There’s nothing quite like racing on hero dirt in your hometown, just ask XTERRA legend Mike Vine.
“I was riding these XTERRA course trails in Victoria since they were first cut in 1991, so to race here where I did the majority of my training for so many years is an opportunity I didn't want to miss,” said the British Columbia native.
This Sunday, more than 25 years after his first ride through Mount Work Park and the scenic wilderness trails of the Partridge Hills, he’ll line up against some of the best elites in the world at XTERRA Victoria – the sixth stop on the Pan America Tour.
It will mark Vine’s first race since XTERRA Canmore in 2013, a race in which he posted the fastest bike and run splits to win it for the second year in a row. Asked if he’ll be able to pick up where he left off, Vine said “I wouldn't say I'm overly prepared for this, but staying fit is so drilled into my way of life that I'm fairly sure I can handle it.”
If history is any indication, Vine will be fine.
He started racing XTERRA in 1998, won the first-ever XTERRA Canada Championship race in Y2K, then became one of the most formidable racers in the sport with 14-straight top three finishes on the pro circuit from 2000-2001. He won the 2001 XTERRA Richmond and Keystone titles, the 2002 Saipan Crown, the 2005 and 2006 Mountain Championships, Brazil in ‘07, the USA Championship in ‘08, XTERRA Malaysia in ’09, and the XTERRA Canada title once again in 2012. He’s also finished in the top four at XTERRA Worlds three times.
In 2010, however, after a decade of chasing the sport around the world, Vine turned his focus to a “real job” in the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) and refrigeration trade. It’s a physically demanding gig, and in pursuit of his craft he moved to Alberta’s central region in Edmonton.
“I was paying my dues working in the Great White North,” he explained. “I did a lot of driving to the small northern towns which was miserable, as was working on the rooftops in Arctic winter temps.”
Last year, dues having been paid, Vine made his way back to his stomping grounds in British Columbia which reignited his passion for racing.
“I’m much happier now that I'm back closer to home and have rugged mountains and world class trails at my doorstep now,” he said.
As for his favorite memory from all those years of racing XTERRA, Vine said “It’s hard to pick a favorite memory after doing it for so many years. Looking back now, after having worked a regular job for the past seven years, it makes me appreciate the racing experiences all the more. It really was exciting to meet a lot of great people and visit faraway places and shoot for the elusive goal of peak potential. It’s been a long time since I did an XTERRA, I should've been back sooner!”
When asked what were his favorite events, Vine mentioned just about all of them.
"My favorite events are hard to pick since there were so many great ones but racing in the mountains was always special and my forte. Even though I lived at sea level, the higher the elevation the better I would perform. Visiting Keystone, Colorado was the topper, and Tahoe too, but then you had the tropical races with the added challenge of the heat which really added to the allure of this sport having grown up in mild Victoria. Going to places like Brazil, Malaysia, and Saipan were all some of the best...and racing in the U.S. too with places like Bama, Richmond, and of course Maui. It was all good!”
As for this weekend, it's just about getting back in the mix.
“I wanted to have a better build up and come out ready to rip the bag... but had some setbacks with a couple crashes on the mountain bike which hindered my swimming. and ongoing Achilles tendon issues which keep me from running too much (I blame it on the work boots). But, I'm riding reasonably well now and have done a couple tune-up mountain bike races so I know I'll do okay. I just couldn't miss this race...it's Victoria on my home turf!”