Words by Tim Johnson. Photos provided by Ryan Correy.
It’s a beautiful autumn day in the Canadian Rockies, crisp and clear. Outside the restored log Canmore opera house, a herd of gear-laden bikes lean against racks, some still dusty with a layer of gravel road grime from an overnight jaunt into Kananaskis the day before. Inside, folks mingle with coffee and cookies, enjoying the communal vibe of a weekend spent living, breathing, and chatting all things bikepacking. It’s late afternoon on day 2 of the second annual Canada Bikepack Summit and we’re looking forward to the evening’s program, a talk from filmmaker Mike Dion on the genesis of Ride The Divide.
Before we break for dinner, Bikepack Canada founder Ryan Correy makes his way to the front of the room to check in on how the weekend’s going. He’s the inspirational, tireless torch-bearer of the bikepacking scene in Canada, just one of his many projects in an inspiring list of accomplishments since setting out on his first long-distance bike tour at age 13.
Correy is no stranger to adversity, especially while perched on a bike seat. He’s a 2-time Tour Divide finisher. He’s the youngest Canadian to finish the Race Across America, and has stood on the podium of multiple solo 24 hour events. One of his greatest challenges came inside the confines of Red Deer, an Alberta fitness studio in an attempt to break the world indoor spinning record. As an author his passion for cycling comes to life in 2015’s A Purpose Ridden, and the first edition of his Bikepacking in the Canadian Rockies guidebook will hit shelves this June.
On a hot evening in July 2017, I stopped by Rebound Cycle to hang out at the “neutral aid station” pit stop for racers in the Alberta Rockies 700 bikepacking race. Ryan and wife Sarah, along with the good folks at Rebound, had the barbecue going and full coolers awaiting any and all of the dusty AR700 racers rolling through Canmore, about 230 km into the race route. As we waited for riders to coast in, I chatted with Ryan about his 24 Hours of Adrenalin solo attempt coming up the next weekend. He spoke briefly of some ongoing stomach issues that were bugging him, but before long we were again whooping for the next racers rolling in for a cold beer and a burger.
It would have been soon after that he’d visited his family doc and went through some tests to figure out what was up. While waiting for test results, Ryan – in intense pain – pushed through the gruelling 24 Hour race on a hot weekend in mid-July, taking the win in the solo category. The next day, he heard from his doctor.
Looking back to 2002, and what may be considered the start of his cancer journey, Correy pedaled 14000 km around North America as a cancer research fundraiser, followed a few years later by his record-breaking 131 day ride from Alaska to Argentina on the 25000 km Pan-American highway route in honour of a young friend battling a brain tumour. His diagnosis in July 2017 of stage 4 colon cancer at the age of 34 was a shock, unfathomable for a strong, healthy, accomplished athlete. To see him at the Bikepack Summit in September ‘17, smiling, humble and appreciative of the room filled with friends new and old, it was still hard to believe, let alone begin to comprehend the fight he was going through.
Despite aggressive rounds of chemotherapy, Ryan’s colon cancer is aggressive and has spread to his liver, lymph nodes, and now his lungs. The diagnosis is daunting and though difficult to treat at this advanced stage, hope remains a powerful ally in his fight. Alternative treatment options remain and Ryan deserves every opportunity to overcome this disease.
I first met Ryan in August 2016 when he gave a “Bikepacking 101” talk at a store I worked at in Banff. The crowd was small but keen, and since then many in the room have become friends and pedalled many kilometres together in the Canadian Rockies. The Bikepack Canada website, Summit, podcasts and community that he has cobbled together is truly inspiring and it’s my goal in sharing this story that I hope you’ll read on to his wife Sarah’s words below and do whatever you can to share, spread the word and support Ryan’s fight.
“Ryan’s friends, family, and community have been so generous in helping with Ryan’s fight, and we are truly humbled and grateful for the tremendous show of support. I have started this campaign in the hopes of casting a larger net, to humbly ask for your help, and to give an avenue of support for those who have asked what they can do. Any amount you can donate would be deeply appreciated and will go directly to covering Ryan’s medical related expenses. You can donate on this page quickly and easily – and rest assured, youcaring.com does not keep any of the funds like other crowdfunding sites.”
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