For nearly two straight weeks, Bianca Hayes cycled 20 hours a day eastward across the country, hoping to beat a world record and raise money for ovarian cancer charities.
But two days away from breaking the women's Guinness World Record for the fastest ride across mainland Canada, she said, her journey was cut short Sunday by a collision with a motorcycle in southern Quebec.
Hayes, who is from North Vancouver, said the motorcycle knocked her bike out from under her, leaving her with a concussion and a sprained ankle.
"It's not common that cyclists are to walk away pretty unscathed from things like that so I just feel very lucky," she said in an interview.
The ride was to be Hayes's second across Canada to raise funds for ovarian cancer research in honour of her late sister. Her first cross-country attempt in 2020 took her 19 days to complete — four days short of 15 days needed to set a Guinness World Record. (The fastest-ever mainland cycle was Chris Bruckner, who completed the coast-to-coast journey in just over 13 days, according to the records company).
This year, she decided to try again.
On June 13, Hayes launched her second cross-country ride, starting from Vancouver City Hall. She rode north through Kamloops, B.C., to take the Trans-Canada Highway across the country.
With a team of four friends following in a trailer to support her, Hayes said she took a 15-minute break every four hours, and slept for just two to three hours a night. She says she rode hundreds of kilometres every day.
Conditions were less than ideal.
On the fourth day of her journey, as she entered Saskatchewan, she faced headwinds of 60 km/h, combined with a 40 km/h side wind.
The following day, she encountered a dust storm in Manitoba that brought more headwinds and left her covered in dirt.
A day later, there was a heat wave severe enough for officials in Winnipeg to cancel a city marathon. Hayes managed the extreme heat by tying nylon stockings filled with ice around her neck.
"My legs swelled up to three times their size. It was incredibly painful," Hayes recalled.
"It felt like we went through all of the trials and all of these different ordeals and it would have made for an epic story to set that record and do it in the face of all those challenges."
5-year survival rate
Hayes lost her sister, Katrina, to ovarian cancer in 2018.
After her sister's death, Hayes' learned the five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer hasn't improved in the last 50 years. The lack of progress spurred her to raise funds for more research.
Katrina left behind a son, Calvin, now seven years old.
"It sort of just sparked something in me," she said. "If not me then who? And if not now then when?"
"Knowing that he is growing up without his mom is extra motivation for me to continue what I'm doing."
Despite being cut short, Hayes's ride raised more than $145,000 as of July 1. Her donation will be split between Ovarian Cancer Canada and the B.C. Cancer Foundation. Ovarian Cancer Canada said the funding will go toward research, advocacy and supporting people affected by the disease across the country.
Their organization had planned an official welcome for Hayes's arrival in Halifax, which was supposed to be Jun. 28.
"The team in Halifax was ready to greet her with open arms," said marketing and communications manager at Megan Gough. "We are just so honoured that she continues to advocate for us."
As she recovers from her injuries, Hayes said she may try for the record a third time in the future.