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June 12, 2014
The path to the Grand Défi Pierre Lavoie

GDPL.jpgThe Grand défi Pierre Lavoie is just around the corner and I've been curious, as perhaps you have too, about who these valiant cyclists are who come from all walks of life to take up the challenge.

This year, Desjardins gave 16 of its members the chance to experience a one-of-a-kind cycling opportunity by riding with the Grand défi Pierre Lavoie 2014 peloton between Nicolet and Boucherville.

The participants are between 18 and 52 years old. They include experienced athletes and newbies alike. They are courageous, passionate, driven and determined. They are motivators, examples to follow and entrepreneurs. They are individuals who each have their own unique story, but their paths will cross in a few days for the Grand défi Pierre Lavoie!

To help you get to know them better, here is a little about what motivates them:

Daniel Lajeunesse
Age 46
Physical activity as a family value
"In our home, physical activity is part of each family member's everyday life. Road biking for Dad, running for Mom, dance classes for our daughters, competitive soccer for our son, and volleyball and cross-country and alpine skiing as a family--in other words, we are a very active family! When we tally our total hours of physical activity, we often top more than 40 hours a week. My wife and I set an example for our children and encourage them to incorporate physical activity into their daily routine. Both of my daughters have taken part in the Pierre Lavoie high school challenge, so I am delighted to get my turn too."
Jean Vandenbroek 
Age 36
Getting involved in a cause
"My motivation is very simple and positive--I want to contribute as much as possible to finding a cure for orphan diseases and promoting the development of our young people. Since I consider myself fortunate to be in good health, and since I was able to get an education that has allowed me to excel in my work, I want to contribute to the cause. My father passed away from cancer a few years ago and it changed my perspective on life. Now I appreciate every single day and try to share my enthusiasm with those around me."

Marie Pineau 
Age 48
Building a healthier society
"The programs developed by Pierre Lavoie have helped achieve a significant and sustainable breakthrough in promoting better lifestyle choices among youth and encouraging them to stay active and succeed in school. I am proud to be involved and to see Desjardins's social and athletic commitment, and I believe the cooperative can help build a healthier society. I think Desjardins and Pierre Lavoie form a strategic and forward-looking team!"

Noel Pelletier 
Age 52
Setting an example of courage
"When my dad died in 2008 of pancreatic cancer, followed by the death of my mother 48 hours later, I used my small inheritance to buy a road bike and have been biking and running competitively ever since (Olympic duathlon, marathon, etc.). I want to set an example of courage in the wake of hardship."

Philippe Euzhan Régis
Age 22
Building self-confidence
"I've always believed in the benefits sports can bring to academic studies. I'm not from a well-off family. I came to Quebec from Haiti when I was 4 years old, but my parents immediately understood the importance of sports in a young person's life, and they enrolled me in sports programs as soon as I started school. Today I am proud to be a third-year mechanical engineering student at École Polytechnique de Montréal. Sports has helped me learn to be disciplined and self-confident, and get in great shape."

Emmanuel Jauniaux
Age 31
Taking initiative and making a difference
"I'm a young entrepreneur looking for new ways to network. I try to combine networking and getting involved in social causes. After attending one of Mr. Lavoie's conferences for our chamber of commerce, I realized just how possible it is to be an entrepreneur and make a positive difference for society as a whole."

Joanie Lemire
Driven by hills and headwinds
"Is cycling a passion? It's much more than that--it's a lifestyle! I love to be on my bike as much as possible. I love logging the kilometers, conquering the punishing hills and the fierce wind. I love my tired, sore legs, unable to take one more step after a ride, as they silently communicate "hey, great job!" My bike is my friend, my partner... the love of my life (yeah, I`m a bit of a weirdo, I've even given it a name!). In short, sport has always been an essential part of my life. It has helped me live more intensely than ever and get through many tough times."

