Victoria pro cyclist keeps busy with big rides and sneaky coffee stashes

Rob Britton in the rain at the red gates of the Sooke Wilderness Trail turnoff from Niagara Main. (Rob Britton Photo)Rob Britton in the rain at the red gates of the Sooke Wilderness Trail turnoff from Niagara Main. (Rob Britton Photo)
Rob Britton. (Team Rally Photo)Rob Britton. (Team Rally Photo)
Rob Britton drinking coffee during Team Rally 2020 training camp. (Team Rally Photo)Rob Britton drinking coffee during Team Rally 2020 training camp. (Team Rally Photo)
Rob Britton. (Team Rally Photo)Rob Britton. (Team Rally Photo)
Rob Britton. (Team Rally Photo)Rob Britton. (Team Rally Photo)
Rob Britton. (Team Rally Photo)Rob Britton. (Team Rally Photo)
Rob Britton. (Team Rally Photo)Rob Britton. (Team Rally Photo)
Rob Britton with Team Rally training camp in 2019. (Team Rally Photo)Rob Britton with Team Rally training camp in 2019. (Team Rally Photo)

There is a core of dedicated Greater Victoria people who strap bootie coverings over their bike shoes and head out at 6 a.m. to ride in the November rain, guided by headlamps.

Among that core is an even smaller group who followed Rob Britton’s Instagram account on Friday nights to see where Britton placed his latest stash of goodies. Throughout the summer and fall, Canada’s 2019 national time trial champion (and still defending champ) lives in Victoria and this year stashed bags of 11 Speed coffee and gift certificates for Whistle Buoy beer while out on long training rides. He’d also leave a pair of stickers and cyclists could post a selfie with them to enter a contest.

“What was amazing was that the coffee never lasted past 8 a.m., even when sunrise was 8:05 a.m. This is 20 to 30 km out of town,” Britton said. “I would post them Friday night and there would be 30 posts of cyclists next to the stickers by 10 a.m. Saturday.”

Rob Britton on a long-distance bike-packing trip this summer. Britton brought a boost to bike-packing when he used an epic 1,600 km offroad ride from Alberta to Tofino in the summer of 2018, as a warmup for the 2018 UCI World Championships.
(Photo by Rob Britton)

It’s been a colder training season for Britton this winter who was raised in Saskatchewan but has been mostly based in Victoria since the 2000s. Under normal circumstances, Britton has spent the past few holidays with family in Maui where he is able to warm up for January training camp in California.

READ MORE: Oak Bay, Victoria cyclists win Canadian road and time trial championships

Britton renewed his contract for one more year with U.S.-based Team Rally and has long been among the best North American riders who are not European based. He won the 2017 Tour of Utah (a big deal) and was 12th in the 2019 Tour of California in a peloton of elite riders including the 2020 Tour de France champion.

Britton credits his Rally teammates for sacrificing themselves beyond what they’re capable of to drag him up into the lead group. But there are only a few dozen people at any given time who can stay on the wheel of a lead group featuring cyclists who were on the podium of the Tour de France.

Sadly, the Tour of California went on hiatus before COVID-19 was a reality. It was a major draw for UCI World Teams and was a chance for Team Rally cyclists to compete with world’s best as Rally has transitioned to racing more in Europe. “We took the Tour of California pretty serious, it was our home race. I focused on it every year,” Britton said. “I remember the last year [2009] before I raced the Tour of California. I watched from the side of the road, standing in the rain. I felt I was still a long way [from racing it].”

READ ALSO: More than 250 riders participate in Tripleshot CrossFondo

At 36 and a decade into his pro-racing career, Britton has a theory that supports his success despite becoming one of the older athletes in the peloton, and why he still has the capacity to race at an elite world level.

“Physiologically you don’t get a lot slower,” Britton said, adding it’s generally considered that pro-cyclists start to slow at about 32. “But I started late, and I was never physically gifted. To me, it’s tenacity, or grit, or whatever catch-phrase you want to use. It’s a lot of sacrifices [life spent away from family and friends]. And it’s the amount of time you spend racing.”

