It’s an uphill battle on the bike for Quentin Pollock of Victoria near Fuller Lake Arena. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Cowichan Challenge makes a triumphant return

Many people missed the popular triathlon based at Fuller Lake

A change is better than a rest for the Cowichan Challenge Triathlon.

The popular event hosted by the CeeVacs Road Runners returned Sunday after a one-year hiatus and on a different weekend than the norm in an increasingly-crowded triathlon schedule.

It all worked out well, though, with 115 athletes signing up in the sprint and standard divisions as well as relay teams and a new aquabike category.

Fuller Lake Park served as event headquarters, with the swim in Fuller Lake followed by a bike course around the back roads toward Duncan and a picturesque run along nearby trails.

It was a perfect morning for the race, warm but not too hot. The later date in July after the Canada Day long weekend when the race was previously held often ran into the start of the Valley’s very hot summer conditions.

“We wanted to try to get it less heat so we could have an official wetsuit swim,” pointed out race director Robin Taylor.

CeeVacs also desired the earlier date, particularly this year, with the B.C. Summer Games taking place in the Cowichan Valley later in July which would have stretched volunteers thin.

“This is a huge volunteer heavy event,” Taylor conceded.

As usual, CeeVacs attended in full force to fill all the necessary duties.

“The CeeVacs Road Runners team is so enthusiastic and incredible volunteers for the community,” Taylor praised.

It’s tough now to find a date that doesn’t conflict with another event on the Island or Lower Mainland.

“We have to coordinate it with all the triathlons in the circuit,” Taylor reasoned.

“We’re just bringing it back on. The numbers will hopefully climb for next year.”

Participants in each of the categories enjoyed a competitive race within their own capabilities.

Brandon Kirk, 33, of Vancouver, who grew up in Lake Cowichan, was first across the finish line in the sprint division in 1:12:12. He was followed by Ladysmith Chemainus Chronicle reporter/editor Mike Gregory of Ladysmith in 1:16:13.

Quentin Pollock of Victoria (1:17:03), Daniel Hobden of Duncan (1:20:07) and Brendan Robertson from Vancouver (1:22:09) rounded out the top five of the 48 sprint entries.

It’s the first triathlon Kirk has done after a break since the World Championships in Mexico in 2016.

“It’s a beautiful course,” he said of the Cowichan Challenge. “I just heard about it this year.

“I’m really impressed with this event. It’s just gorgeous. The lake was a beautiful swim.”

Kirk is attempting to get back into triathlons at a high level, with an eye toward qualifying for the 2019 World Championships in Switzerland in 2019.

The bike, he said, is his strong point. “My swim’s really come along this year and my running has got a lot to be desired.”

Kirk only started doing triathlons in recent years.

“I played hockey and other team sports,” he explained. “I just tried triathlon in 2013. I thought it was going to be my last one and I got hooked.”

In the standard race, Joel Lutz of Nanaimo was the first of 41 entrants to finish in 2:11:30, followed closely by Nathan Murray of Victoria in 2:13:32. Richard Light of Duncan was third in 2:24:40, Jim Nelson from Victoria fourth in 2:25:01 and Shawnigan Lake’s Lisa Helmer fifth in 2:25:26.

Rattle & Roll from Cobble Hill was the relay team winner over three others in 2:31:47.

Shannon Lebeuf from Cobble Hill received the glory as the first aquabike champ in 1:53:46, beating out two other challengers.

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Susanna Cross leads a group of cyclists into Westholme during the Cowichan Challenge Triathlon. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Franz Meier, left, of Mill Bay and Carla Baillie are side-by-side on the bike heading through Westholme. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Brandon Kirk of Vancouver, formerly of Lake Cowichan, is on his way to being No. 1 at the start of the Cowichan Challenge run. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Daniel Hobden of Duncan puts his head down and starts his run toward a fourth-place finish in the sprint division of the Cowichan Challenge. (Photo by Don Bodger)

The Chronicle’s Mike Gregory of Ladysmith heads for the finish line. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Chelsea Langelo of Duncan on the run. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Victoria’s Cat Manders makes the turn at the road into Fuller Lake Arena before heading onto the trial portion of the Cowichan Challenge run. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Leslie Wilkin of Nanaimo hits the Cowichan Challenge finish line. (Photo by Don Bodger)

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