Vancouver Island Super Randonneur series, 2006

by Raymond Parker on August 12, 2011

in Autobiography, Cycling, Photography, Randonneuring

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A dozen start the Pacific Rim 600, 2006

With computers reset to zero, 2006 began on Vancouver Island with a well-attended and windy New Year’s populaire.

After weeks of monsoon-like rains and therapy for achilles tendonosis, the arrival of cherry blossoms and brighter skies came none too soon.

I returned to the Nanaimo Populaire—this time the 100 km route (1110 m elevation gain)—where I beat my times of the early ‘90s.

In April, after an interval of 11 years, I returned to the classic 200km Tour of the Cowichan Valley, knocking 20 minutes off my old personal best.

Two weeks later, I tackled the infamous “Hills Are Alive” 300, happy to survive a brevet deemed by more than one Paris-Brest-Paris veteran as “too hard for this time of year.”

It should be noted that “The Highway to Hell” 400, despite its 3am start, leads randonneurs to one of the more scenic stretches of Vancouver Island coastline, along Baines Sound. Other than that, the route follows the Island Highway and is a bit of a slog, most times through seasonal winds that conspire against the rider.

Lindsay Martin, I learned, is a great climber and unmoved by the infamous zephyrs of Qualicum.

We might have put in a better time had we not succumbed, on the return, to a pasta menu in Nanaimo.

The Pacific Rim 600 may well be the most difficult route of its length on Vancouver Island, with total elevation gain of 4700m (15,420 ft.) and inclines up to16 per cent. As such, it is a perfect training brevet for PBP aspirants. It is also uncommonly scenic.

I organized and rode the event, with Amanda Jones staffing the start/finish control and Stephen & Carol Hinde volunteering.

I handed over my Fuji-S2 Pro DSLR camera to Stephen to play with as they accompanied us across the Island, from the Parksville start, to Tofino on the Pacific coast.

Tofino marks the 170km mark of the ride. After crossing mountain passes and threading the tortuous length of Highway 4, it is a great relief to most ordinary randonneurs to pause at the bistros of this tourist mecca on Clayoquot Sound.

The possessed get their control cards signed and turn around to face the horrors of Hydro Hill. Calmer cyclotourists refueled in style at the Common Loaf Bakeshop.

Lindsay and I joined forces for the trip back over the spine of the Island. We’d not quite reached the junction back toward Port Alberni, when Lindsay suffered a flat tire, his second of the day, and on the same stretch of road. It would not be the last.

The start and intermediate controls are sensibly devised to enable riders to clear the demanding 124 kilometre gauntlet of the Pacific Rim Highway, back to Port Alberni, before darkness falls.

Tired and hungry, after rollers and ridges, including 367 meter Sutton Pass, we joined riders in residence at Tim Horton’s Restaurant in Port Alberni, just as the sun set red over the Island Range.

The climbing starts right out of Tim Horton’s driveway, 9 kilometres up to (411 metre) Port Alberni Summit. It’s a real grunt, especially with a belly full of chili.

We were relieved to drop off the east side, for a long albeit cold freewheel towards Lanzville, on the outskirts of Nanaimo. From there, we’d turn back north to Parksville.

Blam! The explosion, echoing off the canyon walls, nearly caused me to jump off my bike. It came from Lindsay’s rear tire, right in front of me.

“That was my last spare tube,” Lindsay announced, as he pulled over to the shoulder.

“Right, you check the tire with a magnifying glass. I’ll patch tubes.”

It seemed pretty clear though that the problem lay in an unhappy rim/tire combination. The tire had popped off the rim or pinched the tube.

As we crouched, by headlamp, making repairs, Stephen, Carol and Amanda pulled up. I made that my excuse to get on the road. My teeth were chattering.

“I’ll go slow through MacMillan Park [on the far side of the pass] See you there.”

It was all I could do to stay on the bike on the fast descent, I was shivering so much. It was a great relief to be able to pedal and get the blood flowing.

But where was Lindsay? The famous Macmillan tree museum went by—a towering arboretum of shadowy giants, impervious to my puny headlight. The tourist attractions of Coombs came into view, deserted and eerie under yellow lights, when the Hinde’s familiar Volkswagen pulled alongside. Amanda rolled down the window.

“Lindsay’s had another flat.”

He arrived at the Parksville motel at 2am. We ate a hurried meal, courtesy of Amanda’s Diner, and hit the sack. We hoped the polybutl gods he’d offended were done with him.

Less than two hours later, we were up for breakfast and on the road by five. The second part of the ride—to Campbell River and back—would be easy in comparison to the Tofino trek, had we not that hilly 360km in our legs, with 250 kilometres to go … not all flat by any measure.

Nonetheless, the weather held and the uncommonly beautiful sights helped with the task.

On the return, we joined forces, or rather held tenaciously to the paceline powered by Doug Latornal, Susan Allen, Deirdre Arscott and Bob Lepage.

It was an exhilarating ride, marred only by further tire troubles for Lindsay, on the final stretch into Parksville.

For me, the first-time Super Randonneur in the group, it was a very special arrival, back at the control.

Vancouver Island Spring Brevet results, 2006

Chapters: «|1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8

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