What Comes Next? Part 2—Lyne Bessette: From ’Cross to Politics
From Issue 95 • Words by John Wilcockson
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Longtime Canadian road and cyclocross professional Lyne Bessette wrote a blog post in 2017 titled, “It’s true, I am retired.” Most of us thought she’d retired from bike racing a decade before that, but she explained: “When I stopped racing my bicycle full time for the first time, it was the winter of 2008 while in Italy for ’cross worlds. The second time, I returned to be the eyes of my awesome [blind] partner, Robbi Weldon, on the tandem. It meant back to training just like before and committing to reach the top. We succeeded and I closed out my career with a gold medal at the London Paralympics. Officially retired.”
She then assessed what “retirement” means to her: “The word can be scary. I even know some companies that do not want their athletes to officially announce it, because it shuts you off right away. I disagree; I think it gives you the chance to close the book, to look ahead…and enjoy life a different way.”
And Bessette, now in her mid-40s, has certainly taken many different directions. “I organized a ski event for three years,” she told Peloton, “and when I was done with the 2012 Paralympics, people said why don’t you start your own gravel event. So we were riding dirt roads way before people were riding dirt roads…. I was also guiding corporate rides, did events for diabetes and cancer foundations, and made school visits.”
Bessette said her interest in politics began a few years ago when, during local elections, “I thought to myself I think I could be a mayor.” She didn’t follow up, but when her hometown of Bromont was attempting to raise some $10 million to convert the city’s outdoor velodrome [bought from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics] into an indoor facility, another idea came to her. “At that point, I went to Ottawa a couple of times to represent the cycling centre, and I realized that I had given back a lot to the sport but I wanted to give back more to my community. And I thought that a great way to do it would be representing them.” So Bessette registered as a Liberal party candidate to become a federal deputy—equivalent to a U.S. Congresswoman or U.K. Member of Parliament—representing the Brome-Missisquoi district in Québec province, 100 kilometers east of Montréal.
“I don’t have a background in politics, but I’ve traveled all over the world and lived in different situations,” she said. “Campaigning wasn’t easy. It was 41 days of running around from 6 in the morning till 8 at night to meet as many people as you can.” In a tight race, Bessette won the seat by 2,366 votes over the Bloc Québécois candidate. That night she told Radio-Canada: “I’ve no idea where this will take me, but…I think I need something other than sport to inspire me.”
In the months since her election, Bessette has become a member of the Canadian government’s agricultural and heritage committees and—naturally—she joined the running group started by fellow parliamentarian Greg Fergus.
NEXT: Mike McCarthy’s real-life race to Zwift.