Cyclists wind their way through a field during the 2017 Tripleshot Cross Fondo in Saanich. This year’s Cross Fondo is Sunday, Oct. 14, starting and finishing at VIATEC Park. (Submitted)

Secret bike race has no map, uses private property in Saanich, Highlands

Cross Fondo rides through horse paddocks, farmer fields

For the third straight year the Tripleshot Cross Fondo will traverse private property to connect trails and parks in Saanich and the Highlands.

The property owners are all on board, helping to connect the 25-kilometre or 40km routes. (The shorter route was billed as 20km but ended up stretching out to 25km.)

Sunday morning’s cyclocross fondo is not a race, but a participation ride, though many people will be riding it hard. And they’ll be doing so without knowing the route in advance, as it is kept hush hush. Riders will race, or ride, flag to flag on a route they learn as they ride. You might as well leave the bike computer off for this ride, because it’s not be posted to Strava (well, if you do, it would be considered bad form).

Riders use mountain bikes or cyclocross bikes though it leans mostly towards cyclocross.

“It is uncharted territory and we do have an element of secrecy,” said organizer Lister Farrar from Tripleshot, who wouldn’t release the number of cyclists. “We post signs along the route and there is always a flag visible up ahead. You have to pay attention. It’s surprising people will go through the wrong way even with five visible flags.”

The fondo starts and ends at VIATEC Park in West Saanich. One third of the route is on private land. The bigger ride winds its way westward to the Highlands.

READ MORE: Cross Fondo pedals into West Shore

It’s popular among cyclists because you can ride somewhere that you can’t ride the rest of the year, added Farrar.

“It’s like a garden tour, a once a year event where you go into back to someone’s yard, so it is important you don’t go back to their yard at other times.”

Sunday’s fondo is a little different than the traditional form of cyclocross which dates back a century when, after the summer cycling season, European road cyclists would switch-in knobby tires on their road bikes and slide around in the autumn mud. Today cyclocross races are generally a 2.5km loop done multiple times. They also use additional features that force the rider off their bike, such as stairs, or barriers, and grassy inclines that become slick with mud.

This fondo is a hybrid of cyclocross style on one long 25km and 40km route. It includes single track mountain bike trails that are mild, such as green or blue rating (green the easiest, blue intermediate, and black being for advanced only), gravel roads, farm fields, cow paddocks, horse paddocks, stretches of pea gravel and ditches that might have water.

“It’s a little rougher than normal cyclocross but nothing that is as technical as mountain biking,” Farrar said.

The fondo is growing in popularity and is capped in the low hundreds to limit the damage caused by the bikes. In the two previous years Tripleshot volunteers who organize the fondo have offered to go back to rake or remediate any of the land that was used during the ride. No one has taken them up on the offer.

Money raised from the event actually goes to the Southern Vancouver Island Nature Trails Society that lobbies to connect the network of trails in Greater Victoria.

The Tripleshot Cross Fondo benefits in large part by a volunteer base from Tripleshot’s successful youth program and their parents.


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reporter@saanichnews.com

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