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Hat trick for County’s Rob Legge competing on world bicycle stage

Kathy O’Connell hugs husband Rob Legge following his victory in the Jacksonville Alabama qualifying race for the World Gran Fondo Championships in Scotland, in August.

The County’s Rob Legge will take on world’s best bicyclists in his category this summer in Scotland.

Legge, for the third consecutive year, has won his age category (now 75-79) in a qualifying race. Last week he won at the CHEAHA Challenge Bike Race in Jacksonville Alabama, a Union Cycliste International qualifying event for the World Gran Fondo Championships in Perth, Scotland in August.

He almost didn’t make it.

“During the race, my chain fell off with 20 km to go. Johnny Ervan from Clarksville TN, stopped to help me, luckily he had a replacement chain link and was able to get me back on the road. He was my savior, I wouldn’t be going to Scotland, if I didn’t finish and Johnny saved the day.”

“It is nicknamed the toughest Gran Fondo in the southern US, 100 miles of mountainous terrain and 2800 meters of climbing,” notes Legge, who practiced by repeatedly biking the hills of Pitt Street and Chuckery, among other things.

“The Cheaha Challenge course was a challenge, The first 30km were flat, then the next 100 Km were hilly. Many of the hills, were short, followed by a downhill. The pitch of the hills would be like Pitt Street or Chuckery Hill.

“There was one long climb up Cheaha Mountain. I had prepared for the climbs by doing hill repeats on Pitt Street and Chuckery Hill. This was the perfect training for the race.”

Legge had arrived in the Jacksonville area on Wednesday May 17, and climbed the Cheaha Mountain section and knew he could do it fairly easily.

“My problem was that in training, I had never rode 160 km, but I had done back-to-back 90 km rides which were helpful. The roads were nicely paved, with little traffic, and in a forested area, so it was very scenic.”

Legge won two other qualifying races in Victoriaville Quebec, in 2021 and 2022. He did not travel to Europe due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but cycled to 33rd in the world Gran Fondo in Italy in September 2022.

He is excited to venture into the new age category of 75-79.

“Since I am the youngest in this category, I think my chances of placing are in my favour. My goal is to be on the podium. I think in Trento, Italy my time might have placed third in the 75+ category.”

Training is year-round.

“The new paved shoulder on Hwy 62 allowed me to train through the winter. It was well cleared and rideable within a few days of snowfall. Thus far this year I have cycled over 6,000 km and have climbed over 55,000 meters. I want to thank my training partners, Gregor Stuart, Steve Sykes, Vic Rocha and Bill Ulakovic for their motivation and friendship and support team of Doug’s and Ideal Bike, who keep my bikes in tip top shape and PEFAC for their great work out facilities.”

It takes a village to make the success happen.

“I started a yoga routine in November, which I now do daily and I have a squadron of professional helpers. First and foremost, my wife Kathy O’Connell is my director general. She has been fantastic in setting the path to train and prepare for these events. I use the massage services of Cindy McNeely; Sam Sheppard is my physiotherapist to fix my aches and pains; Andrew Binks (The Moveable Beast) is my personal trainer; Chrystal Pang of the Family Foot Centre keeps my feet healthy and finally Kathy McAlpine is my Fascial Stretch guru and Murray Legge, my cousin, who is a part-time County resident on Folkhart Lane in Picton. I also have a cycling community who are supportive and inspirational.”

Legge has been cycling for nearly 20 years, including the local rides and the annual Ride to Conquer Cancer, raising funds for the Princess Margaret Hospital.

“Next week, I will be riding with Team Myderwyk on the Ride to Conquer Cancer, a two-day, 300 km journey which takes us from Toronto to Niagara Falls, via Hamilton. Our team of 15 rides are amazing, we have collected donations of over $ 75,000 to date. My teammates are all amazing individuals, and the comradery we have at this event is so inspiring. ”

Legge feels lucky to have the ability to train and compete at his age.

“I am proud that in 1971 I represented Canada in Track and Field, running the 5K and 10K races at the Pan American Games in Cali Columbia. Now 50+ years later I am representing Canada in cycling.”

On Aug. 4, Rob will return to Scotland to compete in the World Gran Fondo Championships. Before doing this race, he and his wife Kathy had traveled to Perth Scotland in mid-April.

“I rented a bike and rode the 85 km, Medio Fondo course a couple of times. It is much easier than the Cheaha, shorter, and only 800 meters of climbing versus 2800m. It’s a rolling hill course, through beautiful countryside on-chip and tar roads, which are in good condition.

“My first experience in this competition was last year in Trento, Italy. I learned from that experience,
to know the course and to make sure to arrive a week before the race. Since I have ridden the course,
I can set up my training to maximize my effort on Aug. 4th, race day.”

The couple travelled to Scotland, with two purposes: to visit Perth and ride the course, and on the second week, enjoyed a train tour through the Highlands and visited the Isle of Skye.

“It is a beautiful country, and the residents are friendly and very polite,” he notes, adding the trip, hopefully, will pay dividends.

“I hope. I am familiar with the course, and the city of Perth. I have connected with a bike shop, J M Richards, which has been in business for 70 years. I will ship my bike to them and it will be ready to ride when we arrive. I am usually wondering what will be in store when we travel to these destinations, and this early trip solved the mysteries.”

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  1. Rob Legge says:

    Hi Sue:

    Thanks for crafting a great article and thanks everyone who replied, your comments are greatly appreciated.

  2. Victoria Keith says:

    Congratulations. All very exciting! Good luck in Scotland.

  3. Peter Jaehrling says:

    Go for the big one. all the best Peter

  4. Bill and NormA says:

    What a guy!
    Best wishes Rob… send us a selfie as you cross the finish line!

  5. Barbara Wallace says:

    Fantasic Rob, congratulations! What an accomplishment. And you will be well prepared for Scotland! Good luck.

  6. Cheryl Anderson says:

    Congratulations Rob. Rooting for you in Scotland!

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