For Ryder Hesjedal, this year’s Tour de Victoria is truly a family affair.
Although his father, Leonard, has taken part in the last couple of events, his mother, Paige, will ride in the Tour de Victoria on Aug. 17 for the first time this year, Hesjedal noted.
“It’s great to have my parents involved, the more the merrier,” he said. “The whole idea behind the Tour de Victoria is to involve families and the community in an awesome day of cycling.”
This year marks the ninth Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria, which Hesjedal launched as a way to give back to the local cycling community and get more people, especially families, involved in the sport. Participation continues to grow every year, with more than 1,750 participants involved in last year’s event.
“We’re on track at this point to surpass that this year,” said Hesjedal, who credits the move to Saturdays and the fact the event is open to a variety of levels of skill as a reason for the steady growth. “It reflects on the popularity of cycling in general and the success of this event, which is quite encouraging.” Riders can sign up for the five to six-hour challenge of 160 km Factor race, or choose to take part in lesser distances of 140, 100, 60 30 0r 15 kilometres that suit their level of skill.
The popularity is in no small part a result of the legacy Hesjedal has established that extends throughout the Victoria cycling community and far beyond. He earned two world championships as a mountain bike cyclist and was arguably on his way to a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics before a flat tire derailed that effort. After switching gears to road cycling, Hesjedal gained international attention while competing in the Olympics, the Vuelta a Espana and the Strade Bianche in Italy in 2010, where he finished fifth. A devastating crash involving a large group of cyclists in the Tour de France in 2012 short-circuited what was shaping up to be a stellar performance.
Although Hesjedal, 38, stopped competing in 2016, he is still active in the sport and attends a lot of events as part of the promotional work he does for Factor Bikes, a company based in the United Kingdom, and Castelli, a renowned Italian maker of cycling clothes and accessories.
“I’m living life, not racing but lots of fun rides,” said Hesjedal, who grew up in the Highlands, Colwood and Metchosin, and now lives in Victoria.
“It’s great to see the Tour de Victoria grow and become a fixture. It’s not an easy endeavour to put on a safe, enjoyable event of this size. It takes a small army to pull this off,” he explained. “The event wouldn’t be possible without the support of the many volunteers, partners, sponsors and communities involved. It’s coming up on 10 years next year, which is pretty phenomenal.”
In the meantime, Hesjedal is looking forward to seeing as many people as possible at this year’s event. “The Tour de France is on and hopefully that motivates people to come out and do the best they can,” he added. After all, summer is cycling season.”