On June 22, United Kingdom cyclist Ollie Blackmore will be leaving Sidney, B.C. for a 15-day solo cycle around Vancouver Island, in an attempt to raise $25,000 for the BC Cancer Foundation. He will be riding through Sooke on his final stretch to Victoria, and we can expect to see him flashing through our town on the tail end first weekend in July. He used to visit his grandparents in Victoria. “That’s where I got the taste for the island and fell in love with it,” wrote Blackmore in an email.
Blackmore will take the long way to Sooke on his way to Victoria. First, he will head up the coast to Nanaimo, then up to Port Hardy. From here, he’ll venture into the most Northerly part of the island through to Quatsino and to Coal Harbour. The following days will see him ride through gruelling terrain to get to Tahsis, and then onwards to Comox Lake. He’ll skirt around the edge of Port Alberni heading down to Bamfield. From there, through our lovely quarters of Port Renfrew and Sooke, finishing at the inner harbour in Victoria.
That’s 2,300 km through bear and cougar country. Alone.
“I will be totally unsupported,” wrote Blackmore. “I created this challenge myself. I’ll be riding it alone and camping each night. I will pass through communities etc and will no doubt need to restock for some parts but I’ll be 80 per cent self-sufficient with tools, clothes and food camping wild much of the time.”
He will be armed with a cell phone and GPS tracker with an SOS button, though he hopes he won’t have to use that.
Regarding a concern for encountering wildlife, Blackmore countered fears with education.
“I have to say I have had quite a few nightmares about encountering bears and cougars and in some ways I would love to if it was a safe one! However, I have done a lot of research into what to do, campsite management and so on so I’m pretty well prepared. It adds that extra element to the challenge knowing I could be cycling close to bears or being watched by a cougar. My bike has two eyes cut into the back to warn them off, along with some First Nations inspired illustrations of bears and cougars as a mark of respect.”
For this event he has collected quite an array of equipment to help him both when riding and camping in the wild. This includes things like one of the world’s smallest and lightest tents, the Nemo Gogo Elite, and even a bear bell to (hopefully) scare away the odd bear. However, perhaps the most important piece of equipment is the bike itself. With a bespoke design and built from British manufacturer Donhou bikes, his “gravel raver bike” as it’s known is a bike like no other that sports a custom paint job inspired by Canadian culture and history.
Blackmore will be doing this while carrying over 35 kg of extra weight up hills that reach gradients of nearly 40 per cent. In fact, on many occasions throughout the challenge he will be facing climbs of over 16,000 ft., something that the Tour De France only beats on one of its stages.
Currently, Blackmore is fundraising. “I’m still some way off getting to the $25,000 target in Canada. I have a number of pledges so it’s around $4,000 at the moment,” he wrote. “My motivation is knowing the money will go to local BC Cancer Foundation causes on the Island and help those who really need it with care, support, medical assistance, research and so on.”
For more info about the challenge, visit cyclechallengecanada.com/, or on his Facebook fan page at facebook.com/cyclechallengecanada.
To contact Ollie, please email email@example.com or call +44 (0) 7957 191 757.