Jessica Bélisle
Age 24
Undertaking a larger-than-life challenge
"Ever since I got into cycling, I've seen the excitement build around the Grand Défi Pierre Lavoie. Every year I tell myself I should find a way to join in, but as a student I can't afford the luxury. Taking part in this challenge is a real privilege. My goal will be to ride with people who share my passion and help promote physical activity and healthy lifestyle habits across Quebec. This aspect of Le Grand Défi is very important and inspiring to me, and I believe it is what makes the event so special."

Marc-André Cyr
Age 32
Serving as a model for disadvantaged youth
"I'm the father of a 2-year-old boy and a phys. ed. teacher. I've taken part in the Grand Défi with my students for the past three years. Each year we collect energy cubes and every year I use different strategies to make my students as active as possible. As a teacher working in a seriously disadvantaged school, I can make a big difference in my students' lives. For this reason, I need to be a model they can identify with. Many of them follow me every step of the way and pay careful attention to what I eat, what activities I do and the attitude I adopt when dealing with different situations. In particular, my work involves making youth more aware of the need to make healthy lifestyle choices."

Jérôme Racine
Age 37
Encouraging youth to come out of their shell
"As a kid, I was not really into physical activity. I had few friends and low self-esteem. As a teen, I started getting more active and involved in sports teams. For the first time, I was part of a group that shared a common goal. I learned communication skills, respect for others and cooperation with teammates. I improved my self-esteem. My interest in sports was piqued by a coach I had as a teenager. Now that I'm the father of 2 children, ages 6 and 8, I want to be a model, however imperfect, of well-being and balance."

Stéphane Boisvert
Age 45
Getting back in shape
"In 2011 I attended a Pierre Lavoie conference where he talked about getting in shape, achievable goals, finding a mentor, energy cubes and commitment to youth. It was as if I had received an electric shock! How could I have forgotten all this! I had always loved to run, bike and cross-country ski. Once I made up my mind, I took charge of my life and this is now actually my second season competing in triathlons!

Martin Bergeron
Becoming someone's hero
"I've got 3 kids in school and every year, when it's time to collect grey matter and energy cubes for the Défi Pierre Lavoie, they ask me if I'm going to take part in the challenge. In 2012 I donated a kidney to my wife (the mother of my children) to save her life. Ever since, my wife has been running, and now she is biking, something she couldn't do before. Since Pierre Lavoie is my daughters' hero, and I am my wife's, it is a great honor to participate in a stage of the Défi Pierre Lavoie, so that my daughters can also see me as their hero."

Simon Emery
Age 18
Achieving balance and happiness
"Since childhood, I've faced many challenges, including an eating disorder. Cycling has changed my life, as it has helped me get to know myself better and adopt a healthy lifestyle. It has also helped me to meet people who share my passion and to become less isolated. I've toured around Quebec, sharing my love for cycling and for life. I'm not at the point where I'm out for the gold--I'm just doing it for the joy of cycling!"

Yan Beauchemin
Age 37
Overcoming adversity
"On July 26, 2012, I broke my neck in a mountain bike accident. If it weren't for an operation, I'd be in a wheelchair. That's when I decided to switch to road cycling. While recovering, I set a personal goal of completing the 2014 Grand Défi Pierre Lavoie. I started training again in January 2013 and began road cycling the following May. In January 2014 I was diagnosed with a degenerative disease, but fortunately it is a mild form and I am in better shape than ever. I'm still able to pursue my passion--cycling!"

Luc Bouchard
Age 47
Working hard to achieve results
"I love taking on new challenges and sharing them with like-minded individuals. I want to teach high-school students to believe in their wildest dreams and never give up. As I often say to young badminton players I coach: 'no pain, no gain.' Sometimes you need to work hard to achieve good results, but it's always worth it in the end."

Patrick Raymond
Age 41
Being active and getting others to be active too
"I love challenges, and this year I'm running my first half-marathon with my 17-year-old son who, after seeing me training for it, decided to register as well. I've also collected energy cubes with my 15-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son. I'm no athlete, just a family man who loves physical activity and loves it when those around him are active too."

I don't know about you, but these people really inspire me! What personal challenge would you like to take on?

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