Despite the rain that fell during the 2022 Grand défi Pierre Lavoie, spirits remained high among the cyclists from the six Rio Tinto teams. On 9 June, they rode together with a common goal: To support medical research on orphan diseases and fund projects aimed at encouraging healthy lifestyles among young people. It was memorable experience! A few days after the event, we interviewed three employees from each of the teams officially representing the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean facilities.
This was the first time that Hélène Boivin (Alma Works), a member of team Les cuisses d’alu, participated in the event. “What I will remember most are the stretches we rode in the rain, at night, with our lights on. It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe. It’s very special.” Her colleagues—Julie Angers (Vaudreuil Works, IPSF), captain of team Les nerfs d’alu, and
Antoine Bergeron (P155), captain of team Les mollets d’alu—agreed and added, “Everyone there is in a good mood. There’s no competition.”
Even though the weather was at times anything but mild, the cyclists say that they were not worried at all. “We were ready for it,” Julie said. “We had done some trial rides in the rain and tested our clothes.” Inspired by her experience, Julie was quick to step forward and volunteer for the next event.
“It’s like a parallel universe where, for four days, COVID doesn’t exist,” she said. “People are happy. The mood is festive, and you see the kind of teamwork and camaraderie that you don’t often find in everyday life.”
The Grand défi Pierre Lavoie is a spectacular cycling marathon bringing together more than 1,000 participants who ride in relay from Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean to Montreal. But beyond that, the adventure is all about people. For Hélène, Julie, and Antoine, it was an opportunity to meaningfully connect with others in a positive environment, far from stress and performance expectations.
“We are all here for the same reason. We feel relaxed and happy,” said Antoine. “We meet new people and enjoy the moment […].”
The cyclists also spoke about how well organised the Grand défi Pierre Lavoie was. “The event runs like clockwork,” said Hélène. Antoine then added, “The people who are there want it to be a success and feel motivated. They know what to do and when to do it. All you have to do is let yourself be guided by the organisers. You feel confident.”
The cyclists felt tired the day after this extraordinary experience, but once they were back with their loved ones, they soon forgot about the lack of sleep and started sharing many stories. Antoine said, “I was euphoric. My head was full of memories. I forgot that my legs were killing me, and I couldn’t wait to tell them all about the night run, the RV, and what we ate (because we ate like horses!).”
The mutual support behind the challenge
Everyone agrees that the Grand défi Pierre Lavoie, both a sporting and human feat, was defined by mutual support. On many occasions, the three cyclists saw that the “we”s outweighed the “I”s.
“Everyone does their bit to make sure things go well,” said Julie. “We take care of our teammates, doing things as simple as picking up lunches for the others. It’s a team effort.”
Participants highlighted how some experienced cyclists (veterans, they said) played the role of team coaches. They were incredibly selfless and there to support and encourage the participants.
Julie and Antoine noted that, “They were there to help those who were injured or had no strength left to pedal. They would tell us: ‘You’re going to finish this; you’re going to get into the stadium!”
The cyclists will always remember the moment when they entered the Olympic stadium. “It’s a mix of emotions,” said Hélène. “We have a lump in our throats and tears in our eyes. We prepare for six months, and our reward is the Grand défi. We feel proud of what we have achieved.”
Julie added, “We feel that we have helped a cause that’s greater than ourselves, that we have made a difference, and that we ourselves have grown through this experience. It’s a very powerful feeling.”
Hélène, Antoine, and Julie were quick to say that they will do it all over again if they have the chance. They all described the Grand défi Pierre Lavoie as the experience of a lifetime and encourage all those who would like to participate to go for it.
Related article: The Grand Défi Pierre Lavoie to Push Your Limits as a Team