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The Hills Are Alive 300 Pre-ride Report
Not for the faint of "hills"
by Jim Runkel

4 riders set out to pre-ride the route. Dan did this one as permanent, whereas Craig, Graham and I rode it as VP. Craig and Dan went of at their own pace, leaving Graham and I to do it together.

I have ridden this route 5 times since 2009 (missed 2010), and this was one of those special days weather wise that is rare this early in April. The low recorded temp was 4 C but most of the day was spent between 7C- 14C with a high of 19C. We had ABUNDANT sunshine and very light winds...ideal.

The route is well know to many. It takes the seaside route through Victoria, then through the fields of Central Saanich out to Sidney at ~ 50 km. This is the first control. This year the route does NOT go all the way to the Ferries and crosses the Hwy 17 at the end of MacDonald Park and onto Wain Road then Tatlow rejoining the old route on Chalet. This is a good "change" helping to keep the route closer to the 300K mark.

After winding back down the Peninsula into Brentwood Bay, the route throws the first big challenge to riders...Prospect Lake Road...this a narrow road with bad pavement and lots of undulation. Follow this up with Munns Road where pavement quality starts out bad but gets really good. However, some hills have steady grades of 12- 14%! What goes up thankfully pays you back in spades with essentially ~ 10kms of downhill to Langford and Control # 2 at the Co-op Gas station.

A fun 'new' hill is added after this in the form of the new road that has been constructed to get you onto the on-ramp to HWY # 1. This was created when an "overpass to no where" was built to service Bear Mountain...and then the restate crash of 2008 hit and the proposed road up to Bear Mountain never was completed.

The Malahat is not actually a bad climb, in that you can get a good steady rhythm going. It has some narrow sections, and given the dirt of winter still on the shoulder it can be a bit messy...but overall the ride up to the 352 m summit is excellent.

The usual cautions of going down apply...rumble strips, debris, etc...keep your eyes on the road to avoid any problems. Do not miss the turn to the Mill Bay Ferry at the bottom...and don't DNF and take the ferry home...Cruise along the ocean and look way over the other side to see Patricia can see where you road earlier that morning!

From Mill Bay the route includes a bit of highway unit your turn to Cowichan Bay. If you have time stop at the best coffee shop around..Drum the plaza to your left as you go up the hill from the turn.

The nice fast hill into Cowichan Bay spews you out onto a very busy shopping and eating area, so watch for cars and people as you speed into Cowichan Bay...True Grain Bakery offers many nice treats too.

Pay attention on the next section of road. A winding and sometimes rough road takes you to Duncan. One of many really awesome things about riding with Graham is his local look out for this...when you approach the roundabout on Tzouhalem, look to your right...there you will see a grove of Garry Oaks...and on one of those branches Judge Begbie (know as the "hanging judge") strung up a murderer and hung him...

Skirting around Duncan (Jaynes to Lakes and Norcross Rd are recent additions to this route) takes you to Control # 3. Tims can be busy so look across the road and there are many options for other places to stop and eat.

The road now takes you through the very busy Duncan, and continues UP out of town on the highway. Quieter roads await as you head into Shawnigan Lake. On the section from the lake back to the Malahat you get another notable climb...beware of very bad pavement on all the roads around the lake and beyond. After a long climb up...your reward is a very long down once you rejoin the Malahat. Before your head down, you may want to dress can get cold.

The final out portion of this ride take you to Sooke...but first you need to get over starts with a real kick in the pants as a short steep ~12% hill greet your tired legs. After that bit of fun, the highway into Sooke is busy. There are some narrow sections but gets better. After skirting around Sooke on Otter Point Rd, this rolling hill section brings you to the Kemp Lake Road. Turning down this road a nice long downhill takes you to the West Coast Road (HWY # 14). At the Kemp Lake Music Cafe you will find your 4th Control. Finally the route turns toward home with just over 50 kms to go. Sooke is ~5kms from this last control and offers food (a Subway is open till 10P)

The highway then takes you to Gillespie Road and East Sooke...don't celebrate that your ride is almost over just yet...The combination of roads through this section have some very hard, long hills to throw at you. One of the toughest begins at that turn on Rocky Point...

But alas it comes to an end and the last real climb occurs with only a few kms to go and the lights of Victoria to the right over the harbour, cheering you on...with the route not going down to the lagoon, it follows the highway back into town...Remember to follow the sign to VIEW ROYAL and do not go onto HWY 1. Hwy 1A! and Craigflower bring you back to where all the fun began.
Happy at last the hills are over, you will receive your reward...a 300 PIN!


A special thanks to Graham:
It was fantastic riding this route with you. I certainly appreciated your company, and learned a lot from you. Although not YOUR fastest HAA 300, it was mine! So that is great...Randonneuring is not just about a "fast time" and I think we made the best of a beautiful day taking in sites that included a nearly full moon and a very bright planet, to riding with no extra layers on (shorts and short sleeves) feeling the wind on bare arms and legs for the first time since last year! Your good stories and chit chat helped me get through this hard ride...thanks.

Go to: Route & Info Page
Go to: Pre-ride Photos


April 14, 2014