By Vincent Nadon
I started cycling seriously in Belgium in 2014 when I began my PhD program. I slowly increased my stamina with the help of the Robocyclo cycling club, which introduced me to cycling culture in 2015. By the spring of 2016, I entered the Cyclosportif Tour of Flanders (about 230 km), the first big race that I had to prepare for both mentally and physically. It was in those long-distance rides that I discovered more about myself. I even had epiphanies. Then I went on a week-long bike trip with Robocyclo in the Bourg D'Oisans region in France, near the popular Alpe D'Huez and the majestic Col du Galibier mountain pass.
When I returned to Quebec in September 2016, I enrolled in the University of Montreal's cycling club to keep riding. I started ultra-cycling in the summer of 2017. After following the adventures of some of my friends, and having talked with Canadian endurance athlete, Jessica Bélisle, I fell in love with ultra-cycling. After seeing the beautiful course of a race called the Ultra Challenge, I was motivated to register and train for it. I took up a training regimen that involved shorter, more intense rides during the week, and a long-distance ride at the end of the week. There were lots of stretching exercises as well. The Ultra Challenge was a loop of 1,060 km over three days with an elevation of 10,000 metres. The race is a qualifier for major endurance races such as the Race Across America (RAAM).
While in Belgium, I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. I sincerely believe that the scientific advances to fight the disease increase the quality of life of people with it. With effective medication, I can control my symptoms, which in turn raises my morale and my athletic performance (it’s hard to perform with constant stomach pain). Only after starting medication did I realize how much pain I had tolerated.
But medication does not cure Crohn's disease, at least for now, and Crohn’s is still a chronic disease. The disease causes various health complications: abdominal pain, blood in the stool, malabsorption of nutrients, and increased risk of colorectal cancer. The medication I take requires consistent monitoring through monthly blood tests. Some people with Crohn’s disease require surgery to remove part of the bowel if inflammation cannot be controlled. We must invest more in research to find a real remedy that ideally offers few, if any, side effects.
I decided to cross Canada by bike to symbolize perseverance in life despite illness. My goal is to travel from Victoria to Montreal in 31 days while collecting donations for Crohn's and Colitis Canada. The route is about 5,600 km so I would like to raise $5,000 – a little less than $1/km. If you can help, please donate on my personal fundraising page – it’s the easiest way to support my efforts. Every dollar goes directly to Crohn's and Colitis Canada.
Equipment and planning
For my trip, I will have Apidura bikepacking bags for the saddle (14L), the frame (4.5L), and the hanger in the front (9L). I’ll also have a backpack (18L) with a 2L HydraPak. I will have the possibility to transport up to 4L of water in total, and there’s plenty of storage space in the bags for food and equipment. I equipped the bike with tire-free wheels to reduce the risk of punctures, cut down on resistance, and roll a little faster. I will also bring a small amount of camping equipment: sleeping bag, bivouac, mattress, knife, rope, matches, etc. I will have spare spokes and tubes and some tools to help me out if repairs are needed.
Before mapping out my journey, I consulted a friend at ÉTS who has already made several major bicycle trips, including a cross-Canada ride, for advice on equipment and the route to take. I then searched Google Maps and Google Earth to find places I wanted to visit such as Drumheller (Dinosaur Museum and Dinosaur Provincial Park), Lake Louise, and Banff. I have divided the distance over the days I’ll be cycling, and I’m now planning my night stops with WarmShowers.org for as many nights as possible. On days without a WarmShowers location, I will sleep in the sleeping bag with bivouac.
Day 1 (June 27): Victoria Airport - Renfrew Harbor 145 km (1700 m elevation gain)
Day 2 (June 28): Port Renfrew - Nanaimo 162 km (2700 m)
Day 3 (June 29): Nanaimo / West Vancouver - Agassiz 194 km (2000 m)
Day 4 (June 30): Agassiz - Princeton 180 km (2900 m)
Day 5 (July 1): Princeton - Greenwood 200 km (2100 m)
Day 6 (July 2): Greenwood - Castlegar 136 km (1800 m)
Day 7 (July 3): Castlegar - Creston 170 km (2200 m)
Day 8 (July 4): Creston - Lardeau 154 km (2076 m)
Day 9 (July 5): Lardeau - Revelstoke 166 km (1837 m)
Day 10 (July 6): Revelstoke - Donald 173 km (3079 m)
Day 11 (July 7): Donald- Banff 181 km (2400 m)
Day 12 (July 8): Banff Rest Day
Day 13 (July 9): Banff - Airdrie 150 km (870 m)
Day 14 (July 10): Airdrie - Drumheller 105 km (293 m)
Day 15 (July 11): Drumheller - Kindersley 282 km (296 m)
Day 16 (July 12): Kindersley - Saskatoon 200 km (163 m)
Day 17 (July 13): Saskatoon Rest Day
Day 18 (July 14): Saskatoon - Yorkton 313 km (317 m)
Day 19 (July 15): Yorkton - Minnedosa 235 km (444 m)
Day 20 (July 16): Minnedosa - Winnipeg 220 km (138 m)
Day 21 (July 17): Winnipeg Rest Day
Day 22 (July 18): Winnipeg - Kenora 220 km (497 m)
Day 23 (July 19): Kenora - Ignace 250 km (1330 m)
Day 24 (July 20): Ignace - Thunder Bay 250 km (996 m)
Day 25 (July 21): Thunder Bay Rest Day
Day 26 (July 22): Thunder Bay - Longlac 300 km (1440 m)
Day 27 (July 23): Longlac - Kapuskasing 307 km (660 m)
Day 28 (July 24): Kapuskasing - Virginiatown / Larder Lake 309 km (1107 m)
Day 29 (July 25): Virginiatown / Larder Lake - Val D'Or 155 km (611 m)
Day 30 (July 26): Val D'Or - Mont Laurier 290 km (1900 m)
Day 31 (July 27): Mont Laurier - Montreal 262 km (1146 m)
You can follow my adventure on my Facebook page.
This article originally appeared in Sur deux roues.
UPDATE: Vincent completed his cross-Canada ride, raising over $7,000 in the process.
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