By Neale McDevitt
If you watch even 10 minutes of a bike race, such as the recently completed Tour de France, you quickly understand that cyclists, especially those who do long-distance biking, have amazing cardiovascular capacities. And then there are those who also have big hearts.
Nigel Maitland, Mike Seccareccia and Hans Herrmann are three such athletes. The McGillians (Seccareccia is a an Education undergrad, Herrmann is in Environmental Sciences and Maitland just finished his degree in Physiology this past Spring) want to translate their passion for cycling into much-needed funds for the people in Lac-Mégantic following the fiery train derailment on July 6 that killed 47 people and decimated the town’s core.
The three pushed off this morning, Aug 1, on their two-week odyssey called Pedal’aid that will see them bike alongside the Atlantic railway westward on a journey that will end in Charlotte, PEI some 1,300 kilometres later. The specific route was not chosen randomly.
“When we came up with the idea to help the people in Lac-Mégantic we thought it would make sense that we go along the railroad because of the nature of the disaster,” said Maitland.
More than just making a symbolic gesture, the trio is using the trip to get people to donate money through the Quebec Red Cross, money that will go directly toward the rebuilding efforts in Lac- Mégantic. People are encouraged to go online to make their pledges.
And while Maitland says they haven’t set any goal for their fundraising efforts, he’s encouraged that they’ve already raised more than $2,700 in five days before even pedalling a single kilometre. “Originally we had hoped to raise some $3,000-$4,000 but if our ride can capture people’s imagination just a little bit, who knows how much we can get.”
With no support crew travelling with them, Team Pedal’aid must pack and carry their own gear – including the military style hammocks that they will sleep in in lieu of bulkier, heavier tents.
They plan on biking 100 kilometres a day, a distance that, in itself, isn’t so daunting for these experienced cyclists who have frequently ridden up to 200 kilometres a day on weekend excursions. “The real challenge for us will be to see how we will respond to biking that distance over 13-14 days – something none of us have ever done,” said Maitland, noting the relatively flat Quebec leg of the journey will give way to the more challenging portion in New Brunswick as they hit parts of the Appalachian mountain range. People can follow the trio’s progress on the team’s blog.
When asked if the team plans on cycling back to Montreal, Maitland is adamant – two weeks in the saddle will be more than enough. “Experienced touring cyclists will tell you to always travel eastward so you have the West winds at your back. Otherwise you’re setting yourself up for heartbreak,” said Maitland with a chuckle. “Plus there might be some celebrating once we reach Charlottetown after which no one will much feel like climbing back on a bike.”
To learn more about Pedal’aid, including how to donate money to the relief efforts in Lac- Mégantic, go here.