Tristen Chernove won a gold medal in the Para-Cycling Time Trial Men’s C2 at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. (Photo by Jean-Baptiste Benavent/Canadian Paralympic Committee.

Chernove set to take on epic 1,000 kilometre cycling challenge

A local Paralympian is taking on an epic cycling challenge.

Tristen Chernove is gearing up to take his bicycle on a test of mental and physical endurance for the B.C. Epic 1,000 — an almost entirely off-road and self-supported ride that will take him through B.C.’s southern interior from Fernie to Merritt.

Oh, and he’s going to try to finish in three days.

Chernove, a triple-medallist in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, will attempt to break the event’s westbound record, which is currently held at three days, 15 hours and 33 minutes. Much of the informal route utilizes significant portions of the Trans-Canada trail network and back roads across the Okanagan and Kootenay regions.

He set his sights on the 1,000-kilometre ride as a way to stay motivated with a training regimen that has been thrown into flux due to the postponement of the Tokyo Paralympic Games that was slated for this summer.

“To me, historically, a long ride is seven to eight hours, but now we’re talking 65 to 70 hours,” he said. “I know my body can do it, I know there will be a lot of discomfort and pain…but I know it’s going to be a mental challenge. Being out there probably often alone for multiple hours at a time, it’s all going to be about managing that self talk and no matter how much discomfort I’m in, being able to find ways to let my brain find happiness and keep the body going.”

While the ride serves as a way to push physical and mental boundaries, Chernove is also promoting the B.C. Epic 1,000 to raise money for the Paralympic Foundation of Canada, an organization that supports para-athletes across the country.

With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the athletic community’s in-person training sessions, Chernove and his teammates moved to video-conferencing and digital virtual races. It has also provided a chance for reflection, he added, noting he is in the twilight of his career in international competitive cycling.

“Out of that it just got me thinking more and more about this unique opportunity to give back to a greater extent,” he said.

Chernove has been a dominant force in C2 para-cycling road and track events on the UCI World Cup circuit, earning 13 world titles and also capturing a gold, silver and bronze at the Rio de Janeiro Games four years ago.

By taking on the BC Epic 1,000, Chernove also hopes to help fundraising efforts for the Paralympic Foundation of Canada, which raises money to support athletes living with a disability.

“There are so many great organizations that I would love to be able to help fundraise for, but this one I chose because it really touched me personally, because I got to live the experience of someone being assisted through their athletic career by the Paralympic Foundation,” he said.

“It just seemed really appropriate to help try to help raise funds for them to do the great work that they do to ensure that other athletes would have the same kind of wonderful opportunities that I’ve had.”

As Chernove began to make his mark in the national para-cycling community, he was enrolled in the NextGen program — a program designed to support the development of para-athletes on the pathway to provincial, national and international success.

Chernove credits the Paralympic Foundation of Canada for providing financial support to the NextGen program, which provided a wide variety of resources he was tap into, such as coaching and being involved in a community of high-performance para-athletes.

“[NextGen] does everything from travelling around the country doing forums and different ways of educating the community about sport for people with a disability and what that looks like right to doing talent searches and trying to help support athletes to get involved,” said Chernove. “That’s both on the equipment and coaching level.”

While Chernove said fundraising financial support for the Paralympic Foundation of Canada is important, he also wants to help raise the organization’s profile and highlight the numerous ways it supports para-athletes.

“The Paralympic Foundation is all about diversity and inclusion and those are two big words that mean a lot,” Chernove said. “For me, it’s just another great organization that is helping the global awareness and human population make better choices when it comes to understanding what diversity and inclusion really looks like.”

Chernove is hoping to start the ride in Fernie on July 18, depending on weather conditions. While it is a self-supported ride, he will have some company throughout the journey as local endurance athlete Ryan Hamilton will join him at the start.

He added that while they might not be riding together, having someone else out on the route provides some comfort in case any issues arise. Chernove hopes more cyclists join him in communities along the route, noting that some of his training team partners will join in him the Okanagan.

Supporters can follow along on social media, which will have real-time tracking of his progress, and anyone wishing to contribute to the Paralympic Foundation of Canada can visit his fundraising page.

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