Jasper cyclist braves bathroom camp-outs, flash flood in ‘brutal’ endurance bike race

For Geneviève Arcand, tackling a 6,800 kilometre, ultra-endurance bike race across America hasn’t exactly been a pleasure cruise.

Her knees are swollen, she’s developed saddle sores and has been subsisting on a diet of convenience store snacks.

Arcand is competing in the fifth-annual Trans Am Bike Race, a self-supported race infamous for its ability to make even the toughest competitors call it quits long before reaching the finish line.

“On a self-supported bike race, you’re not allowed to ask for help,” Arcand said in an interview with CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active.

“I can say, it’s brutal. It’s something. It’s an experience.”

The Trans Am route stretches from the Pacific Coast in Astoria, Ore., to the Atlantic Coast in Yorktown, Vir., passing through 10 states.

Arcand, who lives in Jasper, joined the race on June 2, departing from Oregon and winding her way east through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado.

‘Middle of the pack’ 

The race is not staged. From the moment riders leave the starting line, the clock on their race time never stops.

There are no food drops, no muster points. Accepting help from fellow riders, family, friends or strangers is strictly prohibited.

As of Wednesday, Arcand had reached Kansas, but many of her fellow competitors had not.

The race began with 114 racers. Only 68 remained on the road.

Arcand has been cycling her way across the continental United States, in her first professional race. (Genviève Arcand/Facebook)

Only about half the riders finish each year and most of the competitors are sponsored athletes.

Arcand is a different kind of competitor. It’s her first official race of any kind.

When she travelled 230 kilometres on day one of the race, it was a personal record.

“I’m really humbled to be here and compete, even if I’m in the middle of the pack,” Arcand said. 

‘I wasn’t even able to see the roads’

Trans Am riders have to be strategic, Arcand said, but she’s struggled with some of the logistics.

She’s become lost on the winding country roads. Her tire has gone flat more times than she can count. Good food and a comfortable place to sleep have been hard to come by.

In Wyoming, when it was too cold to hunker down in her bivy sack, Arcand slept in a Yellowstone National Park bathroom.

When an emergency alert pinged her cellphone as she hit Kansas, she made the mistake of ignoring it.

She ended up stranded in a summer monsoon.

“I received an alert on my cell phone yesterday about a flash flood and you know, like in Jasper, we got a lot of bad storms or really bad weather, so I thought, ‘I can go through this,’ but it was awful.

“I wasn’t even able to see the roads and the fields — it was just water.”

You never know what’s going to happen.– Geneviève Arcand

Despite the rough patches, Arcand has no regrets about signing on for the gruelling race.

“I wanted to push my physical and mental limits, and take on a really big challenge,” Arcand said.

For her, Trans Am is equal parts personal challenge and adventure. There is no preparing for the unexpected.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” she said.

“If you register for a 10-K run or a 10-K ride, you know that at the end, 10-K is 10-K, but when you register for 6,000 kilometres or so, you’re like, ‘Well, I guess I’ll see what happens.’

“I love it. It’s a blast.”



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Sherwood Park

Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area.[7] It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary,[8] generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road).[9] Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.[9]

Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016,[6] Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.

History

Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.
Geography

The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton.[8] The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.

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