Tour de Cowichan 200K…

9 04 2012

The route...

The two biggest challenges in successfully completing this ride were:

  1. getting out of bed at 4:30am on a freezing cold morning with no Rando Buddy waiting to shame me for sleeping in.
  2. the last 50kms where my lack of training put the hurt on me big time.

When my alarm went off Saturday morning I wasted 10 valuable minutes pondering the existential dilema of riding the 200K or staying in a warm bed. I had prepared just about everything the night before including 2 cups of tea and breakfast. So Getting out the door wouldn’t be too hard. The forecast was for warm sunny weather which was helpful. The route was through a lovely area of Vancouver Island which got me stoked. Even better the start was at a bakery and the finish was at a pub. How could I say no?!

Thank you Weather Gods!

Even with my preparation the night before I got out of the driveway 15mins later than I had wanted to. That meant driving very fast the whole way to the start at Chemainus while hoping the police had some crack dealers to bust at 5am on a Saturday rather than set up speed traps. I got to Chemainus with about 15-20mins to spare before the ride started. I rode leisurely over to the start only to find it closed. Hmmm…the ride started at The Dancing Bean last year and I guess I hadn’t read the ride page closely enough to pick up the change…=( I slowly rode around town looking for signs of life and men in tights! It didn’t take too long to spot the start at the Utopia Bakery and some familiar faces.

Jeff & Steve getting registered...

My first problem showed up around this time when I powered up my GPS and tried to load the route. My lame-ass Garmin tells me it can’t navigate the route because there are more than 50 way points. For the love of God! My phone can hold the entire contents of the Great Library of Alexandria and my GPS can’t sort out a 200K route? I had forgotten how pathetic the Garmin operating system was since last year’s rando season. Oh well – I loaded up the track of the route that I had put on the GPS and used that instead. A track is basically a trail of dots showing where someone had gone before. Not as nice as turn by turn directions, but it was better than a punch in the head!

Martin addresses the riders at the start...

The 20 odd riders rolled out onto the course in very chilly temps. I was starting to doubt my clothing choices as it was a lot colder than I had expected, but I didn’t want to stop and put on a jacket because I’d lose the Rando Train! As it turned out my wool layers were ideal for the cold to warm weather we ended up with. I was trying to stay with a slower group that wouldn’t kill me on the ride. I tend to go out too fast and then suffer at the end. I settled into a larger group that was going my speed on the flats, but they really slowed on the climbs. I had to decide if I wanted to push on to a faster group that climbed at my pace, but that would probably go faster than I would like on the flats or stay where I was. I didn’t want to ride alone so I needed someone to stick with. I ended up leaving the larger group and finding a smaller group up the road.

Jeff - photo: Melissa

That group got whittled down to Jeff and I. He was going a fast pace that I could manage in his draft, but I started to feel guilty after a while. I wasn’t sure how long I could wheel suck before I went from Rando Buddy to Rando Jerk. Eventually Tobin rode up to us and we were three. This 50km stretch  to the  first control had a lot of climbing in it. [You can click on the route map at the top and get an interactive ride map.] I was climbing pretty well and managed to hang on on the flats. I did take a turn at the front to assuage my wheel sucker’s guilt, but it was tough enough that I knew that wouldn’t be happening a lot on this ride! We eventually caught up to John [who as it turns out is a blog reader] and he motored along with the three of us in tow to the first control near Lake Cowichan at around 50kms. It hadn’t warmed up much to this point and we started to doubt the forecast for sunny skies.

Photo: John M. - See I wasn't kidding about eating a lot at the controls...

I was keen to keep my stops as short as possible on this ride and the first control set the right tone for me:

  1. stop
  2. put some food in your mouth
  3. pee
  4. get control card signed & put away
  5. eat some more
  6. adjust clothing
  7. adjust bike [leather tension on my saddle]
  8. eat some more
  9. get rolling
I’m guessing we were in and out of the control in 7mins or so. One thing that helped is I was wearing fairly flexible clothing that I could vent while riding to adjust for changes in temperatures, wind and effort levels. I also had lots of food on the bike I could eat while riding. I made a conscious effort to eat a small amount consistently throughout the event. I also had something to drink every time I thought of it and every time anyone else pulled out a bottle I grabbed mine for good measure. So when I rolled into a control I wasn’t trying to recover from the damage I had just inflicted on myself. I was simply adding some extra calories to the tank and taking care of tasks I couldn’t do on the bike.

My Rando Rig taking a rare break...

I was feeling good leaving the first control and I knew if I could get the next 50kms done easily than I would have conquered a good chunk of the climbing and I could roll the last half of the ride with less power in the legs. We did great getting over the lumpy bits on the way back from Lake Cowichan towards Duncan. I was starting to think I might not get crushed like I usually do on these rides due to my non-existant training regime. I got on the front and took a pull on the Trans-Canada Hwy section of the second leg trying to contribute something to the group. As we turned off the highway and headed to the Kinesol Trestle I was getting pretty low energy. I don’t think I was bonking simply because I had been eating pretty solidly on the ride so far. I suspect my body was just reaching the end of my typical long workout timeframe at 4-5hrs and was starting to wonder what the heck was going on!

