Naval Warfare Officer takes ultra long-distance approach to Navy Bike Ride
By Joanie Veitch,
Last year, LCdr Kray Robichaud cycled 5,968.7 kms as his contribution to the 2020 virtual Navy Bike Ride Battle of the Atlantic challenge, which added up to — by his estimate — a cumulative total of nine days, nine hours and 23 minutes in the saddle.
By July 15th this year, he was already on track to beat that distance in the 2021 virtual Harry DeWolf challenge.
“When comparing my stats with last year’s Navy Bike Ride, I am slightly ahead by 75km — 1,901 km ridden this year compared to 1,825 km ridden this time last year,” he said.
LCdr Robichaud loves to track his stats, taking pleasure in adding interesting facts to help put the incredible distances he rides into a fun frame of reference. For instance, he not only estimated the amount of calories he burned over the 11 weeks of last year’s Navy Bike Ride — 210,185 calories to be exact — he determined that amount would be “the equivalent to the amount of calories that two Kingston Class ship’s companies would expend in one day, or alternatively, the amount of calories an average person would expend in three and a half months.”
Becoming a long-distance cyclist
In his official title, LCdr Robichaud is the RCN’s Senior Staff Officer Strategic Outreach Atlantic/Arctic Canada, as well as a husband and dad to four children. When not attending to those duties, he’s on his bike as much as possible — earning titles of distinction in cycling and more than a few medals along the way.
LCdr Robichaud is what is known in cycling circles as a ‘randonneur’ — a rider who has successfully completed a self-supported 200-kilometre ‘brevet’ or mapped course with preset control checkpoints. Once a cyclist completes the course successfully, they receive the lifetime ‘randonneur’ distinction.
In fact, LCdr Robichaud, who is president of the cycling club Randonneurs Nova Scotia, is a ‘super randonneur’ in that he has completed a brevet series of increasing distances — 200 km, 300 km, 400 km and 600 km. Unlike the ‘randonneur’ distinction, the title of ‘super randonneur’ must be earned each cycling season.
Going from riding a 400 km distance to riding 600 km seemed like a huge jump the first time he did it, LCdr Robichaud recalled, but when he was out on the road, he felt good enough to ride through without stopping. “I wanted to see what it’s like to ride over 24 hours… It was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.”
Achieving the ‘super randonneur’ in 2016, his first summer of long-distance riding, LCdr Robichaud has earned the distinction of honour every year since. Going even beyond that to cycle 1,000 km and even up to 1,200 km in a continuous ride, with only short rest stops to take care of necessities along the way.
Although cycling is a huge part of his life now, it wasn’t always that way. Like most people, LCdr Robichaud enjoyed riding his bike growing up and continued riding recreationally into adulthood.
Then one summer day in 2015, LCdr Robichaud and his family were visiting the Halifax library and he picked up a cycling magazine to pass the time. It was a random grab, but he remembers reading an article about randonneuring and long-distance cycling.
“I thought to myself, ‘That’s just crazy. What kind of moron would ride those distances? I found it mind boggling,” he recalled.
Remembering back to when he first started doing long-distance rides, LCdr Robichaud said his Navy training has been a large part of his success in the sport.
“My training as a naval warfare officer, that Navy training and the discipline that comes with being in the military, that helped my approach to these long-distance cycling events enormously. Like a good little naval officer, I planned and coordinated and mentally prepared myself…for success.”
This year’s Navy Bike Ride, with the virtual Harry DeWolf challenge, has inspired LCdr Robichaud in his summer cycling plans.
“I am leaning towards cycling the distance from Halifax, NS to Esquimalt, BC (via the Northwest Passage) — the route HMCS Harry DeWolf will follow, August 3 to October 4, 2021, approximately 7,500 nautical miles,” he said.
Always one for a challenge, he’s adding to that goal, naturally.
“I also intend to cycle the entire distance it will take for Harry DeWolf to circumnavigate North America — 14,940 nautical miles — before Harry DeWolf returns to Halifax in December 2021.”