Most cyclists partaking in Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria on Sunday are completely okay with Hesjedal’s absence.
The pro cyclist is in Spain for the three-week Vuelta a Espana, or Tour of Spain, which runs Aug. 23 to Sept. 14.
It’s a little ironic, though, because this year’s Tour de Victoria, a mass participation ride that’s expanded its route through Saanich, was previously scheduled so Hesjedal could participate.
“People understand Ryder is going to compete in the Vuelta,” said Tour de Victoria director Seamus McGrath, a former pro mountain biker and Olympian.
“This might be a better way to give Ryder a chance to win (than in the Tour de France).”
The West Shore-raised Hesjedal finished an impressive ninth overall at the Giro d’Italia in May, having won that event in 2012. He then skipped the 2014 Tour de France in July to focus on this weekend’s Vuelta start.
When pro cycling teams are scheduling their rosters for the summer’s three Grand Tours of France, Italy and Spain, it’s common to have elite riders such as Hesjedal do either the Giro (May) and Vuelta (August), or the Tour de France (July) rather than all three.
For the region’s Grand Tour fans, having Ryder starting in the Vuelta the day before the Tour de Victoria is almost more exciting.
“With pro cycling, it’s hard to see seven to nine months into the future,” McGrath said. “Hesjedal had such a great ride at the Giro, (Garmin-Sharp) decided to give him a chance to go for it at the Tour de Spain.”
This year’s Tour de Victoria is split into three distance groups.
The big ride is 145 kilometres. It starts in front of the B.C. legislature building and goes east through Saanich, View Royal and Colwood, then all the way to Metchosin before looping back through the Highlands.
It then crosses over to Cordova Bay and follows the water south through Saanich and Oak Bay, back to the legislature.
An abbreviated route of 100 km starts in Langford and follows much of the last 100 km of the big route, while an easier 45 km starts at the Camosun College Interurban campus, heads north around Elk Lake and also crosses over to Cordova Bay where it connects with the other routes and finishes on Belleville Street.
“The routes are focused heavily on riding in Saanich,” McGrath said. “It’s a favourite area for local cyclists and a treat for people from out of town because of the stunning scenery.”
The Tour de Victoria grew from 1,350 participants in its first year in 2011 to 1,800 cyclists last year.
McGrath said he anticipates another 1,800 this year but won’t know the numbers until Sunday of as the final count grows in the waning days before the event.