Wheely good times downtown this weekend

Inner Harbour hopping with beers and bikes this weekend as Victoria International Cycling Festival wraps up

Rider Mitch Chubey wows the 2011 crowd during the inaugural JumpShip competition. JumpShip has become a premier spectator event of the Victoria International Cycling Festival

From beers to bikes the Inner Harbour is a hopping party as the Victoria International Cycling Festival wraps up.

At the middle of it all is the 210-foot JumpShip barge on the water in front of the Empress Hotel. Free ride competitors pull off extreme tricks on the floating loop of big-air jumps.

“Most everything about the festival will be bigger and better, including JumpShip,” said the course designer and pro cyclist Jordie Lunn.

This year’s JumpShip, which starts  at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, has  been expanded to include the causeway and Wharf Street.

Lunn, a former Victoria resident, was in the earth-moving machine himself this week to build the dirt-packed features on the JumpShip barge, which was built a little ways up the Gorge Waterway. The barge was floated into place on Wednesday night.

“Riders will gain enough speed along Wharf Street to climb a four-foot ramp, then drop 18 feet onto the causeway,” spokesperson Graham Powell said. “The causeway route will lend enough speed for riders to scale the height of two shipping containers and connect with the barge.”

JumpShip is one of several draws that will make the Inner Harbour a high-traffic area beginning this afternoon, with two beer gardens and the RollerJam Dual Trial on Belleville Street, which is also where the 270-kilometre GranFondo ends on Saturday, and Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria ends on Sunday.

The Hotel Grand Pacific Harbour Sprints (head-to-head road bike sprints), go tonight. The 750-metre Design District Criterium starts at Herald and Store streets on Saturday.

Three-time Ironman world champion Peter Reid will ride among the pack of celebrity athletes expected to pace Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria on Sunday. Olympians Andreas Hestler and Simon Whitfield, and X-Terra (extreme triathlon) world champion Melanie McQuaid are also joining the mass participation 140-km ride.

But anyone can take the lead, should they wish to do so, said organizer Seamus McGrath.

“It’s designed to be an open event for cyclists of all calibres. If someone wants to take off on a breakaway, so be it.”

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