GranFondo inspiring military, Invictus cyclists

Dave Silver Photography

Peter Mallett
Staff Writer

The steep hills of the scenic RBC GranFondo Whistler course aren’t keeping one Invictus Alumni from participating in this year’s GranFondo.

Major (Maj) Patrick Lévis of Esquimalt’s Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Transition Group, who uses a wheelchair, says he’s looking forward to competing in the Invictus category at this year’s event despite the steep hills.

“I saw the GranFondo as an opportunity to be amongst other Invictus alumni and provide encouragement and support while also giving myself quite a gruelling physical challenge,” said Maj Lévis.

The RBC GranFondo Whistler cycling event has added the Veteran and Current Military and Invictus Alumni categories to support the Invictus Games 2025. When Maj Lévis learned that GranFondo was introducing an Invictus Alumni category, he registered immediately.

The event offers discounted rates for military members and free participation for former Invictus Games athletes to thank members for their service, says Neil McKinnon, founder of the RBC GranFondo Whistler.

“My father was a proud Canadian Military man, so naturally I am delighted to support the Invictus Games Vancouver Whistler 2025 as well as new opportunities for our valued service people, veterans and Invictus Alumni,” said McKinnon.

McKinnon’s father, Lieutenant-Colonel Albert James Keith MacKinnon, died in 1999. He was a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) member and later worked in Esquimalt for Base Construction Engineering (BCEO).

The Invictus Games has inspired Maj Lévis to lead a physically active lifestyle. Since his Invictus Games experience, he’s been competing on multiple fronts in national and provincial competitions in para-kayaking, para-canoeing, rowing, and wheelchair tennis. He is also a Military Co-chair for the Defence Advisory Group for Persons with Disabilities (DAGPWD)

He first looked at using an adaptive bike to hand-cycle the course but realized this would prove next to impossible due to the steep inclines along the route, so instead, Maj Lévis will borrow his friend’s e-bike to participate in the 55 km MedioFondo.

“My left leg is functional but my right quad has no function so I will be relying on my left leg and the e-cycle to do the work,” he said. “The hills on the course are very steep and challenging so my overall goal is to start the race and participate and if I do not finish the entire course, I will not be ashamed.”

Maj Lévis was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following a deployment to Afghanistan in 2009. Then, during surgery to remove a cancerous tumour in his abdomen, his femoral nerve was damaged, and he was left with permanent mobility disability in his legs. He previously competed at the Invictus Games in The Hague in 2022 in wheelchair racing, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, sitting volleyball and indoor rowing. He has served 31 years in the CAF and was previously Deputy Commanding Officer of the Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s). Maj Lévis will end his military service later this year and pursue a career in Architectural Technology.

“We are delighted that this incredible sporting event has made this opportunity available to the Invictus family to help further our mission to foster greater understanding and respect for the dedicated individuals who serve this country,” said Peter Lawless, CEO of the Invictus Games Vancouver Whistler 2025.

North America’s largest GranFondo race organizers expect over 5,500 cyclists to compete in this year’s ride on the Sea-to-Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler. The ride began on Sept. 9, covering distances of up to 122 km with multiple competitive and non-competitive categories,  open to cyclists of all levels.

GranFondo cycling events began in Italy in the 1970s as a mass cycling festival with its name in English translating to ‘the big ride’. The RBC GranFondo Whistler was founded in 2010 and is a point-to-point annual cycling event.

2019 Whistler Grandfondo shot by Clint Trahan

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