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Tour of the Cowichan Valley 200 km Pre-ride Report
Pre-rided date: April 4, 2015
by Mike Croy

With "Eau De" Hell Week approaching it was time to get out and start ensuring the routes that we planned on running are okay for riders on the day of. Brynne and I are running the first ride of the series so it was up to us to get out and check out the "Tour of the Cowichan Valley" 200 km brevet which is one of the oldest and most popular routes on the island still to this day. We ended up having some terrific company on our pre-ride as veteran route coordinator and island historian Stephen Hinde agreed to ride with us as well as my good pal from Tofino Michael Tilitzky also came along. It was great to have Stephen along with us on the ride as this was the first time he and I had ridden together ever and I was treated to an amazingly wonderful history lesson about many different roads, buildings and sights of the Cowichan Valley which I never would have known otherwise.

I think it's safe to say there was a fair bit of trepidation among all the pre-riders as we agreed to take this ride on, maybe even more then the usual first 200 km ride of the year trepidation. Brynne has been recovering from having her ACL repaired back in January so was feeling unsure as to how her body would hold up during the ride. I had been hit by a car recently and have dealing with some lower back issues and as a result and was also fairly unsure to how I would handle the ride, Stephen was concerned about his ability for that length of ride as it had been 3 years since his last successful 200 km brevet and Michael had been complaining about knee issues from our Chili ride. Well as it turns out any of those fears were totally unfounded and everyone in our little party did awesome and everyone's bodies held up really well.

Throughout the ride we had a huge amount of wild weather that really tested our Randonneuring spirits and clothing choices. As the ride started off and we left Chemainus it was pretty cold with my bike computer reading 3.1 degrees but at least it was sunny! As we headed down through the valley along familiar roads towards Mill Bay dark clouds started to roll in and it was seriously looking dubious as it whether we would remain dry and as we suspected just before we arrived at the first control in the Shawnigan Lake village it began to rain and at a fair decdent rate. Carol Hinde was waiting for us in the village with some treats and signed our control cards and ensured we were all doing okay, then just as quickly as the rain started it stopped and it got really sunny again which was fine with us we headed around Shawnigan Lake. At this point Brynne seemed to come to life after a slow start to the day and pulled us all around the lake at a surpassingly fiery clip, it was great to see her riding so strongly again so soon after her recent knee surgery. The road surface around the entirety of the lake is not great and the truck traffic can make this section of the brevet one of my least favorite parts of the ride as it can make for some slightly tense riding but still plenty safe for riders I personally feel, the shoulder can also be pretty debris strewn at times or the shoulder can be non existent altogether. The next section after Shawnigan lake was largely un-mentionable for us except that yet again it became super sunny and riding through the Cowichan Valley was such a treat as there are so many gorgeous farms and pastoral (hilly) roads that are a serious delight to ride along, be sure to moo at the cows as pass. We next arrived in Glenora which is the second control and everyone called for a proper "real food" break stop. We went into the general store and ordered some amazing homemade cream of mushroom soup and sandwiches except for Michael who opted for a bag of salt n vinegar chips and some iced tea due to his wheat allergies, but he did enjoy a gluten free bagel with cream cheese that he had brought along for the ride. I personally would highly recommend the soup at the Glenora general store as it really hit the spot for me personally and left me ready to tackle the next section up towards Lake Cowichan. As we left Glenora though the weather was being temperamental still and was raining one minute then being sunny back and fourth until we turned onto Old Lake Cowichan road, and that is where the weather finally decided it had had enough of teasing us and things got really nasty as it began to hail and hail like I have never seen before or ridden through which was proceeded by a massive rain dump that left the road flooded in spots. I stopped on the side of the road at some point to put on some rain over mitts and tried to catch up with Brynne who was still setting a seriously brisk pace up towards lake Cowichan along with Stephen and Michael. As we rolled along this section the hail and rain eventually ceased and we were able to really dig into the long slog up towards Youbo, for some reason this section always seems to take forever and this day was the same as well and it seemed to take forever to arrive in Lake Cowichan. I had never ridden out to Youbo myself until today so it was a real treat to check out some new roads including a beautifully treed section just before you arrive in Youbo. When we arrived in Youbo we met Carol who yet again signed our control cards and greeted us with enthusiasm and smiles at Daly's auto shop. We all enjoyed some food with Brynne and I especially each enjoying a bag of salty chips and a bottle of coke and we all felt appreciative that at least it was really sunny and there were promises of a strong tailwind on the return to Chemainus. As it turns out we would have no such luck today as the wind flipped on us when we left Daly's and we had a stiff head wind on our way back down the old Cowichan highway then a giant hideous ugly storm cloud rolled over and down a mountain side from our left and totally drenched us. We were also going over the route sheet at this point with a fine tooth comb as we found some mistakes and were making adjustments as we went along in the rain. In the end we all made it back to Chemainus and we all finished together even though some of us (myself including) were flagging but were very happy to arrive back at the Best Western Inn and it felt like we really had a totally varied adventure together but well worth it on our pre-ride.

Overall this is a great route with some moderately challenging sections but well within the capabilities of almost any rider within the generous time limit. Hopefully you will consider coming to Chemainus this Saturday and giving this brevet a shot and earning one of the highly coveted banana pins. It was great to receive mine along with Brynne and Stephen Hinde at the finish of our pre-ride. We plan to have the controls on this ride staffed with volunteers who happily sign your control card and provide some goodies but that being said please be supportive of local businesses that support our rides by going in and purchasing something from them if possible.

Look forward to seeing you on April 11th!!

Safe riding

Mike, Brynne and Steven Croy

Go to: Eau de Hell Week home

April 7, 2015