Cyclist riding through orange flags at the finish line

Tour de l’Ile – Discovering West Island

When I saw that this year’s Tour-de-l’Île offered the opportunity to do the 100km tour of the West Island, I had to sign up. Even with all the cycling I did last year, I haven’t cycled much of West Island yet. Plus, it would be a good challenge to cycle my first 100km in one day.

Large green trees frame street and crosswalk
Tree-lined street in Mount Royal

The morning started out at about 9C light rain. Less than ideal weather, but I just threw on some extra layers and I was ready to go! One advantage of doing the 65-100km Découverte route – no crowds at the starting line. With a quick wave to the volunteers and mascots, the challenge began! After about 30 minutes, I was warm enough not to mind the wind and the rain. The route took us through the Plateau/Mile End, Parc Extension, the city of Mount Royal, and Cartierville to Bois-de-Liesse – one of my favourite destinations. Halfway through the nature park was decision time – would I continue with the 100km West Island Tour or opt for the shorter 65km route? After only 90 minutes of cycling, the choice was easy – stay on the long route.

Yellow sign
Long route or short route?

The weather continued to improve as we cycled through Pierrefonds-Roxboro and past Ile Bizzard, but quickly changed back to rain at Cap-Saint-Jacques. One good thing about cycling in the rain – it’s a great motivator to pick up the pace! Soon I arrived in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue – the halfway point.

Iron railway bridge over a canal
Canal at Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue

As soon as I was headed back to Montreal, the rest of the towns in West Island seemed to fly by – Baie d’Urfé, Beaurepaire, Beaconsfield and Pointe-Claire. Although it was scenic, I didn’t stop to take many pictures. I just wanted to keep going. By the time I arrived at Dorval, I was back in familiar territory – the destination of my first long cycling trip in Montreal. It was also the stop for a well-earned lunch break!

Bicycle in front of white town hall
Town Hall of Baie d’Urfé

At Lasalle, the Découverte route merged with the classic 50km Tour-de-l’Île… and the crowds! I was lucky to snap the photo of Moulin Fleming and a volunteer kindly helped me get my bike off the road and took the photo of me next to the kilometre marker for the classic route (add 50km for the distance I’d cycled by that point).

Windmill Montreal West Island
Moulin Fleming in Lasalle
19km to go!
19km to go!

As fast and crowded this last stretch was, there were a lot of moments that made me smile. It was great to see little kids cycling with their parents, couples riding on tandem bikes, pets riding in baby trailers, and friends/volunteers riding tandem bikes with the visually impaired. A couple of police cars blocking off the road for the tour got into the festivities (while still doing their duty, of course) by blasting motivating music from their car radios. Soon we were through Old Montreal and in the final stretch.

Cyclists riding through red gate Montreal's Chinatown
It’s all uphill from here!

Even on the best days, the hill on Berri between Ontario and Cherrier is daunting on my 21-year-old, heavy mountain bike.  It’s just steep enough and long enough that half the time I wind up walking the last bit. Even though I had cycled about 97km by this point, I was determined to cycle all the way up the hill. On the lowest gear, I moved over to the far right, focused on the road just in front of me (partly to dodge other cyclists), paid attention to my breath and kept pedalling. Soon I was at the top! I had to stop and take a victory picture to text to a friend.

Cyclists walking up hill
Victory at the top of Berri hill

Although the last few kilometres were still uphill, it was an easy cruise across the finish line! My first 100km in one day completed in a little over six hours, breaks included. Considering the weather at the start, relatively little training and not knowing I could do it at all, I was surprised at the time. Now I’m looking forward to the next challenge!

Cyclist riding through orange flags at the finish line
Finish line!
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