There is a core of dedicated Greater Victoria people who strap bootie coverings over their bike shoes and head out at 6 a.m. to ride in the November rain, guided by headlamps.
Among that core is an even smaller group who followed Rob Britton’s Instagram account on Friday nights to see where Britton placed his latest stash of goodies. Throughout the summer and fall, Canada’s 2019 national time trial champion (and still defending champ) lives in Victoria and this year stashed bags of 11 Speed coffee and gift certificates for Whistle Buoy beer while out on long training rides. He’d also leave a pair of stickers and cyclists could post a selfie with them to enter a contest.
“What was amazing was that the coffee never lasted past 8 a.m., even when sunrise was 8:05 a.m. This is 20 to 30 km out of town,” Britton said. “I would post them Friday night and there would be 30 posts of cyclists next to the stickers by 10 a.m. Saturday.”
|Rob Britton on a long-distance bike-packing trip this summer. Britton brought a boost to bike-packing when he used an epic 1,600 km offroad ride from Alberta to Tofino in the summer of 2018, as a warmup for the 2018 UCI World Championships.
(Photo by Rob Britton)
It’s been a colder training season for Britton this winter who was raised in Saskatchewan but has been mostly based in Victoria since the 2000s. Under normal circumstances, Britton has spent the past few holidays with family in Maui where he is able to warm up for January training camp in California.
Britton renewed his contract for one more year with U.S.-based Team Rally and has long been among the best North American riders who are not European based. He won the 2017 Tour of Utah (a big deal) and was 12th in the 2019 Tour of California in a peloton of elite riders including the 2020 Tour de France champion.
At 36 and a decade into his pro-racing career, Britton has a theory that supports his success despite becoming one of the older athletes in the peloton, and why he still has the capacity to race at an elite world level.
“Physiologically you don’t get a lot slower,” Britton said, adding it’s generally considered that pro-cyclists start to slow at about 32. “But I started late, and I was never physically gifted. To me, it’s tenacity, or grit, or whatever catch-phrase you want to use. It’s a lot of sacrifices [life spent away from family and friends]. And it’s the amount of time you spend racing.”
In other words, Britton believes that due to his late start, not racing at the international level until his mid to late 20s, he has gas to burn.
His exploits at home are even more endearing. He lives in Victoria proper with his fiancee, who is in her second year of pediatric residency at Victoria General Hospital. While she’s at work, Britton is out conquering south Island roads. And the mid-Island roads, and heck, all the roads.
In 2018 Britton helped stoke the “bike packing” trend as he rode 1,600 km from Calgary to Tofino, mostly off-road (and in a hurry), with everything he needed packed on the bike. He essentially went straight from there into the 2018 UCI World Championships in Austria where he escaped the peloton and helped break up the race for Canadian Mike Woods to capture bronze.
On June 20, Britton rode 508 km with longtime pal Taylor Little from Victoria to Port Hardy in one shot. It was a fundraising ride they called the “Up Islander,” with proceeds going to the Wirth Foundation, which supports mental health.
This holiday season he made a joke of the “Fiesta 500,” a popular annual challenge to ride 500km between Dec. 24 and Dec. 31, taking a rest day after hitting the 500 km by mid-week.
Next for Britton is the Team Rally January training camp in California. Going into the 2021 race season, Britton is hoping to target another run at the Tour of Utah, though the race calendar is still up in the air during the pandemic.
Beyond this year, Britton has considered the “afterlife” post-pro cycling, but is taking it one season at a time.
“I’m looking forward to the day of sharing gravel and backroad riding with more people, as roads aren’t getting any safer (from a safety point of view, if nothing else).”
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