Port McNeill teacher Ron Mollinga powers up Highway 19 while training for the Ryder Hesjedal Tour de Victoria ride this weekend.

Port McNeill teacher Ron Mollinga powers up Highway 19 while training for the Ryder Hesjedal Tour de Victoria ride this weekend.

Rookie cracks top 12 in Tour de Victoria

Ron Mollinga places 12th overall out of 302 finishers in his first group cycling event.

VICTORIA—Ron Mollinga is a neophyte at competitive road cycling, but you wouldn’t know it from his showing in Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria event Saturday.

Competing in his first group cycling event, Mollinga, 51, placed 12th overall out of 302 finishers in the 100-kilometre ride, one of three distances available to riders on the day.

“Wow, what a blast,” said Mollinga, an elementary school teacher in Port McNeill. “It was such an adrenaline rush. I’ve never experienced so many people side by side.”

Mollinga may seem old for a first-time rider. But until last year, he was not able to take long training rides on the highway, to compete or even to ride with large groups of cyclists, due to his risk of epileptic seizure.

But, since brain surgery in January, 2012, to remove a pair of vascular malformations, he has been seizure free. He can now commonly be seen alongside Highway 19, riding between the communities of Port McNeill, Port Hardy and Port Alice on his training rides.

“The (Tour de Victoria) route had up-and-down hills that make the Port Alice route look like a Sunday stroll,” Mollinga joked after returning home Sunday. “I can’t believe I came in 12th position overall. I’m tickled pink, as I even had a couple of slow-ups due to mechanical gearing problems.”

Mollinga finished the 100-km course in three hours, 37 minutes and 49 seconds. The first cyclist across the line was Andreas Hestler, in 3:08:55.

The Tour de Victoria included three ride distances: 50km, 100km and 140km.