s what it is about. It’s good energy and it’s nice to be a part of.”

First time participant Ash Gillan ,5, was excited about the free afternoon children’s ride along 400 metres in an enclosed area.

The Saanich youngster already races his BMX. “This is a chance for him to try road racing to see what it is all about,” said mum Roslyn Gillan.

Ash said he has been riding “a lot of days.” He began riding at age four and on his bike daily, said Roslyn, who has taken up cycling to ride with Ash.

Buzz Fogal, 73 years old from Campbell River, completed his seventh Tour de Victoria this year.

“It was a great day. The weather was fantastic,” Fogal said after his 30-km ride.

Lila Nabi, 42, arrived in Victoria with friends from her Bullhearts cycling group of West Vancouver. She completed her 100 km ride in slightly more than four hours.

“It was tough,” she said, referring to the route’s many hills and acute corners. But she is “absolutely” returning next year. “I’m going to train harder next time.”

On Munn Road, another cyclist appeared to have collided with a vehicle. She waited until he sat up and police attended. West Shore RCMP and ride officials did not have word on the rider’s condition.

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