Tristen Chernove is accustomed to the pressure of chasing international medals on the road, or on the boards of a velodrome. This weekend, the Canadian Paralympian is taking on a very different challenge.
Chernove is aiming to be the first para athlete to finish the BC Epic 1000 bikepacking route. And he’s aiming to do so in a record time, just three days.
An Epic starts with a sprint
Chernove faces his most critical moments in the attempt right from the word “Go” at 4 AM in Fernie, B.C.
“I want to make the Kootenay Lake ferry crossing before the last boat,” Chernove says, adding that “In a dream scenario, I’d make the seven o’clock but, even leaving at 4 AM that would be a really hard piece.”
That’s understating it. That first day sees Chernove crossing Grey Greek Pass, the highest elevation dirt road in Canada, along with a heap of other elevation while crossing the Kootenay Rockies. Chernove, living in nearby Cranbrook and having done his research, clearly knows exactly how much but isn’t keen on saying the number out loud. Which is fair. Just the distance alone is staggering.
“From Fernie, we’re looking at a 300+ kilometre day with some real tough climbing,” Chernove states calmly. “But, If I make the ferry that puts me in a great position for a good time.”
BC Epic 1000 and an opportunity after cancelled Paralympics
Even if Chernove makes it over Grey Pass on time to catch the ferry, he won’t be out of the woods quite yet.
The BC Epic 1000 crosses Canada’s left-most province almost entirely backroads. The bikepacking route is actually 1,066 km, to be precise. Those extra kilometres at the end are not a trivial addition, either. They could be among the toughest on the route.
“What I’ve heard,” says Chernove, “is the last 100 km from Princeton towards Merritt, that piece of road is incredibly chewed up from quads so its really deep ruts and hard going to the finish.”
While the goal is to finish in under three days, and set a new fastest time for riding the route East to West, that isn’t Chernove’s primary goal with the ride.
“I decided to go for the record because, looking at times, it seemed reasonable and not far off what I’d be targeting anyway,” the highly decorated paralympian says, before adding safety in the current health crisis is more important. “I’d love to beat the existing time but, as far as it is a record, I’m not willing to compromise being responsible health and safety-wise just to have it be official. I’m definitely prioritizing my health and making sure I’m not spreading anything around,” says Chernove. “It might be that the time becomes unofficial but, if I have to deviate from the official rules to be safe, I will.”
“Really, my desire was that, having time away from international travel and racing, it is really the first time in my high-performance career that I’ve had a window to try contribute back to the sports community and disability community,” Chernove says. “So I really wanted to make that count.”
Chasing a record to benefit Paralympic Foundation of Canada
Chernove’s BC Epic 1000 record attempt is a personal challenge, but it is also a fundraiser for Paralympic Foundation of Canada. The organization helps support para athletes to pursue their athletic goals, just as he has so successfully on the bike.
While Chernove’s hoping his ride generates much-needed financial support for the Paralympic Foundation (you can donate here), he is also hoping to raise awareness about para sport and reshape Canadian’s perceptions of what is possible for para athletes.
“My target audience, more than anything, is other individuals with a disability,” Chernove says. “I hope that they can see that the fact that they are successful through life with a disability proves that they’re adaptive, resilient, and have great perseverance. Those are the qualities that make a great high-performance athlete.”
No matter how fast Chernove rides this weekend, he’ll have set a new bar for para sport. He’ll be the first paracyclist to finish the gruelling 1,000 km route. It’s something he hopes will inspire others living with a disability to take up sports of their own.
“What I want to see come out of this: more people living with a disability in Canada considering sport.”
Tristen Chernove’s BC Epic 1000 Bikepacking set-up
Chernove will be tackling the backroad route using a Specialized Diverge, set up specifically to balance speed with the rigours of the rough B.C. gravel.
After the Epic
With the Paralympics postponed, Chernove’s next move is still uncertain. The lack of international events has him looking locally for the next challenge.
“There might be some one-day gravel races coming up around BC and Alberta, so I’ll be looking at those and jumping on just about any race opportunity I can find just to be back in that race environment,” sys Chernove. He’ll also be returning to more of the gym work and high-end training he needs for racing, so he can be ready for whatever does come next.
More short term, his next decision comes right after he arrives at the Epic 1000 finish line in Merritt. There, he has a rental car booked to get back home to Fernie, but he’s not so sure he’ll need it.
“Depending on how I’m feeling, the ride home is a possibility.”
Follow and support Chernove’s BC Epic 1000 ride
Paralympic Foundation of Canada will have some updates on the event Facebook Page.