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Senior refuses to slow down

Mathilde Klassen about to go for a morning bike ride in preparation for the Kootenay Rockies Piccolo Fondo. She will celebrate her 90th birthday in September riding the 57 km bike route from Cranbrook to Kimberley (return) with her seven children and some of her grandchildren. - Tamara Hynd
Mathilde Klassen about to go for a morning bike ride in preparation for the Kootenay Rockies Piccolo Fondo. She will celebrate her 90th birthday in September riding the 57 km bike route from Cranbrook to Kimberley (return) with her seven children and some of her grandchildren.
— image credit: Tamara Hynd

Mathilde Klassen is the oldest registrant so far in the Kootenay Rockies Gran Fondo which is happening this fall in Cranbrook. Now 89 years of age, Klassen will ride the Piccolo distance of 57 km with her seven children and five of her grandchildren on September 7 to celebrate her 90th birthday.

An avid cyclist from Nelson, Klassen rode across Canada when she was 69. She said it took her three months with a group of 20 cyclists, 16 of which finished. They all were over 55-years-old. “It was awesome, a good time.”

Klassen said she cycles for fitness sake and health. “I love the freedom of it and being outside. It’s an extra challenge. You have to work and do it by yourself.”

She and her late husband Peter always ran and even did a triathlon but when he started cycling, she took it up as well. A year or so after her husband passed away in 1986, her son Rick Klassen encouraged her to enter the BC Senior Summer Games (BCSSG). His love of cycling and encouragement is not surprising knowing Rick, and his brother Gerald, were the original founders of Gerick Cycle and Ski. When the games came to Trail, she decided to begin cycling in the BCSSG and completed every year from 1990 to 2003.

In preparation for the Picollo she will be riding her old Mongoose cross country bike with hybrid tires that are slick down the centre for the road and cross country tread edges for the gravel.

“It’s not a fancy bicycle,” she said. The 15 plus year old bike has her favourite feature: the odometer plus a special removable bar that helps her lift her bike onto her car bike rack.  She sold her fancy pink race bike with the clipless pedals years ago.

“I don’t like to push myself, I ride for pleasure only now.”

Anyone who knows Klassen would likely agree that she looks far younger than her years. She said she exercised for fun when she was younger she now sees the importance. “Moving is number one because we have to do so much sitting down. Exercising, you can’t overstate the importance of it. Exercising is intentional, we have to make the effort.”

She will be riding Highway 3A along the North Shore to Balfour to train, which is poplar with summer cyclists so keep your eyes open when traveling the narrow route.

What is a Gran Fondo?

A Gran Fondo is an organized, mass participation 152 km cycling event. The Second Annual Kootenay Rockies Gran Fondo, organized by the Cranbrook Sunrise Rotary Club, allows cyclists the opportunity to participate in a world class Fondo, bring tourists to their region, and raise funds for local charitable endeavours like the Cranbrook-Kimberley Rails to Trails Society. Many cyclists use Gran Fondos to challenge themselves to ride a long distance with fellow cyclists while being supported organizationally.

The routes are well sign-posted and marshalled and riders are able to use aid stations positioned at intervals along the route to replenish their nutritional needs and drink supplies. Riders are provided with mechanical and medical support if needed. Some participants ride the event like a race, while others simply ride for a personal challenge and the camaraderie with friends and family.

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