Roland Rabien

Cyclist a cog in Island’s race scene

Island cycling's race season starts Sunday with two mountain, cross country races

Name a bike race on the Island this year and Saanich’s Roland Rabien will probably be in it.

The 34-year-old amateur cyclist plans to enter 40 to 50 events in the upcoming race season, mostly on the Island but also on the mainland and in Washington.

The Victoria Cycling League season kicks off on Sunday (March 11) with the Caleb Pike Road race. Coincidentally, mountain biking’s Island Cup Series also kicks off on Sunday, with the Pro City Racing cross-country race at Hartland Park.

Rabien will race the latter, though the majority of his season will be in the Victoria Cycling League.

It’s not uncommon for cyclists such as Rabien, who started with mountain biking, to compete in a variety of disciplines: road, cyclo cross, cross-country mountain biking, time trial and track (velodrome).

There are few, however, who are as heavily involved with organizing the Island’s race scene.

“I started lending a hand where I could and it slowly grew to the state it’s at now,” Rabien said.

A computer programmer by day, Rabien is lending his time to nearly a dozen races in 2012.

His work ranges from director of the Pro City Racing Cyclocross Race at Western Speedway (part of the Cross on the Rock series) on Nov. 20, to helping out with four Pro City-held races in the Victoria Cycling League’s 2012 race schedule (the Observatory Hill Climb, as well as three in Metchosin). Add Jumpship, the Tour de Victoria, the Sidney Time Trials and ongoing support for local cycling websites to the list of things that keep Rabien spinning.

“Honestly, there was no conscious decision to start volunteering. I just couldn’t say no.”

He’s the same way with his training regimen. Rabien throws himself into as many local races as possible, which meant 50 in total last year.

“The plan was to race myself fit. It worked, so I’ll do it again.”

A lot of cyclists who race alongside Rabien might not notice a significant, but subtle variation to his bike. There’s no left brake lever. Instead, both the front and back brakes run through the right lever. Likewise, both gear levers are rigged on the right side of his handlebars.

Rabien first took up mountain biking at UVic as a 19-year-old. It was his first serious foray into sports since he was 14, when a roofing accident nearly took his left arm.

He can close his left fist, but that’s about it.

“I have limited functional grip. I can’t put too much weight on it, but it’s not that big a deal for road racing,” Rabien said.

Clearly it’s not.

In 2010 Rabien rode to silver at the para-cycling nationals in Quebec. And in 2011 he was first in the Bastion Square Grand Prix’s Category 4.

Where he does have to compensate “a little more” is the ups and downs of cross country and the constant dismounts of cyclo-cross – though he races in the expert class of the Island mountain biking series and almost has enough points to move up to for Cat. 3 road racing.

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