Gran Fondo Forillon 2014

Echos from PEI!

Every year, many of our guest wrote articles on blogs. Here is a resume of one of our 2014 favorites from PEI’s Jean-Paul Arsenault released on his personal blog after the Gran Fondo Forillon experience!

Ride the entire text here

Reflections on Life and Times


We’d trained hard for this ride; as hard as we could on the Island, given our relatively flat terrain.  Looking at the course profile for the Gaspé event was enough to scare even the best hill climbers in our group, the venerable Over the Hill Gang: Ira Birt, Richard Birt, Russ Melanson, John MacQuarrie and myself.  The 126 km route featured a total elevation gain of over 2,000 metres and several climbs in the 12% to 16% range.  Organizers billed it as the toughest Gran Fondo in Québec.

On August 16, we rode a course on the Island which took us over every hill in Queens County, including the toughest one, the ride past the Glasgow Hills Golf Course in New Glasgow.  After 130 km of that, we were cooked, but confident we had the endurance to make it to the end of the Gaspé event.  What we couldn’t have prepared for was the weather!

After driving ten hours to get to our luxurious accommodations in Cap-aux-Os, the Motel-Chalets Baie de Gaspé, we walked the short distance down the road to Le Baleinier, a nice little restaurant where we enjoyed a delicious meal.  We made arrangements with the owner to open a little early for us the morning of the Gran Fondo.  Then, we walked back to the motel through the sprinkles.  Shit!  The weather forecast was right.

The registration area was abuzz with activity, but there were very few riders around.  Less than 30 had registered for the Gran Fondo; others had opted for the Medio Fondo (82 km) or the Petit Fondo (63 km).  We picked up our kits and slogged back up the hill to get the bikes ready.

While we waited for ride to start, the weather actually cleared enough for us to get a glimpse of the sun and the beautiful surroundings.  The cliffs are magnificent and it’s common to see gannets and other seabirds as well as seals and whales nearby.  Cap-Bon-Ami is at the very tip of the Gaspé Peninsula.  Locals call it “Le bout du monde”, the “End of the World”.  The next land out in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence is Anticosti Island.

We wheeled along 15 km of false flats at a good pace before re-entering Forillon National Park.  Everything was going well until we hit the wall on the last hill, a short ramp with a 20% slope, followed by another half-kilometre of misery.  I tried to zig-zag up the last part of the ramp, but had to straighten the bike out because I was scared to fall over, my speed was down to a 7 km/hr crawl.  The photo below shows John and I suffering, while our encadreur-expert, Luc Beaudet, is lapping it up!

Soaked to the skin, we five drowned rats got our picture taken with Luc and followed our noses to the food.  After burning through 5,000 calories, I could’ve eaten the arsehole off a dead skunk.  We dined al fresco on tasty shrimp, potato salad, salmon mousse and sandwiches, washed down with a local craft beer, Pit Caribou, and a maple syrup-based concoction called Eau d’érable.

The Gran Fondo Forillon ranks as one of the toughest rides of my life. As with all the others I’ve shared with members of the Over the Hill Gang, it was a triumph of endurance over adversity, rendered much more difficult by the conditions.  You can train for hills, but you can’t train for bad weather.

We’re damn lucky to be alive and well, and surrounded by good friends!  I’ll wear the Gran Fondo Forillon jersey with pride.