John walking back from the Kinesol Trestle...

Happily control #2 at the Kinesol Trestle [~116kms]  was well stocked with provisions. I repeated my routine from control #1, but took an extra 5-6 mins to sit down and rest. I didn’t waste this time though and I kept a constant flow of food entering my mouth without gorging. Jeff and Tobin had gone up the road during the climb to the trestle with John and I following a bit behind. We regrouped at the control, but didn’t ride together too much more as our speeds kept diverging. I totally appreciated the company thus far and the ability to draft some stronger riders. It was way nicer than the solo death march I had envisaged earlier in the week! So thanks guys!

Tobin, Lazy and John at the Secret Control @~ 130kms...

Not shockingly [to me] my energy levels kept dropping from this point onwards. I can’t really be upset or surprised when I don’t put in a reasonable amount of preparation for these rides. John and I stuck together on the ride to control #3. He was stronger on a lot of the sections and went ahead to wait for me at key spots. It was still nice to have some company even if I didn’t have the speed to stay with him all the time or to do much chatting when we were together. There were a couple fun fast downhills on this section that put a grin on my face. The 3rd control was at 151kms so this was a short leg. I was happy about that as I needed the morale support, food and to feel like the finish was at had.

Control #3 @ ~151kms...

The last 50kms to the finish was really hard for me. I eventually lost contact with John completely and got passed by Gary Baker. The KMs ticked down very slowly – very slowly! I just kept the pedals turning and kept eating. So far in the ride I hadn’t got off the bike between controls and I wanted to stick with that strategy so I ate a sandwich while coasting down a couple long gradual hills. I did eventually have to stop for a brief pee break, but my general plan to keep moving and keep control stops short did contribute to a low overall time for me. I know when I am suffering looking at the odometer is a bad thing as it seems to be broken it’s counting so slowly! The fact the finish was at a pub meant I could look forward to a pint and a Rando Burger. That helped keep me pedaling along. Eventually I got to a pub and I thought it was “The Pub”, but I didn’t see the control sign or any bikes. I took a moment to consult the route sheet and I knew my brain wasn’t at 100% so I didn’t rush the cognitive process! While my neurons fired very slowly Martin Williams [friendly neighbourhood brevet organizer] came out to let me know I was done.

Photo: Melissa

Happy Happy! I got my route card signed and was handed a finisher’s pin. I immediately grabbed a seat and started looking at the menu!


  • Total distance = 202kms
  • Total ride time = 9:30
  • Avg speed = 22.9kph
  • Riding time = 8:49
  • Time off the bike = 41mins

Tobin at the finish...

The Good

  • got out of bed at 4:30am!…=-)
  • great weather
  • great route
  • enthusiastic friendly club volunteers at the controls
  • ate and drank well
  • good folks to ride with
  • no bonus KMs
  • finished middle of the pack
  • no flats or mechanicals
  • wore the right clothes for weather conditions
  • bike was comfy
  • 650B tires were ideal for all the rough pavement and gravel patches

Photo: John M. - Jeff, Tobin, Lazy and John @ the Secret Control....

The Bad

  • shifting needed tweaking
  • saddle needed tightening
  • GPS route didn’t work
  • lots of rough pavement needed my full attention [especially when drafting]
  • low energy on the last part of the ride
  • didn’t take many photos

The Ugly

  • nothing! – sweet…=-)

Photo: John M. - ready to roll out of Control #3...

What I should do different next brevet?

  • check out the bike a little more carefully [shifting, saddle, ect…]
  • turn on GPS at home and load route to ensure it will navigate
  • pack food that’s easy to eat on the bike [open some packages in advance]
  • train hard – hahahaha…yeah right!

Photo: John M. - Let's get this party started!

Related Links:

Route sheet and finisher's pin...



6 responses

9 04 2012

those fenders are so sweet. they totally class up your bike.

10 04 2012

Great write up Vik. We did some of this ride a few years back as part of the south Island tour…

The stage from Lake Cowichan to Port Renfrew is really nice riding (if you don’t mind clear cuts).


10 04 2012

@Diane – Thanks…they are pretty spiffy…=-)

@Randy – yes I’ve ridden that road on my motorcycle between Lake Cowichan and Port Renfrew. It’s a fun ride. Thanks for the link to your journal. I’ll take a look!

11 04 2012
Bill Russell

I ride an All-Road as well. What PSI have you settled on for those lovely Hetres?

P.S. During PBP I rode with a fellow riding a cream colored 650b bike that claimed to know you. Name? Escapes me entirely! That first day is hazy at best.

11 04 2012

@Bill – I set the Hetres at ~55psi in the rear and ~50psi in the front. I don’t take great care with this task so my actual pressure could be +/-5psi easily.

I’m 175lbs + clothing and gear.

The guy you rode with may have been Guido on his Kogswell. Nice fellow!

Do you have any pictures of your All Road online?

12 04 2012

Enjoyed that writeup Vik! That’s one of the better spring cycling events around SW BC.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: