A major North American off-road cycling event is making its first stop in Canada on Vancouver Island during the last weekend in May.
The Cowichan Valley will host up to a thousand professional and amateur riders from May 26 to 28 in one of the seven events that make up the Belgian Waffle Ride.
Jon Watkins of Panache Cycles in Victoria says Cowichan’s trails and terrain are ideal for the grueling event with takes place on roads, gravel, and single paths.
He says the topography, and infrastructure of cycling the trails, such as Maple Mountain, and the Cowichan Valley Regional Trail create an amazing network for outdoor cycling in whole region.
Watkin says about six-hundred cyclists have signed, so far, and registration will be capped at one-thousand.
He says cyclists from Canada, the United States, and other countries planning to take part.
Watkins expects the Belgian Waffle Ride to generate “millions of dollars in terms of economic impact to the local region,” and says the goal is to make it an annual event.
He says an added benefit is that participants who haven’t heard of the region before will want to come back on their own to visit.
As for what kind of rider you need to be to participate, Watkin says the great thing about the Belgian Waffle Ride is that it offers three distances that cater to the different ability levels.
“The shortest distance is about 50 kilometres called the Wanna, and it’s not too difficult and it’s good for maybe more of an enthusiast, you know, a weekend warrior kind of rider.”
He says for a rider with a lot experience, who is on their bike regularly, there is an intermediate distance of about one hundred kilometres which involves gravel and challenging terrain and will require about five or six hours.
Watkin says the full waffle ride is 218 kilometres, and is for someone who is well prepared and experienced.
“Someone who is used to riding those distances, you know, you could be riding your bike for eight hours, in some cases nine or 10 hours, so it’s almost like an ironman type of commitment, you can’t fake it, you definitely have to build up and train.”
The start and finish line will be at the Cowichan Exhibition grounds, which will be the main location for food, an Expo featuring local crafts and global bike brands, a large beer garden, live music, and family activities.
As for the best spot to watch the main event, Watkin says locations where there are hill climbs are good, the start and finish, and the final climb up Mt Prevost where riders will tackle the western slope of the mountain.
For more details, or to register, you can visit the BWR website.