• Amanda Shore

Vaudreuil MNA Marie-Claude Nichols takes on physical challenge to fund healthy lifestyles for kids


PHOTO BY AMANDA SHORE

Marie-Claude Nichols, MNA for Vaudreuil, is surrounded by posters cheering her on, created for her by students at L'École José-Maria de Terrasse-Vaudreuil. Nichols is biking in le Défi Pierre Lavoie to raise money to support health programs at the school.

Before she was invited to participate in Le Grand défi Pierre Lavoie, Marie-Claude Nichols didn’t own a bicycle.

“I bought a bike and I bought a stationary bike stand to train in my home. I started at my house, in my basement, in December 2015,” said Nichols. “But it’s easy at home, you can pedal and you can watch Netflix, or you can do anything else when you’re sitting there and you’re just pedaling. You don’t have to concentrate. But when you go outside it’s a different story.”

Nichols is the Liberal MNA for Vaudreuil, and the first woman from the National Assembly to participate in Le Grand défi Pierre Lavoie. She is cycling to raise funds for l’école José-Maria de Terrasse-Vaudreuil. Her goal is to raise $11,000, all of which will go to help the school fund activities that promote a healthy lifestyle.

The students at l’école José-Maria are big supporters of Nichols. When she visited them at their school they presented her with posters and words of encouragement. They were very excited for her bike ride and peppered her with questions. They were especially interested in the special shoes that Nichols wears that clip into the pedals on her bike.

“My big insecurity about biking is that we have our feet attached to the bike,” Nichols said she told the students, “I was really scared, I thought, I have to slow down because you can’t just put your foot down, you have to click out to put your foot down. I fell a lot.”

In addition to her uncertainty over her cycling shoes, Nichols also faces a big physical challenge with this race. Although she plays volleyball and jogs regularly, cycling is a new activity for her.

“It’s hard. I’m sore everywhere. I’m sore on the inside of my hands, on my legs… we’re doing intensive training.”

What keeps Nichols going is her belief in the cause. The mission of le Grand défi is to encourage children to adopt healthy lifestyles. Nichols believes that children today spend too much time on their electronic devices. She calls them the “tablet generation.” She’s taking on this challenge to inspire children to get moving and to raise money to help their school create programs that will help them develop healthy habits.

Le Grand défi Pierre Lavoie begins on June 16 in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. From there, Nichols and her teammates will spend four days cycling the 1000 km to the Stade Olympique in downtown Montreal.

They won’t, however, be doing the whole route at once. There are several stops planned along the way that will allow the team to get some rest and a bit of sleep. Even so, Nichols expects it to be a grueling ride to the finish line.

“I will finish for sure. It’s psychological. I don’t want to be sitting in the l’autobus de la honte (the bus of shame) so I won’t sit there. For sure, I’m going to finish. I don’t know if I’m going to finish at the same time as everyone else, but I will finish it.”

On Sunday, June 19, Nichols and her team will be riding through Pincourt on the last leg of their journey. To find out where to go to cheer them on, visit www.legdpl.com/le-1000-km/le-1000-km-en-detail/le-parcours-2014. If you’d like to donate to Nichol’s and her team, you can do so online at www.legdpl.com/le-1000-km/don-a-une-equipe.

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