A more glorious day for Ryder Hesjedal Tour de Victoria powered by GoodLife Fitness could not have been chosen, blue skies, warm but not hot, a breathtakingly beautiful course. Powered not only by GoodLife Fitness and by Ryder’s spectacular Giro D’italia win, the 1600 cyclists that filled the capital this weekend to challenge themselves, and in their own way, honor Victoria cyclist Ryder Hesjedal’s historic win earlier this month.
Many cyclists were wearing the blue and white team Garmin colours and there was much talk about the new wave of young cyclists that Ryder’s win inspired. At the Tour de Victoria, most of the participants were not young, but they were enthusiastic. I met a couple who were both 72 and had completed the 50k. They were both ecstatic with what they had accomplished and were having a great time. They had only started cycling 8 months ago. I also met a woman who was cycling with her 65yr old father. They were pretty fast, and completed the 100km distance together. She kept telling me how proud she was of her Dad. It was clear to me he was just as proud of her accomplishment.
I led the 100k, which meant I started everyone off and got passed by the fast cyclists within the first 200m. I am a destination cyclist. I start my ride with a coffee shop in mind. My strategy for completing the distance emerged as the course unfolded. The first 25km was an endless stretch of hills. Survival was the best strategy there. Even on the most grueling hills I found the energy to yell “yeh, it’s a hill” and get everybody in the pack having a little giggle. Socializing seemed as important in the ride as challenging myself to go the distance. After watching Ryder each day of the Giro I had learned the power of a pack, and so midway through the ride I found a group slightly faster than me. I rationalized that I could ride a little slower and do just as much work, or I could push myself to keep with the pack and have stretches where I would cruise.
I rode with a man named Mark who had England sprawled across his jersey in huge letters. When I asked him what his goal time was he said to get home in time for the football game (of course he meant soccer). I assured him that was a little ambitious but maybe we could pull one another along. Several other cyclists joined us and suddenly we were taking turns leading, encouraging one another up the hills and when someone doubted that they could keep up the pace we all slowed a wee bit until they were recharged.
All along the course people who were stuck in their driveways all morning were cheering us on. Half way up the hardest hill a little girl in pink pajamas and pink slippers told us that the hill wasn’t big and to go faster. One woman passed out jelly beans, and another family set up their own snack station for the cyclists. At the finish line Mark and I, complete strangers three hours before, gave each other a big hug. For the next half hour I chatted with several people in our “peloton” many of whom thanked me for my joyful “it’s a hill.” I expect my experience was just a wee bit different than the grueling tour Ryder just finished. I suspect the common ground everyone felt at some point that day, and Ryder would want to share with us, is “joy”. The joy of movement, the joy and fun in friends and community, and the joy and freedom of riding a bike.