Cyclist makes it to top of the world
Cross-Canada tour for national unity

by Glenn Taylor
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Oct 10/97) - He almost didn't make it. His bike was in shreds from thousands of kilometres of hard riding.

But the look on Chris Robertson's face when he pulled into town last week suggested he would have carried his wheeled steed to the finish if he had to.

Robertson set out from Canada's most southern point, Ontario's Point Pelee, on March 1 of this year, with a lofty goal in mind. He intended to cycle across Canada all the way to Tuktoyaktuk, to fulfil his dream of becoming the first solo cyclist to make such a trip.

But underlying the dream was a message, which Robertson spread along the way. "Canadians need to give themselves permission to be excited about Canada," said Robertson. "I've been asking people this question at every stop along the way: what will you do before the year 2000 to make Canada a better country than when you found it?"

Robertson has certainly done his share. Emblazoned with Maple Leaf flags on his cycle pants, and with a flapping Pearson's Penant waving from his bicycle, Robertson looked every bit the Canadian patriot in Inuvik last week.

One of those nationalist emblems, the one sewn close to his heart, is the same one he wore to the 1995 unity rally in Montreal, where thousands of Canadians came to save Canada in the separation referendum. Robertson said he made the trip to spread the word that Canada is worth saving.

Robertson lost some 44 kilograms on the voyage, and looked fit as an ox as he pulled into Inuvik. His expensive mountain bike looked pounded, however. The steel teeth of the bike's gears were ground down to points, and he had to push the bike over hills nearing Inuvik. But where technology fails, human spirit prevails.

Robertson said he plans to return to Inuvik in January to complete his last leg of the journey to Tuk, via the Mackenzie River ice road. He had initially planned to mountain bike through the brush between Inuvik and Tuk, but with winter now rolling in, that proved too ambitious and just plain unworkable.

Congratulations to Hamilton's Robertson for making it to the top of the world, and proving that Canadian national spirit, while often hidden, is capable of astounding feats when challenged.