Bianca Hayes had completed most of what would be a Guinness World Record bike ride through Canada when it was dramatically cut short by an accident.
A biker saw her too late and crashed, sending his bike straight into her sideways. The motorcycle slipped under Hayes’ bike, cutting his foot and ending his race two days before the record.
After telling his story to CTV News Vancouver, Hayes spoke about the Quebec leg of his trip and the unique joy of almost completing the ride, as well as the realities of driving in the province.
“Reaching Quebec was huge,” said Hayes. “Crossing that border is huge. When you cross the western provinces it’s great because they’re a bit smaller so you get a bit of momentum, you bump like a day, a day and a -half, and you feel pretty good about yourself, and then you get to Ontario, which takes forever.”
Bianca Hayes said entering Quebec after crossing the western provinces was a joyful moment, as she knew the finish was in sight. SOURCE: The Creation of Coconuts
Just before his crash outside of Trois-Rivières, Hayes encountered what many cyclists in Quebec are familiar with: strong headwinds.
“I just started thinking, ‘Oh, no, if it starts to get really heavy, then I’m going to get so slow, I’m not going to make it,'” she said. “It’s like you’re not moving at all. It’s the most frustrating feeling in the world and just the mental game of trying to stay positive while you’re fighting too because you have to. It doesn’t doesn’t matter.”
She pushed, however, took a break from the accompanying motorhome, slammed a Red Bull and prepared to resume her run after the comforting news that tailwinds were approaching and she could take some speed.
This joy quickly evaporated.
“It’s so funny because you have all these moments throughout, like a whole day, when you’re on a bike for 20 hours and you go through all these ups and downs of emotions. And how you feel at about everything, about the headwinds and the feet and the hydration and how it all happens, and then having that car accident, it all kind of puts everything into perspective,” Hayes said. “You just realized how silly it is to complain about the wind, and you complain about the sun, or you complain about the weather.”
Cycling across the country gives the cyclist a unique perspective on one part of each province’s infrastructure: the roads. In Quebec, the roads have a special reputation, as do the motorists who use them.
Hayes said drivers were respectful and friendly in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba and not so much in Alberta.
“They’re not very happy you’re on the road,” she said. “Sometimes you just get honked at, and you’re like I’m three feet above the shoulder. I don’t bother you at all.”
Bianca Hayes said drivers in Quebec were some of the hardest to navigate, as they often drove at high speeds with no space for the cyclist. SOURCE: The Creation of Coconuts
Ontario, she said, was hit and miss, then came Quebec.
“I never really felt unsafe until certain neighborhoods in Montreal,” she said. “The roads were so pockmarked and there were so many potholes that you’re trying to avoid on the shoulder, and so you end up having to jump a bit on the road for a little while.”
She said at times she ran into the unsettling combination of bad roads and aggressive drivers traveling at high speeds oblivious to a cyclist on the side of the road.
“It was a really bad combination and it led to some very stressful times for me,” she said. “It was just the speeds that were very, very surprising, feeling people go by really fast. I guess the riders in Montreal are so comfortable with the road bikes on the road that they don’t give you as much space… And maybe people on bikes are a little more comfortable with drivers on the road, but we definitely felt a little more dangerous in Montreal than anywhere else.”
LUCKY BUT FRUSTRATED
The emotional roller coaster continues for Hayes, who knows she was two days away from breaking the Guinness World Record, but also knows she was riding for a cause, and she survived the crash with relatively minor injuries. .
“The athlete in me is very, very frustrated right now and very angry, and my rational side has to kind of step in and go, ‘but we’re so lucky.’ I’m lucky to be able to sit here. I can always talk about my story,” she said. “In the end, it was all for ovarian cancer, it was like a fundraiser, it’s to raise awareness and try to generate money for a cause that is very close to my heart. I so I’m still here to be able to do this. And, and I’m so lucky. I’m so grateful for that.
The ride was inspired by her 32-year-old sister Katrina, who died of ovarian cancer in 2018.
Hayes continues to fundraise on her website with the goal of donating $1 million to Ovarian Cancer Canada.