- BC Games
Vision 2013: Taking the high road
Cowichan Cycle’s Robin Dutton thinks Cowichan has the potential to be the next Cumberland when it comes to the community’s biking culture and economic spinoffs.
“Mountain biking can be a huge tourist draw,” said Dutton, who’s organized several local riding events. “It’s incredibly popular and it’s an incredibly healthy sport.”
And events like the recent first annual Vancouver Island Fat Tire Festival have the potential to draw in hundreds of tourists.
“We had people that came from Switzerland and Scotland to ride the trails here,” said Dutton of the three-day guided mountain biking event that saw riders travel to Cowichan on one of the riding days, as well as Cumberland and Nanaimo on the others.
“We had about 25 people come and ride here which isn’t bad for a first-year event.”
The festival was based on a similar riding event hosted in Oregon, which is spread out among two weekends.
“They saw 35 attend in their first year and that was six years ago. Now over the two weekends, they see about 350 people each weekend.”
Dutton’s quite certain there’s a similar calling here.
“Maybe not that many people but there’s obviously a demand here.”
Dutton is also on the organizing team for the Mount Prevost portion of the Vancouver Island Cup Mountain Bike Races Series.
B.C.’s premiere grassroots race series spanning the length of Vancouver Island, the event includes cross country, downhill, Super D and marathon disciplines from numerous local mountain bike clubs.
It took place in Cowichan May 20.
“Mount Prevost is internationally known for its riding terrain,” said Dutton, noting national sensation Steve Smith rode the mountain several times.
Smith won his first World Cup downhill in Norway in 2012 and more recently took the top spot in the Mont Sainte Anne World Cup in Quebec. Dutton also noted local sensation Mark Wallace, has used Prevost as his main training location.
The sport’s also gaining popularity among newcomers.
“There’s obviously an initial investment,” said Dutton, explaining the cost depends on how far you go. “But it’s to get you started. It’s not like golf where it’s going to cost you every time you go out.”
What often tempts folks into the activity, especially in Cowichan, is the beautiful scenery and landscapes offered.
“Mountain biking is a fantastic way to explore,” said Dutton.
And folks are finding out.
“If you head to Mt. Tzhouhalem on a Sunday, you’re going to be hard pressed to find a parking spot.”