Cranbrook cyclist back from French endurance race

Jason de Rijk conquered the Alps in the six-day Trans-Savoie race last month

Top: Cyclist Jason de Rijk of Cranbrook surveys the French landscape on a leisurely chair lift ride up the mountain. Bottom: Heading downhill

Top: Cyclist Jason de Rijk of Cranbrook surveys the French landscape on a leisurely chair lift ride up the mountain. Bottom: Heading downhill

A Cranbrook mountain bike rider has returned from the experience of a lifetime, cycling through the French Alps in the Trans-Savoie endurance race.

Jason de Rijk, who owns Sidekick Stickers, took part in the race from August 18 to 23. The Trans-Savoie is a rally-style race where only the downhill sections are timed. The course begins in Val D’Isere, France, and passes through 13 villages to its conclusion in Chamonix.

“There was no way it could have been bad. The terrain, the people, the trails, the small French towns, the food — everything was amazing,” said de Rijk.

“It was an enduro, so you climb your bike, which is not timed, then descend your bike, which is the timed part. That’s the part that really counts.”

There were almost 80 cyclists taking part in the race, from all over the world — England, Italy, Russia, Iceland and Sweden.

“There were a whole lot of pros riding for bike manufacturers, and super good people from all over the world,” said de Rijk.

“There was everybody from these pros, riding for big companies, to the weekend warrior person.”

De Rijk has competed and placed in mountain bike competitions across western Canada and the U.S., but he was unprepared for the level of ability he was up against in the race.

“I finished about halfway through the field — I think I was 43rd out of 78,” he said, adding that his biggest challenge was trying to compete with professional cyclists.

“That was probably the most challenging: realizing there were really good people there and there was no way I was going to catch most of them,” he said.

“I had to accept that I was going to fall a little further down. As soon as I did that, it turned into a really good time.

“I was definitely pushing the limits of what I could do to try to make better times on the timed stages.”

The setting in the French alps provided plenty of ‘wow’ moments, from the scenery to the small towns the race passed through.

“The route went through small French towns where you could stop because you weren’t being timed. So you go for an espresso and baguette and hang out for five minutes, then continue your journey,” said de Rijk. “I don’t know how many baguettes I ate. By the third day, my jaw was getting sore from baguettes.”

Now that he has conquered the French Alps, de Rijk is setting his sights on an endurance race closer to home. Tour Divide is a 4,400 kilometre journey from Banff to Antelope Wells, New Mexico, held each June.

“I think I may be inspired to do the Tour Divide. There’s a poster on my wall of it now and I’ve told a couple people I’m going to do it, so I might actually need to do it,” said de Rijk.

Jason’s journey to France wouldn’t have been possible without the support of local businesses who sponsored him and provided prizes for a raffle fundraiser. De Rijk thanks Cranbrook Dodge, Favorit Cycle and Ski, High Country Sports, Max’s Place, Tim Hortons, Canadian Rockies International Airport, Snap East Kootenay, Giant and Gore Bike Wear.