La Grande Traversée
Students from École Desrochers joined other francophone students from across the country as well as two Olympians for the third segment of La Grande Traversée (LGT), a cross-country bicycle relay that passed through Jasper, May 16.
The national relay started in Victoria B.C. on May 7 and will end in Bathurst, N.B., on June 15.
The intent of the relay is to connect francophone students across Canada and to celebrate the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.
Each segment is five days long with three days of riding and two days of transportation. Each day students ride approximately 100 kilometres, with breaks every 20-25 km. They are often escorted by police as well as a support team.
To participate in the relay, students must join an LGT team at their school and train for 18 weeks prior to the race. Students must also pass a fitness test to participate.
“Schools register at this time of year and then starting in September students get a training plan emailed weekly to them that we design,” said Laurent Brisebois, founder and general manager of the event.
With the help of a team captain, which is usually a teacher from the school, students begin with running and other basic exercises such as weight lifting for the first three months, before moving onto cycling.
Once they are fit enough to go, school teams from across the country can sign up to ride a particular section of the route. Together, the school teams mold into one group that usually consists of 50 students. In most cases the group rides from school to school, but it’s not always possible given the vastness of the country.
“It depends on where we are. In Vancouver, in the lower main land, there are so many schools that we go from school to school and in other parts of the country where schools are further apart we will ride about 100 km,” said Brisebois.
“We sleep in school gyms and eat sandwiches on the side of the road and part of the program is that every morning at the school we’re at we facilitate a presentation about the program.
“It’s also a chance for students to explore other parts of Canada and meet new people.”
Jasper was part of the third segment of the relay which included Edmonton, Cochrane and Airdire.
Students from École Desrochers joined the group for a short ride from the school to Home Hardware to send them off, however the team had to dismount their bikes at the hardware store because Parks Canada did not give them permission to ride through the park.
“It was a bit of a disappointment because we’ve been riding through national parks every year. This is the first year we’ve gone up to Jasper, but we’ve been riding through Banff every year and it’s never been a problem,” said Brisebois.
Parks Canada was unable to provide comment by deadline.
Undeterred, the group got back on their bikes just beyond the east gate before riding 100 km east towards Edmonton.
Hélène Gendron, principal for École Desrochers, said she hopes some of her students will decide to do the relay next year.