Rid­ing for Ryan Cor­rey

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Jeff Bartlett

Re­mem­ber­ing the big­gest force in Cana­dian bikepack­ing

There are a few suits and ties scat­tered through­out 200 peo­ple gath­ered at the Can­more Nordic Cen­tre, but they’re ex­cep­tions. Most peo­ple are clad, head to toe, in rain jack­ets, cycling tights and spd shoes with neo­prene cov­ers. It’s May 31 and near freez­ing in­side the tent, but it’s even worse out­side. A cold rain falls re­lent­lessly and low hang­ing cloud ob­scures all views of the Cana­dian Rock­ies. Rows of bikes, most laden with frame bags and over­size seat packs, await those in­side. Even the lo­ca­tion is sym­bolic; we’ve gath­ered at the 24 Hours of Adrenalin fin­ish line, where, less than a year ago, Ryan Cor­rey rode to vic­tory. Within hours of cross­ing that fin­ish line, Cor­rey’s worst fears were con­firmed. “Go­ing into the race, we had a sense that I might have cancer,” said Cor­rey, speak­ing in an in­ter­view in March. “I could hold a po­si­tion on my bike, but I was in a lot of pain. I fin­ished, and then crawled into the fe­tal po­si­tion un­til the award cer­e­mony.” Di­ag­nosed with Stage 4 colon cancer, Cor­rey was soon bat­tling for his life. Af­ter a nine-month fight, he passed away on April 27. He was 35 years old. Dur­ing the cel­e­bra­tion of his life, guests share their sto­ries of Corry’s in­flu­ence and in­spi­ra­tion. Then, every­one files out­side to­ward their bi­cy­cles. Sarah Hornby, Cor­rey’s wife, leads a short me­mo­rial ride around the Nordic Cen­tre. It seems a fit­ting farewell for some­body who had ac­com­plished so much on his bi­cy­cle. “I of­ten rem­i­nisce about bik­ing,” Cor­rey had ad­mit­ted. “I’ve done so much with the lim­ited time I’ve had, so I don’t have any re­grets with bike-re­lated goals. I can’t even fathom how I put it all to­gether.” His ac­com­plish­ments are im­pres­sive. To raise money for dif­fer­ent char­i­ties, he cir­cum­nav­i­gated North Amer­ica and rode the Pan-amer­i­can Highway, from Pur­due Bay, Alaska, to Ushuaia, Ar­gentina. He raced, too, be­com­ing the youngest Cana­dian to fin­ish the Race Across Amer­ica, which is said to be the world’s hard­est road race. Burnt-out from road cycling, he switched to moun­tain bikes and im­me­di­ately started rac­ing. He qual­i­fied for a Cana­dian na­tional team pro­ject, rac­ing the 2011 marathon world cham­pi­onship in Italy. He twice raced Tour Di­vide, the self-sup­ported moun­tain bike race along the Great Di­vide Moun­tain Bike Route from Banff, Alta., to An­te­lope Wells, N.M. Af­ter fin­ish­ing sec­ond in the 24 Hours of Adrenalin in 2016, Cor­rey re­turned to win the event in sum­mer 2017, tak­ing the lead on the event’s fi­nal lap. Per­haps more than any other ac­com­plish­ment, the Tour Di­vide stuck with Cor­rey and ig­nited his pas­sion for bikepack­ing, which would de­fine the fi­nal years of his life. He and Hornby ran a tour com­pany to­gether, guid­ing as­pir­ing bikepack­ers along the Tour Di­vide route, for three years. Cor­rey longed to cen­tral­ize the con­ver­sa­tion about bikepack­ing in Canada. He founded Bikepack Canada, launched its web­site and an­nounced the first-ever Canada Bikepack Sum­mit. When treat­ment op­tions wore thin, Cor­rey took the op­por­tu­nity to re­flect on his ac­com­plish­ments and con­sider the legacy he’d leave be­hind. “My cycling-re­lated goal,” he said,” “would be to have Bikepack Canada con­tinue. I would love to see it con­tinue. It’s so much about the com­mu­nity. I never want it to fade into mem­ory.” At the end of the me­mo­rial ride, it feels like all who have ped­alled their bikes in his mem­ory are vow­ing to not only keep rid­ing, but to con­tinue to grow the Cana­dian bikepack com­mu­nity. Cor­rey is sure to con­tinue in­spir­ing fu­ture ad­ven­tures. His fi­nal ma­jor writ­ing pro­ject, a guide­book called Bike pack­ing in the cana­dian rock­ies, is cur­rently rolling out.

“Per­haps more than any other ac­com­plish­ment, the Tour Di­vide stuck with Cor­rey and ig­nited his pas­sion for bikepack­ing, which would de­fine the fi­nal years of his life.”

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