When you look around the Victoria area it is clear that hills are not hard to find. They are literally everywhere. That said, not all hills are created equal, so when you head out to do some quality hill training you might wonder which are the best and why. To find the answer we turned to our experienced and avid cycling friend Bill Chimko for some direction. With hill training in mind, Bill came up with this list for us and why each climb is beneficial or significant to your training.
For your consideration, and in no particular order as each has its own unique profile:
#1 Sayward Road
At a mere 500 metres in length, this is the shortest in my list but holds a sharp kick with 300 of those metres averaging over an 8% scoop. The draw with this climb is as a sprint climb - an all-out attacking anaerobic (and neuromuscular) effort against your buds (or Strava!) to be the first to crest to the Pat Bay highway crossing. This climb is renowned in our region, it and presents itself as a key challenge on many a group ride. The climb begins at the intersection of Fowler Rd and Hunt Road and banks left to a serious heart rate heading up to the Pat Bay highway.
#2 Veteran’s Memorial Parkway
Another shorter climb with a length of 500m, this climb presents a slightly more steady challenge with a fairly constant tedious grade of 7.5%. This climb suits a solid supra-VO2Max effort - not quite a sprint, but it will get you well into anaerobic zones. The climb starts shortly after crossing the Veterans’ and Sooke Rd intersection, and the misery stops as you crest to Cairndale Rd. Fear not, for you are then rewarded with a pleasant descent towards Latoria Rd - which also provides a nice opportunity for reverse hill repeats as your coach sips coffee at home on their sundeck.
#3 Mt. Matheson
At 3.2 km of 7% grade, this climb is solidly in the pain cave; not only do its continuous ramps remain unrelenting through to the summit, the road surface will have you dreaming of the smooth tarmac you left behind along the sweet Victoria waterfront. However, once you summit you can lord over all who chose to meander along the waterways and drink in the glory of your achievement (don’t forget to post it to Strava, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…). This is a great threshold and VO2 workout and, of course, includes a solid workout just to arrive at either via Rocky Point Road or Sooke Road and Gillespie. The climb starts at the intersection of Mt. Matheson Road and Gillespie, right across from the Sooke Basin.
#4 Neild Road
Famous among local fans of pain, this climb feels very much like the Observatory climb with Mt. Doug stacked on top. A solid 7.3% grade average, the last 400 metres of this 2.5km infernal road of hate spike to over 11%. Any coach would say this is a prime hill-repeat stretch. Settle into a strong threshold rhythm on this one with high cadence, and finish with a strong attack at the crest. Do be cautious on the return descent however, as the steep and tight decreasing-radius corners can definitely catch you by surprise.
#5 Goldstream Heights
Recently noted by Canadian Cycling’s list of Canada’s top ten climbs, this is in my view the hardest climb in the Victoria area. It has it all: a long endurance/threshold pre-climb along that little hill known as the Malahat to take the snap out of your legs, a steady 4.5% grade climb along a wide, quiet and well maintained road you may likely be the only occupant of, and an exhilarating descent which lulls you into a false sense of accomplishment. Oh! There’s also a particularly evil finishing Spike of Doom climb which averages over 13% for 700 metres, which I might add also includes pops in excess of 18%. But did I say that was the end? Remember that exhilarating descent you did before you got here? That’s now a less-than-exhilarating climb back out, just to get back to the place you began this misery. All in, the Goldstream Heights section is listed as 7.8km, but that’s only one-way and doesn’t include the Malahat. You can search for this segment in Strava, both pleasantly self-titled or more ominously listed as "This is Gonna Hurt." Follow the Malahat route up to the South Shawnigan Lake turnoff, take a left on Stebbings and continue to Goldstream Heights Rd. After the descent, be sure not to miss the Mortal Kombat finishing climb to your left - the opportunity to taste your pulse is not one to be missed!
Thanks for those suggestions Bill, they all sound so "fun." But hey, when you want to improve at hill climbing, knowing where to go to get he most "bang for your buck" is a key part of training and improving.
Guest witer Bill Chimko:
A dedicated sprint cyclist and racing for the past few years in the Victoria Cycling League (VCL) circuit, Bill is known primarily for staying off the front on his Venge for way too long and for a rather lengthy Strava leaderboard record. All this didn’t come easily though - after a number of years away from the bike Bill was once 235lbs until his wife Tanya Duce picked up a new road bike - the fire was lit and Bill impulse-bought a carbon road bike and lost 65lbs within 6 months - he then discovered racing and a very special red & black Specialized Venge, and the rest is history. As an OCD-level numbers guy, he is all about the metrics and uses numerous tools to identify areas of improvement with religious use of his Garmin, power meter, Wahoo Kickr, WKO4 and Training Peaks software, and of course Strava. Although he swims like a soccer ball and only runs a max 5k per year, his focus and dedication to performance on the bike more than make up for his reluctance to do triathlons, and he has helped numerous cyclists with his OCD-grade power analysis and metrics management, and is an alumni of the Lindsey Millar Coaching program. His most memorable events on the bike include climbing Mt. Baker from Abbotsford (and back), reaching the podium in the Robert Cameron Law sprint series (after staying way too long off the front), numerous VCL races with breakout attacks, starring in a Russ Hays commercial with his wife Tanya Duce and racing the bike leg as a family relay team for the 2015 Sri Chinmoy Triathlon at Elk Lake.