In other words, Britton believes that due to his late start, not racing at the international level until his mid to late 20s, he has gas to burn.

His exploits at home are even more endearing. He lives in Victoria proper with his fiancee, who is in her second year of pediatric residency at Victoria General Hospital. While she’s at work, Britton is out conquering south Island roads. And the mid-Island roads, and heck, all the roads.

In 2018 Britton helped stoke the “bike packing” trend as he rode 1,600 km from Calgary to Tofino, mostly off-road (and in a hurry), with everything he needed packed on the bike. He essentially went straight from there into the 2018 UCI World Championships in Austria where he escaped the peloton and helped break up the race for Canadian Mike Woods to capture bronze.

On June 20, Britton rode 508 km with longtime pal Taylor Little from Victoria to Port Hardy in one shot. It was a fundraising ride they called the “Up Islander,” with proceeds going to the Wirth Foundation, which supports mental health.

READ MORE: Britton returns for 2013 Robert Cameron Law Cycling Series

This holiday season he made a joke of the “Fiesta 500,” a popular annual challenge to ride 500km between Dec. 24 and Dec. 31, taking a rest day after hitting the 500 km by mid-week. (He still goes for an hour-long ride on a day off).

And then there was the scavenger hunt for free coffee and beer, which was a way to draw locals out onto trails (Britton is a major advocate for gravel and long-distance offroad riding) and motivate them despite the void of organized events.

That includes Britton’s own event, The Last Ride, a gravel ride (“not a race”) that he has organized as a way to promote long-distance off-road rides the past few years.

Next for Britton is the Team Rally January training camp in California. Going into the 2021 race season, Britton is hoping to target another run at the Tour of Utah, though the race calendar is still up in the air during the pandemic.

“Some races are a go, others are still not certain, and many [will wait until] later in the year to give them a better chance of happening,” Britton said.

Beyond this year, Britton has considered the “afterlife” post-pro cycling, but is taking it one season at a time.

“I’m looking forward to the day of sharing gravel and backroad riding with more people, as roads aren’t getting any safer (from a safety point of view, if nothing else).”

reporter@oakbaynews.com


Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter< and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Cycling

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Following a cease work order from the District of Highlands in October, the BC Supreme Court ruled Jan. 20. that bylaws won’t apply to O.K. Industries’ work until its quarrying activity is complete. (Courtesy of District of Highlands)
BC Supreme Court rules Highlands quarry work can continue

District bylaws won’t apply until quarrying activities are complete

A worker covers up racist graffiti along the West Shore Parkway. (Courtesy of Anna Young)
RCMP investigating racist graffiti spotted off West Shore Parkway

Hateful vandalism is rare, says Langford bylaw enforcement

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death of North Saanich likely first in B.C. for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Located at 9750 West Saanich Rd., this North Saanich mansion is on the market for $10.25 million. (Realtor.ca photo)
Located at 9750 West Saanich Rd., this North Saanich mansion is on the market for $8.65 million. (Realtor.ca photo)
The five most expensive homes for sale in Greater Victoria

A roundup of luxury estates currently on the market

Sidney's Beacon Wharf
Pontoon company piqued at prospect of public-private partnership around Sidney wharf

Seagate approached to submit proposeal for public-private partnership

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
Nanaimo transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

More than 100 B.C. fishermen, fleet leaders, First Nations leaders and other salmon stakeholders are holding a virtual conference Jan. 21-22 to discuss a broad-range of issues threatening the commercial salmon fishery. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. commercial salmon fishermen discuss cures for an industry on the brink

Two-day virtual conference will produce key reccomendations for DFO

Black Press file photo
Investigation at remote burned-out Vancouver Island cabin reveals human remains

Identity of victim not released, believed to be the owner of an SUV vehicle found parked nearby

Angela Waldick is the new team photographer for the Nanaimo NightOwls. (Nanaimo NightOwls photo)
Half-blind photographer will help new Island baseball team look picture-perfect

Nanaimo NightOwls say legally blind team photographer is making history

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Most Read