Hitting mileages that match their ages, and then some
Sisters of No Mercy ride miles beyond their ages
If you’re out rolling the roads in the southern end of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, you may find a different-looking paceline of women passing you. Their jerseys read Sisters of No Mercy, and no one is younger than 58. The Sisters are based in Victoria, although members live as far away as Phoenix, Ariz. Their ages range from 58 to 74 with the average age being about 68. And they love long hauls.
The club’s origins go back to 2013 when a few members were training for Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria. Part of the route takes on the tough ascent of Munn Road in the Highlands, so the women made sure to concentrate their efforts there on Friday training rides. After the Tour de Victoria, they started looking for other hills to crest. Back in 2013, they weren’t exactly neophytes. One member had already conquered the prestigious Paris-brest-paris event and others had ridden the three-day Grandmothers for Africa charity ride on Vancouver Island.
As part of the club’s history, Munn Road is an integral ride for the Sisters. In fact, the group’s first name was Les Madames de Munn. However, it was when one of the women sang Leonard Cohen’s “Sisters of Mercy” on a ride and another quipped that the gang was “more like the Sisters of No Mercy” that the name was born. Soon after, they ordered personalized jerseys that cemented their status as a club.
Although the club has a casual structure with no governing body, Marshia Roberge and Margaret Kavanagh are the organizers by default. As Kavanagh puts it: “Not all cycling clubs need to have policy and procedure manuals.” But it’s not exactly casual. “Not anyone can become a Sister,” Kavanagh says. “The rite of passage is being able keep up with the group pace and to complete Munn Road or some equivalent.” A 67-km loop with the Munn Road climb at its heart is where a Sister can test her mettle.
Although the club consists of dedicated roadies, recently a few of the Sisters have taken up mountain biking.
On Canada Day 2017, to celebrate the nation’s 150th birthday, the Sisters rode 150-km in their special mapleleaf jerseys with “Sesquicentennial, eh?” printed on the back. The feat was recognized on the local TV news. Sometimes the gang will hold a birthday ride for a club member with a distance based on her age: for example, a 70-km jaunt commemorating 70 years.
The Sisters roll three days a week, meeting up with another group, the Canadian Cross Country Tour Society, on Wednesdays. Rides into the Highlands to face Munn Road or into the Saanich Peninsula or along the West Shore (a.k.a. the Three Lakes Route) alternate with the City Ride, which follows Victoria’s waterfront. The latter is what Roberge recommends for a visitor to B.C.’S capital. Because no group ride is complete without a coffee stop, the Sisters frequent places such as the Roost, the Nest and the Broken Paddle.
Kavanagh says, “This is truly a remarkable sisterhood to which I am privileged to belong. We all love to ride our bikes, but equally we like being together as a group. How much better can it get?”