01 July 2016

To Ryer Hesjedal And Michelle Dumaresq On Canada Day

It looks like I have a pretty fair number of readers in Canada.  So, dulce et decorum est...Sorry, wrong country.  I mean, it is sweet and proper to point out that today is Dominion Day, a.k.a. Canada Day.

We here in the US tend to compare other countries' greatest national holidays--like Bastille Day in France--to our Independence Day.  Truth is, Canada Day is as different from our 4th of July holiday as it is from the French grande fete.  

I am no expert in these matters, but as I understand, Canada did not fight a war to gain "independence" from Britain.  Rather, Canada--which then consisted only of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick--gained autonomy under the auspices of the British Crown.  It sounds to me like Queen Victoria was saying, "Well, they're still a colony, kinda sorta"--if Her Majesty would have ever spoken in such a manner.  (Tsk, tsk!)

Canada's de facto national flag until 1965, when the familiar maple leaf banner was adopted.

Actually, "independence" happened gradually, over more than a century, rather than with an American-style revolution.  The Westminster Act of 1931 gave Canada autonomy over most of its affairs.  But it wasn't until 17 April 1982, when Queen Elizabeth II signed the Canada Act, that the country become fully autonomous.  Until that time, there were still actions, such as signing UN resolutions, that Canada could not do unilaterally.

(Interestingly, the Canada Act might have deepened the rift between the country's Anglophones and Francophones, as it was recorded as a statutory instrument in both French and English, cementing Canada's status as a bilingual country.  Some scholars have argued that if the Canada Act had not been ratified in both languages, it might not have been possible, for example, for Quebec to pass its language laws.)

Anyway...Canada is interesting, to say the least.  So are Canadians: They're not just Americans who live in a colder climate.  So, it's no surprise that the country has its own distinctive cycling history and, while a few, like Steve Bauer, rode for US-sponsored teams, they forged their own way in the racing world.

One example is Ryder Hesjedal, the first Canadian to win one of the major European Grand Tours:  the 2012 Giro d'Italia.  Two years earlier, he placed fifth overall int he Tour de France.

Ryder Hesjedal

An interesting--and, to me, somehow Canadian--aspect of his story is that he started off as a mountain bike racer and turned to road racing.  I say that it sounds Canadian to me because, among American cyclists, the trend has been the other way.  That may be a result of history:  the first professional mountain bikers from the US, and most of them started off as road riders because, well, that's what most racers were in those days.  On the other hand, Canada produced an impressive list of riders who started off--and, in some cases, remained--mountain bikers.  This is particularly true of female Canadian cyclists such as Michelle Dumaresq, of whom I've written in an earlier post.

Michelle Dumaresq

So, I am dedicating this post to her and Hesjedal, who are emblematic of their country's cycling history--and, I believe, its history, period.


  1. I believe Cadel Evans started off in mountain biking... And we Aussies are also ~ interesting ~

  2. Accordion--Thank you for mentioning Cadel Evans: He indeed started off in mountain biking.

    Yes, you Aussies are interestng--and a lot of fun!