Cana­dian Club

Hit­ting mileages that match their ages, and then some

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Rob Stur­ney

Sis­ters of No Mercy ride miles be­yond their ages

If you’re out rolling the roads in the south­ern end of Bri­tish Columbia’s Van­cou­ver Is­land, you may find a dif­fer­ent-look­ing pace­line of women pass­ing you. Their jer­seys read Sis­ters of No Mercy, and no one is younger than 58. The Sis­ters are based in Vic­to­ria, al­though mem­bers live as far away as Phoenix, Ariz. Their ages range from 58 to 74 with the av­er­age age be­ing about 68. And they love long hauls.

The club’s ori­gins go back to 2013 when a few mem­bers were train­ing for Ry­der Hes­jedal’s Tour de Vic­to­ria. Part of the route takes on the tough as­cent of Munn Road in the High­lands, so the women made sure to con­cen­trate their ef­forts there on Fri­day train­ing rides. Af­ter the Tour de Vic­to­ria, they started look­ing for other hills to crest. Back in 2013, they weren’t ex­actly neo­phytes. One mem­ber had al­ready con­quered the pres­ti­gious Paris-brest-paris event and oth­ers had rid­den the three-day Grand­moth­ers for Africa char­ity ride on Van­cou­ver Is­land.

As part of the club’s his­tory, Munn Road is an in­te­gral ride for the Sis­ters. In fact, the group’s first name was Les Madames de Munn. How­ever, it was when one of the women sang Leonard Co­hen’s “Sis­ters of Mercy” on a ride and an­other quipped that the gang was “more like the Sis­ters of No Mercy” that the name was born. Soon af­ter, they or­dered per­son­al­ized jer­seys that ce­mented their sta­tus as a club.

Al­though the club has a ca­sual struc­ture with no gov­ern­ing body, Marshia Roberge and Mar­garet Ka­vanagh are the or­ga­niz­ers by de­fault. As Ka­vanagh puts it: “Not all cy­cling clubs need to have pol­icy and pro­ce­dure man­u­als.” But it’s not ex­actly ca­sual. “Not any­one can be­come a Sis­ter,” Ka­vanagh says. “The rite of pas­sage is be­ing able keep up with the group pace and to com­plete Munn Road or some equiv­a­lent.” A 67-km loop with the Munn Road climb at its heart is where a Sis­ter can test her met­tle.

Al­though the club con­sists of ded­i­cated road­ies, re­cently a few of the Sis­ters have taken up moun­tain bik­ing.

On Canada Day 2017, to cel­e­brate the na­tion’s 150th birth­day, the Sis­ters rode 150-km in their spe­cial maple­leaf jer­seys with “Sesqui­cen­ten­nial, eh?” printed on the back. The feat was rec­og­nized on the lo­cal TV news. Some­times the gang will hold a birth­day ride for a club mem­ber with a dis­tance based on her age: for ex­am­ple, a 70-km jaunt com­mem­o­rat­ing 70 years.

The Sis­ters roll three days a week, meet­ing up with an­other group, the Cana­dian Cross Coun­try Tour So­ci­ety, on Wed­nes­days. Rides into the High­lands to face Munn Road or into the Saanich Penin­sula or along the West Shore (a.k.a. the Three Lakes Route) al­ter­nate with the City Ride, which fol­lows Vic­to­ria’s water­front. The lat­ter is what Roberge rec­om­mends for a vis­i­tor to B.C.’S cap­i­tal. Be­cause no group ride is com­plete with­out a cof­fee stop, the Sis­ters fre­quent places such as the Roost, the Nest and the Bro­ken Pad­dle.

Ka­vanagh says, “This is truly a re­mark­able sis­ter­hood to which I am priv­i­leged to be­long. We all love to ride our bikes, but equally we like be­ing to­gether as a group. How much bet­ter can it get?”

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