Twenty members of the Invictus Games community participated in one of the world’s best cycling challenge events earlier this month – the RBC GranFondo Whistler. Against a stunning backdrop and clear blue skies, the group of Invictus Games cyclists from across Canada and the USA demonstrated their resilience and determination by taking part in both the 55km MedioFondo and the 122km GranFondo circuits.
2023 represented the first year that the RBC GranFondo Whistler featured two new Invictus supported categories: the Veteran and Current Military category and the Invictus Alumni category. Delivered by the Invictus Games Foundation in partnership with the RBC GranFondo organizing committee, these new categories allow international valued service personnel and veterans opportunities to participate in North America’s largest GranFondo.
From Arizona and Texas to Halifax and Victoria, the Invictus Games Foundation was proud to support participants from across Canada and the USA. The Invictus Games Alumni category is for veterans or currently serving Canadian or US Armed Forces members (or other nations) who have been competitors at any of the Invictus Games.
The Veteran and Current Military category is for any person currently serving in the Canadian or US Armed Forces or any former member of the Canadian or US Armed Forces who successfully underwent basic training and was honourably discharged.
For those taking part in the GranFondo, the riders began in leafy Stanley Park, Vancouver, before making their way across the iconic Lions Gate bridge to travel along the Sea-to-Sky highway. From there, the riders dipped down to take in Pacific Ocean views before rising slowly to join the world-famous peaks of Whistler. By the time they had finished this epic challenge, the Invictus riders had completed 1900m of total elevation.
This year’s Invictus Games Alumni participants included Andrew Garsch, a retired Captain from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) who first got into cycling due to his involvement with the Invictus community. Andrew went on to represent Team Canada for both cycling and rowing at the Invictus Games 2018 in Sydney, Australia.
Describing his experience at the GranFondo Whistler, Andrew said: “The GranFondo was an incredible experience! I loved getting out, competing and pushing my limits as well as being able to link up with other Veterans, some who I knew and some that became new friends. Being part of that camaraderie again was amazing!”
In addition to participants from Canada, a number of Invictus’ US alumni made the trip across the border to take part in this year’s GranFondo. This included former US soldier, Sean Walsh. Sean represented the US team at the 2016 and 2022 Invictus Games, competing in cycling and indoor rowing. In the true spirit of the Invictus community, Sean also mentors other athletes with diabetes.
Looking back on his Gran Fondo Whistler experience, Sean remarked: “Taking part in the Gran Fondo with my fellow international wounded, injured, and sick competitors was an incredible experience. It really taught me that what happens after the Invictus Games can be as impactful as the games themselves. As an Invictus Games alumni, I was proud to share my experience with newer members of the wounded, injured and sick community and conquer the challenge together.”
With a total of over 6,800 riders participating across the entire weekend, this year’s RBC GranFondo Whistler again demonstrated the world-class sporting event experience that Vancouver and Whistler can offer for participants, spectators and volunteers.
Last weekend saw the official handover of the Invictus flag to Team Canada during the closing ceremony of the 2023 Invictus Games in Dusseldorf.