Over the Hill: The Port Alberni hump will be the Tour de Rock riders’ biggest challenge

Tour de Rock, Port Alberni, cycling

The darkened area on the map

The darkened area on the map

By Erin Haluschak

Former Tour de Rock rider Phil Hochu has not only a new perspective, but a new appreciation of the Port Alberni hump.

Hochu, a corporal with the military police at 19 Wing Comox who participated in the 2010 Tour de Rock ride, recalled one of the most difficult parts of the route across Vancouver Island — heading west.

“We did a lot of preparation for the race; hill nights every Tuesday in Nanaimo, sprint and chase Thursdays in Coombs and long distance Sundays from the Comox Valley to Campbell River and back. There are a lot of difficult spots all over the Island, but one of the hardest was the Port Alberni hump and Hydro Hill (towards Tofino) was short but super steep,” explained Hochu.

“We always went up (the hills) at our own pace, and going as fast as our slowest rider,” he added.

Hochu added in addition to the major challenge of the elevation change heading west, the weather added another twist to the hills.

“Heading from Port Alberni to Ucluelet, we were the first team to be actually taken off the road because the rain and wind became too much to handle. There was so much water everywhere that our brakes actually stopped working,” he noted.

Following a Tour de Rock tradition, the group of riders jumped into Kennedy Lake for a quick swim.

“We were completely soaked (from the rain), so it didn’t matter at that point. We wanted to keep the tradition going.”

Despite the challenge of riding uphill, Hochu said coasting back down upon return to the east side of the Island provided some of the more enjoyable, relaxing moments of the ride.

“We had a fun time coming off the hump. (The riders) would space ourselves coming out of Port Alberni and we coasted down. It was a good time, because we could relax a bit to balance the other times that would be intense.”

Hochu explained Mount Washington in the Comox Valley provided an excellent location for additional hill training, and also prepared him for some of the sights he would end up seeing along the trek.

“There was a bear as we were going up the mountain, and we saw a million deer along the way,” he said, and added despite his knowledge of Island landscape, viewing the topography by bike allowed him to appreciate the scenery from a different perspective.

“Driving the Island by car is nothing compared to doing it by cycling. You’re able to look around and see the wilderness,” he said.

Another set of major hills was coming out of Woss into Sayward, explained Hochu, although he said cycling into the small towns on the north part of the Island provided him with some of his favourite memories.

“When the Tour rolls into the towns, they make you feel like a rock star. At the events, it seems like half the town shows up. There’s such an essence of community in those places,” he added.

Heading south, Hochu admitted the Malahat was not quite as difficult of a challenge as he had expected.

“Of course it’s hard, but we were pretty strong as a team; the training definitely helped,” he said.

Hochu explained the hardest part about the Malahat stretch was not the actual ride itself, but a meet-and-greet event in Mill Bay just prior to the climb.

“I was talking to a woman, just about five minutes before we were supposed to take off. She introduced us to her 16-day-old daughter who was born with cancer. That just gave us all a shot of intensity and inspiration to push on.

“There are always moments of soreness, and everyone complains from time to time, but then you meet a kid or talk to someone — especially at Camp Goodtimes — and you just all put it into perspective,” he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

CRD acquires 58.7-hectare watershed to further protect Greater Victoria drinking water supply

Forested area near Grant Lake is part of the Cowichan Valley Regional District

Amy Morrison was surprised to find a note on her windshield for parking on a public street with no restrictions in south Oak Bay where she works. (Amy Morrison Photo)
Oak Bay resident uses notes to claim street parking

‘You must have noticed, we park in front of OUR HOUSE,’ note writer says

Debra Sheets, a University of Victoria nursing professor, is starting Victoria’s first Memory Cafe program for adults with dementia and their caregivers. (Photo: Debra Sheets)
Memory Cafe Victoria hopes to connect local dementia community

Adults with dementia and their caregivers will participate in weekly Zoom socializing and activities

Several BC Ferries sailings are cancelled Friday due to adverse weather. (Black Press Media File)
UPDATED: All B.C. Ferries sailings cancelled due to wind, weather

Adverse weather causes cancellations across several BC Ferries routes

Metchosin council introduced a bylaw at a special council meeting Wednesday, which, if approved, would limit further subdivision of a 40-acre portion of the Boys and Girls Club property. The proposed bylaw amendment will come to public hearing on March 15. (Black Press Media file photo)
Metchosin council introduces bylaw to limit subdivision of Boys and Girls Club property

Proposed bylaw amendment will come to public hearing on March 15

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives to view the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Death threats mount against Dr. Bonnie Henry, sparking condemnation from Horgan, Dix

Henry has become a staple on televisions in homes across British Columbia since January 2020

Shoppers will be able to get their hands on signed bottles of Ryan Reynolds’ new gin at B.C. liquor stores this summer. (Twitter/Ryan Reynolds)
Ryan Reynold’s Aviation Gin autographed and coming to B.C. stores

This summer 100 bottles will be available to the public for purchase across five B.C. liquor stores

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
‘Stay local’: Dr. Henry shoots down spring break travel for British Columbians

B.C. is reportedly working with other provincial governments to determine March break policies

Site C will go ahead, one year later and $5.3 billion more, the NDP announced Feb 26. (BC Hydro image)
B.C. NDP announces Site C will go ahead with new $16B budget

Reviews recommend more oversight, beefed up foundation stability work

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media File Photo)
POLL: Are you struggling with Greater Victoria’s cost of housing?

While Victoria remains one of the most expensive cities in the country… Continue reading

Bryan Adams with his mom, Jane Adams Clark, at Lions Gate Hospital. (Bryan Adams)
Bryan Adams gives shout out to North Shore hospital

The singer’s mom was in Lions Gate Hospital for care

Wayne Allen's graduation photo from Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo submitted)
Brother charged with murder in Vancouver Island teenager’s Ontario death

Jesse James Allen stands accused in the death of Wayne Allen, a 2020 Chemainus Secondary grad

Most Read