Any day on a motorcycle is good, even when you’re outside your comfort zone
Story by Jenn Martin
PHOTOS BY: HECTOR RETAMAL CORREA
The summer of 2015 was truly a phenomenal one, as the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games came to Toronto. Maybe, like many people, I didn’t really pay too much attention when the Games were awarded to Toronto in 2009. And maybe, like many people, I also was not aware that the Pan American Games are the world’s third-largest international multi-sport event held every four years, surpassed in size only by the Olympic Summer Games and the Asian Games. It was also pretty impressive to find out that close to 7,000 athletes from across Latin America, South America, the Caribbean and North America were coming together to compete in 36 Pan Am and 15 Parapan Am sports. Interesting, but what does this have to do with motorcycling?
Along with 14 other motorcyclists, I had the distinct honour of participating in both the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games in the most glorious way – on the actual course. It came in the form of providing motorcycle support for the cycling and marathon events. Now, I thought myself fairly primed for this event, having done support for bicycle races, marathons and charity events in the past, but nothing could have prepared me for the intense level of competition among these world-class athletes. It was late in 2014 that I was contacted to see if I would be interested in providing support motorcycles. I immediately said, “Absolutely,” with no real thought as to what to expect. I got in touch with a number of avid motorcyclists and instructors I’ve had the pleasure of working with in the past and elicited the same initial response. Honestly, it then went to the back of my mind over the winter hibernation that all motorcyclists go through, but by mid-March 2015, the confirmation was given from Richard Price, manager of sport for the Pan Am Games, that all was a go. Motorcycle support was required for a number of “road” events, both for the Pan Am Games in July and for the Parapan Am Games in August.
A Variety of Tasks
It didn’t start getting real until July. Our first step was to get registered into the volunteer system, which included background checks, to receive our accreditation. Only people with accreditation would be able to get into the venue and then onto the field of play, which was the actual closed course. It would also allow us to be fed during the working hours of the events we were scheduled for. The organizers had already made note of the list of riders I had provided so that they could be tracked in the system and assigned roles for the various sports and complete online training. The team of riders had to also obtain their licences through Cycling Canada so that we all qualified for riding in the “peloton” (a term used to refer to the main group or pack of cyclists in general) for the road cycling competition. Whew! Eventually, we received a breakdown of events for each rider and their roles. For the Pan Am Games, I was tasked with carrying an official for the triathlon competition, media for the marathon competition and a commissaire for the cycling road-race competition. For the Parapan Am Games, I was assigned to lead the race. The action started at the beginning of July, when we had to pick up our uniforms and accreditations, and never really stopped until the closing days of the Parapan in mid-August. Our venue was down by the waterfront on Lake Shore Boulevard, from Ontario Place and into High Park for the triathlon, marathon, and cycling. The time trials venue was in Milton, near the new velodrome.
Let the Games Begin
My first day on the job was the triathlon route familiarization on July 8, with the actual events taking place on the 11th and 12th. I was carrying Jon, an official for both male and female races, and I witnessed firsthand the heartbreaking side of competition when bad luck forced one of our Canadian athletes out of the race early: another athlete’s bike struck a pylon, which then struck the Canadian’s bike and damaged a tire. To see the crushing disappointment immediately in front of me when we stopped to assist, without the filter of a television screen, was an experience I won’t soon forget. It also reinforced that as riders, we have to be mindful when carrying passengers to educate them on how we wish them to act. I had advised…