On 9 June, after six months of training, six teams of cyclists wearing Rio Tinto colours will get on their bikes to take part in the 1,000-km event Grand défi Pierre Lavoie, a spectacular cycling marathon bringing together more than 1,000 participants who ride in relay from Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean to Montreal.
A partner since the movement’s inception 14 years ago, Rio Tinto supports several key events of the Grand défi Pierre Lavoie (GDPL), including the 1,000,000-km event, which is held in conjunction with 1,000-km event and the Grande marche. The medals awarded to all participants are also courtesy of Rio Tinto. They are made of local aluminium, exclusively in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean.
The teams representing Rio Tinto include Les nerfs d’alu, Les mollets d’alu, and Les cuisses d’alu, which are made up of employees from Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, in addition to those from the Montreal office and the Sorel-Tracy metallurgical complex. Also of note is the MAMU Indigenous team, which is supported by Rio Tinto and made up of cyclists from the Innu communities of Uashat, Maliotenam and Mashteuiatsh, including Chief Gilbert Dominic.
Ambassadors for a cause bigger than themselves
For Julie Angers, Customer Service and Market Development Coordinator – Vaudreuil Works, Port and Railway Facilities, and captain of Les nerfs d’alu, taking part in the GDPL is something that she has been looking forward to since she joined Rio Tinto in 2011. She said, “When I started exercising at the age of 35, I realised that I had endurance. I wanted to set an example for my children of what it means to be active. And then I started to enjoy it. The GDPL is a personal challenge similar to others I’ve done in the past. I grew to like them, and I still have a few on my bucket list.”
Antoine Bergeron, CPA auditor and Value Creation Advisor, P155, and captain of Les mollets d’alu, jumped in with both feet without really knowing just how much this unique adventure would bring him. “When I joined Rio Tinto in 2020, a colleague encouraged me to enter the draw,” Bergeron said. “Today, I am amazed by what our team spirit helped us accomplish and by the progress I made during training. Another highlight for me is seeing the influence we can have with the young people we got to meet during our event.”
Martin Gamache, Power and Hydrology Manager, Technical Services, Atlantic Operations, and captain of Les cuisses d’alu, describes himself as an “active guy” who bikes, runs, and swims. For him, participating in the GDPL is above all a team effort. “It’s an opportunity to outdo ourselves and have a common goal whose impact is greater than us. We meet a lot of people, especially in schools, and we talk about the mission of the GDPL to our friends and families. Our children see the social impact of the event. We can see that we are planting the seeds of something important in terms of physical activity.”
The teams started their training on stationary bikes at the beginning of the year and picked up the pace as soon as the weather and road conditions allowed for training outdoors. They then all took to the region’s roads, where the riding experience is completely different.
“The idea is to work on our legs as often as possible,” said Gamache. “We ride stationary bikes every two days and as soon as we can, we go outside to learn how to ride in a peloton and get to know our teammates.”
Bergeron noted, “Doing the GDPL means keeping up with training and being able to deal with the unexpected along the way. We do lots of advance preparation, planning meetings, fundraising activities, and activities with youth.”
A great challenge for everyone
Angers, who has taken part in La Boucle many times before each edition of the event, said, “Being at the starting line together, ready to ride with thousands of people—it gives you a special feeling that is hard to describe. You feel like an ambassador for something bigger than yourself.”
The 1,000-km event Grand défi Pierre Lavoie is so much more than a bike race, and it begins on 9 June. All proceeds from the event go to the Fondation du Grand défi Pierre Lavoie to support medical research on orphan diseases and fund projects aimed at encouraging healthy lifestyles among young people. If you want to get involved, you can support the cyclists by donating on the Grand défi website or you can register for the free 1,000,000-km event and get moving too!