Christophe Grenier, captain of the Cycl-​ORL team: GDPL

August 13, 2015

Grand défi Pierre Lavoie

Pushing the limits: interview with Christophe Grenier, captain of the Cycl-ORL team during the Grand défi Pierre Lavoie 2015, and audioprosthetist working at the Thetford Mines Lobe clinic.

How many hours of bike training do you need to do to get fully ready for the Grand défi Pierre Lavoie?

I usually ride for about 7 hours a week. In the weeks prior to the event, we put the emphasis on longer outings to get to the point where we’re able to go 3 to 4 hours on 2 consecutive days. The last few weeks are a little more demanding. Personally, I like to start prepping around November or December.

What do you find to be the most demanding, the preparation or the actual Défi?

Preparation! The Défi is my reward for all the hours I’ve spent prepping.

Counting the 2015 competition, how many times have you completed the Grand défi Pierre Lavoie?

This was my 4th time.

What is it that motivates you to repeat the experience from year to year?

First of all, it’s a motivation to stay fit from year to year.

Second of all, being involved with the kids from the École oraliste pour enfants malentendants et sourds, and witnessing the difference that we can make in their lives is a motivation in itself.

And a third motivation is the Grand défi itself. The experience is indescribable. You need to have gone through it to understand. It’s something that pushes you beyond what you thought your limits were. There are enormous benefits to it, both in terms of physical fitness and personal achievement.

After that, you realize that you can do things that you never thought possible, even when you are completely exhausted and at the end of your rope. That’s what makes it a a very special challenge.

How many kilometers did you cover, and how many hours did you ride during this year’s GDPL?

Approximately 475 km, for a total of about 20 hours. I rode a little less than planned, because I was forced out of exhaustion to leave a small part to one of my teammates.

I bet that the no two legs are alike.

You’re right about that. Some legs are a lot slower. For instance, I did the Boucle with my wife. I rode beside her the whole time, and we went at about 23 km per hour, while the cyclists riding the Sunday morning stage went at blistering 32 km/h on average!

From an outside point of view, the format and course seem very similar every year. What’s your take from the inside?

Actually, the course is never the same. The only points in common between each year are the starting line at La Baie pier and the finish line in Montreal. The rest is always different. Yes, we do cross the Laurentides Wildlife Reserve and go by l’Étape, etc. most times, but we’ve also gone through La Tuque and Mauricie National Park. Once we also biked around Lake Saint-Jean before heading to Quebec City.

For the first time this year, we visited the Lower St. Lawrence region. We crossed the Laurentides Wildlife Reserve the first night, then headed by RV to Rivière-du-Loup. We rode down to Rimouski then turned back and took Highway 132 to Montreal.

We try to visit new towns and regions every year to motivate the kids that collected energy cubes and to get people to make healthy-living changes.

What do you think about during a leg?

I try to stay focused on what’s going on in front of me, because with 400 cyclists riding in a pack at the same time only 1 to 1 ½ feet apart, it wouldn’t take much for a huge pile-up to occur.

Depending of the time of the day and the weather, we try to just enjoy ourselves and the scenery. We try to look around a bit.

However, during a difficult or night leg or when the weather is awful, I stay really focused. I admit I really don’t think of anything else other than pushing the pedals one after another and staying laser-focused so I can anticipate the pack’s slightest movements and react appropriately.

After 4 GDPL, what did you learn about yourself that you did not even suspect?

I learned that I can push myself to the limit. I’ll always remember the first year I took part in the Grand défi. I had watched a television report about it, what training you needed, how people got there, and I said to myself, “My God, I’ll never be able to do this!”

I lost 27 lb getting ready for my first Grand défi! So, I’ve learned that our limits are self-imposed, because the truth is, we do not have any limits. Like hockey players say, you just need to “take your game to the next level” and be disciplined and persevere in all that you undertake, and you’ll achieve just about anything.

The dark side of all this is that I’ve become a little more intolerant of people who do not persevere and just spend their lives complaining. That bothers me a little more, because I know that they can do it, but they just don’t know they can.

It irritates you to see people putting limits on themselves and just putting up with it?

Yes, exactly.

All parts of Québec are beautiful, of course, but is there scenery that has stood out more to you than the rest on the course route?

It’s not so much about the scenery as about the event itself. It’s about the finish line in Montréal when the 1,000 cyclists arrive at the same time at the end of a weekend that may have been quite an ordeal in certain years. I’m thinking in particular about 2014 when we had horrible weather. But it doesn’t matter, each arrival in Montreal is the culmination of a weekend of great effort, but also of 6 to 7 months of preparation.

I always say that this is the shortest yet most nerve-racking leg, because flats happen all the time, even during this leg. Every year, I have this fear that I won’t be able to enter the city with the other cyclists to the roaring applause of the crowd, to be there, to look for my wife’s and kids’ face in the crowd, to see their faces light up when they see me. This is the moment that really hits me in the gut.

So, crossing the finish line is the culmination all your efforts, sort of the icing on the cake for you?

Absolutely, the experience would not be complete without it.

If I asked you to describe your 2015 experience in 2 words, what would they be?

Achievement and team spirit.

Achievement, because last January, I had trouble walking and my only goal was to be able to complete the Grand défi, so it was a success for me.

Team spirit, because despite the fact that there were new members to the team, we experienced great cooperation all weekend long.