Paralympic cyclist Chernove chasing BC Epic 1000 record, but Tokyo remains top of mind
Rio 2016 gold medallist aims to complete grueling ride from Fernie to Merritt
The fastest time anyone's ever finished the BC Epic 1000 is three days, 15 hours and 33 minutes. But this year, Canadian Paralympic cyclist Tristen Chernove is aiming to set a new record.
Starting July 18, Chernove departs from Fernie, B.C., and will bike over one thousand kilometres to Merritt. He also made the event a fundraiser with money going to the Paralympic Foundation, the same organization that helped Chernove transition into competitive cycling.
"What kind of different events can I do that help raise awareness for marginalized or other groups that might not be present in people's minds as much as they should be when it comes to sport and equality in sport and access to sport," Chernove said. "I want to be part of removing those barriers and creating opportunity."
WATCH | Cranbrook's Tristen Chernove ready to conquer BC Epic 1000:
But the BC Epic 1000 will be a big change for Chernove.
The 44-year-old competes internationally in both track and road cycling, but specializes in speed events over endurance. To make matters more difficult, the route is almost entirely off-road terrain with over 11,000 metres of elevation. Chernove has been meal-planning and packing food for days leading up to the event so he can eat every 20 to 30 minutes during the ride in order to ingest the 6,000 calories it will take to get him through each day.
Different challenge than Paralympics
"I'm nervous, because there's so many variables that come in that I haven't had to contend with before," Chernove said. "As far as riding at night, dependent on lights in fairly rugged, difficult and technical off-road terrain and knowing exactly how that will play out with my limited navigational skills and using all the technology required for that."
Plus, he doesn't know how his body will react to all that food.
"I've never tested my stomach that way before," he said with a laugh. "So I'm a bit nervous about all the things I would like to have learned more about from experience and not this first go."
But otherwise, Chernove feels mentally and physically ready.
He elongated his indoor season during quarantine and has been able to train more than he ever has before: with no events or competitions to work toward, he doesn't need as much rest and recovery.
"I'm actually, quite likely, more fit than I've ever been," Chernove said. "I'm finding I can be in my threshold zones longer and not feel like I need any recovery, so it's more the endurance and base-end side of things that have peaked beyond what I've been able to do previously."
And while that helps for the BC Epic 1000, Chernove doesn't know how it will affect his max sprint. He says he's not smashing personal bests, but also hasn't been in the environment to push himself that hard.
Tokyo still top priority
However, despite the upcoming challenge, Chernove's ultimate goal is still Tokyo.
"I'm not willing to compromise my own health and preparation for Tokyo for this, because that is paramount," he said. "I'm going to keep my super healthy nutrition plan and if I were to feel like my hydration was getting to a point where I'm doing any damage to my body, I would stop.
"Because it's only 400 days or so until the Paralympics, so every day matters."
Despite winning a medal of each colour at Rio 2016, Chernove feels like he has some making up to do.
"Yes, the Paralympics in Rio was an amazing success but, in my mind, it never really has been," he said. "That doesn't represent my capabilities and how strong I was going into the event."
WATCH | Chernove displays Rio 2016 medal haul:
It was Chernove's first Paralympics and managing his stress and anxiety proved difficult, to the point where he went several days without sleep prior to some of his most important events. He ended up winning gold in the time trial, silver in the 3000m individual pursuit, and bronze in the 1000m time trial. And a crash in the road race stripped him of another gold he was widely expected to take.
But it will be his experience this summer, the one that will forever be remembered as the year the Olympics and Paralympics got postponed, that is more representative of what his life after Paralympic cycling will look like.
"When I'm done chasing Paralympic gold medals, I'm going to be chasing avenues to make those gold medals more accessible to more people."