By Jacob Rubuliak, Junior Canadian ITT Champion & member of the Giant Canada Team

COVID-19 has been less than ideal for most people in 2020. Travel, racing and normal life has been put on pause for the last few months with no set date on its return. Initially, this hit me very hard mentally and I was extremely disappointed about the postponement of the season. I had to change my mindset, the goals I had set for the season and I needed to think of new activities to do.

I decided to do things I normally wouldn’t do during the race season in order to find new sources of motivation. I did a couple of bike packing trips; I really enjoyed riding with no real objective, just leaving home with some food, gear and finding new locations I normally wouldn’t explore. I also changed up my training plan, adding a few days of Strava segment hunting. This allowed me to still get a hard ride in, while incorporating a fun aspect and motivating me in a different way. Next up was long-distance riding. I started out with a couple of 200km rides, and then moved up to 300km. These were rides I had not planned for in advance, where I just got out on the bike and rode. If I was feeling good, I would just ride for as long as I felt. If I was having an off day, I took it easier. I have been really enjoying a more flexible training schedule and I’m grateful my coach Richard Wooles (Peak and Valley Coaching) adjusted it to the situation.

My biggest and hardest day so far has been a 500km ride from Kelowna to Victoria, with over 5000m of elevation gain, 170km of gravel and cold and rainy conditions for nearly half the ride. It initially started when I was jokingly asked by my friend Riley Pickrell if I wanted to ride him home to Victoria. With no hesitation I went for it, putting myself in an uncomfortable situation that I knew could make me a better rider. That ride was one of my most fun rides I’ve ever done and I will have stories to tell for the rest of my life. Riding BC backroads in the middle of the night with no car sightings for 5+ hours and sending the road bike down gravel descents at 55-60km/h with only a small cone of light to guide us were crazy experiences. Note: if a moose starts chasing you on a forestry road at 2am, sprint! You only have to beat the slowest rider…unfortunately for me, I was sprinting against Riley.

Next up was the Everest. This challenge had been on my mind for a few weeks and as it became more and more popular during the pandemic, the more my motivation increased. When the weather conditions became somewhat ideal, I set the date and the location: Knox Mountain in Kelowna, BC. I not only want to complete the Everest, but I also wanted to give my best shot at the Canadian Record. I knew it would be one of my hardest days in the saddle. That being said, I prepared as best as I could to succeed; a container of pre-cut CLIF Bars, 15+ bottles, Coke, Red Bull and gels were all prepared the day before. My bike was race ready, with spares ready to go at the side of the road.  When I started my computer at 7am that morning, I was determined to give it my all, and was not stressed whether or not I got the record.

I was up on my preplanned pace from the start, but I knew it would be a challenge to hold it and took the risk. I stuck to my nutrition plan as long as I could (⅓ CLIF Bar per lap + liquid) and only slipped on my pace slightly in the last 10-12 laps. The last 3-5 laps were almost max, it was the deepest I have ever gone on a solo effort. In the end, I completed the challenge in 9 hours 33 minutes, lowering the Canadian record by nearly one hour. I am really proud of what I accomplished that day, which would not have been possible without my parents, brothers, Giant Bicycles Canada, Cyclepath Kelowna, my cheer and support crew on Knox that day.

I would like to encourage all riders, from WorldTour pros to complete beginners, to challenge yourselves during this time. This represents a new opportunity to grow as a rider and as a person. Find new limits and create valuable memories. Don’t worry about race results, now is the time to ride for the fun of it – so just get out there and ride!