Cars were few and far between as Clay Webb began his latest attempt at the annual Festive 500.
It was about 8 p.m. on Boxing Day when he headed out onto the University of Victoria’s Ring Road.
During the night campus security thought it was interesting enough to drive by and ask what lap he was on, though Webb wasn’t counting.
It took Webb 21 hours and nine minutes to do about 263 laps around the 1.9-kilometre Ring Road loop. That brought him to 500.5 km, according to his Strava GPS data, meeting his sixth straight Festive 500 challenge.
Started by Rapha in 2010, the cycling apparel company has made the Festive 500 into an annual affair. Cyclists who ride 500 kilometres between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day can send in their data in exchange for Festive 500 roundel (woven badge).
Webb, 29, is a curriculum co-ordinator for Power to Be, and a semipro cyclist for Broad Street Cycling.
He did the Festive 500 at Ring Road on the same Focus Cayo bike he used to ride up Saanich’s Observatory Hill 68 times in the summer of 2015 (that was for a different challenge known as “Everesting,” which took 19 hours and ascended 8,848 metres in elevation).
“As [my rides grew] bigger and bigger, I asked people for ideas, and one buddy said, ‘why don’t you just lap Ring Road for 500 km?,’ which I dismissed as a terrible idea,” Webb said.
But the idea stuck with him.
Webb grew to like the fact he could do it all in one ride, and that it’s close to his Victoria home, which has its advantages in case of poor weather or other situations.
As it turned out, the weather for the ride was not great. But the support was. Webb has grown a following amongst his teammates from the Broad Street race team, his friends and family. A few people biked about 80 km with Webb, ‘pulling’ him along in his own peloton, one that grew to as many as 10 people throughout the day.
About 50 people in all showed up to feed him all types of sandwiches, cookies, fresh coffee and more.
“People came in waves, I’d often have four or five people riding with me. I was blown away.”
A few people braved the night cold, including his pal Dan Naninga.
“At 11 p.m. a buddy showed up and brewed fresh coffee on a camp stove but when he left, I was alone. I thought it was going to be like that all night when I saw a light.”
The light came from Naninga’s handlebars. He rode with Webb from 2 to 4:15 a.m.
Webb’s uncle showed up at 5 a.m. and he was never alone after that.
Around town several riders completed the challenge through the popular cycling and running app Strava, which co-hosts the Rapha Festive 500.
Those who meet the 500-km criteria qualify for a woven badge (roundel) to commemorate their achievement.
Webb framed his first roundel from 2010 and will send in his Ring Road data for yet another. What makes the ride popular is seeing the community that also takes part.
Local pros Cody Canning and Rob Britton are among the 79,000 registered world wide. Of course, Canning and Britton, a former Saanichite, were going to hit 500 km anyways, as they post daily 150-km training rides to Strava.
But there are others meeting the challenge.
Victoria’s Stephen Lund, whose creative riding made national headlines for turning city streets into “Strava doodles,” or drawings, was among those to take part in the Festive 500. His rides include the outline of a decorated Christmas tree that used 98 km of streets starting with the tree stand in Oak Bay, winding back and forth all the way to Broadmead, where he used West Saanich Road and Chatterton Way to draw a star on top. Oak Bay’s Ken Bonner, a 74-year-old local cycling legend, was posting rides more than seven hours long as he closed in on reaching the Festive 500.
Webb completed his ride at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 27. He was a little sore the next day, but mostly from the after effects he felt from being cold and wet.
“My pinky finger is numb today from being on the bar so long,” Webb said.
It’s the first time Webb did the Festive 500 in one place, but he’s done most of it in one go before. He once rode to Tofino, 280 km one-way. In 2014, he did a massive loop to Cowichan and in 2015 he rode to Cumberland and back (about 440 km).