On June 22, 2010, Isaac LeBlanc competed in a cycling series that would change his life.
LeBlanc was racing in a criterium (a cycling race consisting of several laps in a closed circuit) in Quebec. Near the end of the race, another rider tried to get between him and his fellow teammate. The rider knocked LeBlanc down, who hit the ground head first and caused the rider behind him to run into him, wheel first.
He woke up 12 hours later in hospital, suffering from a traumatic brain injury and amnesia.
“It was quite the experience, I want to say it was scary, but that whole accident reset my life and launched me into where I am today with cycling,” said the 26-year-old Victoria resident. “I was able to refocus on life and realize that you can’t take anything for granted. It can end in a second.”
The recovery process took seven months, during which LeBlanc dropped out of school and was told by doctors that he wasn’t able to participate in his original passion, short track speed skating, because it was a high risk sport.
That’s when he decided to join the Royal Canadian Navy and get back on his bike again.
Though he’s only been cycling competitively for the past two years (he joined the Accent Inn/Russ Hays Cycling Team in Victoria this year) his list of accomplishments has grown quickly.
A sprinter specialist, LeBlanc is the current leader of the B.C. Premier Cycling series and has come first in three criterium races this year. Most recently, he came in first place at the Mutual Enumclaw race in Washington State.
“The places I’ve seen in Victoria, the places cycling has taken me are amazing,” said LeBlanc, adding he’s taken on a leadership role and become a mentor for some of his younger teammates. “This year especially in the United States, discovering small towns where some of the stage races are and even around Victoria — the whole peninsula, Jordan River, Metchosin. There’s places I found in Victoria that I never knew existed until I rode my bike around there.”
Now, LeBlanc has set his sights on a new challenge. He is one of hundreds of riders who will be competing in the annual Robert Cameron Law Cycling Series in Victoria this weekend.
The series consists of five races: the Energylab sprint time trial, a five kilometre race along Dallas Road on Friday, the Cheemos Perogies Cycling Classic, a 10 km multiple-circuit race starting at Rocky Point Road on Saturday, and the Russ Hay’s/Accent Inn’s Grand Prix, where riders race on a short fully enclosed one km loop around the B.C. legislature on Sunday.
Also on Sunday is the Tim Hortons Timbits Challenge for children aged three to 10, and the Volkswagen Victoria “Beat the Olympian” relay, a race featuring local celebrities.
“We’re (the race) one of the very first stepping stones for these athletes to build their cycling career. It’s challenging mainly because we draw the highest calibre of top athletes from all over B.C. That makes it a challenge for anyone to be on the start line if you’re a young kid and then next to you is someone who is a professional racer,” said race director Jon Watkins, adding the series draws around 350 competitors and between 4,000 to 5,000 spectators over three days.
“That’s why it’s considered one of the top cycling races in B.C.”
LeBlanc is no stranger to this series, having competed in the Robert Cameron Law for the past two years. Last year, he came in third in the road race and fifth in the criterium.
“It’s one of the harder road races in B.C. because of how hilly it is. It has one of the highest attrition rates in B.C. when it comes to road races,” said LeBlanc, adding he spent four months in Spain in the fall training and trains about 15 hours a week on his bike. “The Cameron Law is a series that I’d really like to do well in.”
If he finishes first in Sunday’s Grand Prix, LeBlanc will be named the B.C. criterium champion.
The Robert Cameron Law Cycling Series takes place June 3 to 5 in Victoria and Metchosin. For more information visit victoriabikerace.com.