Two days after Véronique Fortin won a stage race, she was called to an emergency C-section. On Sunday, she won Haute Route Dolomites Swiss Alps, a seven-day event that features many days with elevation gains of more than 3,000 m. On Monday, she travelled back to Gatineau, Que from Venice. On Tuesday, the full-time anesthesiologist was on call for 24 hours at the Centre de santé et de services sociaux (CSSS) de Gatineau. “We had an emergency C-section and we had to resuscitate the baby for a few minutes. It ended up well,” Fortin said. Since then, the nights have been pretty quiet, so she’s been catching up on her sleep, at about five hours at a time.
Fortin has been balancing full-time study and work, and high-level cycling for years. She got serious with road riding at 27, while studying her medical profession. In 2011, at 31-years-old, the anesthesiologist became the national road champion. She rode for Tibco in 2012, and then in 2013, the pro team Pasta Zara. After competing at the road world championships in Florence, she stopped riding as a pro, but she was still focused on sport. “I decided that I could still ride my bike, have good challenges and stay fit even if was wasn’t riding as a pro,” she said. “So that’s the reason I started doing challenges like the Haute Route. They are really hard races, actually, even harder than some pro races.”
As a pro, Fortin had a much more demanding schedule with more travel. She also had to compete in events that she wasn’t keen on, such as criteriums. Now, she picks the events she likes—long, often mountainous races—and tailors her preparation accordingly. “If I have a really busy work schedule, I will train for four hours during the week,” she said. “To do the Haute Route, you need to put some miles on, so I did some 20-hour weeks. Actually, I took one holiday week to just train hard. I did one week of 30 hours, which was big.” She went to the Catskills and the Adirondacks to find longer climbs than those around the national capital region. “You need to feel what it’s like to climb for hours. Whiteface Mountain in New York is pretty good and pretty close by. It was a nice playground to get ready for Haute Route.”
With the road season coming to a close, Fortin is looking to her winter sport: cross-country skiing. This past February, she won the 42-km freestyle race of the Gatineau Loppet. She’s targeting that race once again this winter as well as the Lake Placid Loppet and Sugarloaf Marathon. Next summer, she’s not sure if she’ll do another Haute Route event, likely the Pyrenees edition, or the Mongolia Bike Challenge, a multi-day mountain bike stage race. She’s also planning to do the Singletrack 6, as six-day mountain bike event to be held in Kootenay region of B.C.
While a roadie such as Fortin is no slouch on fat tires—she won the Wilmington Whiteface MTB in June and came second at the BC Bike Race in the Open Mixed category with her Opus/OGC teammate Alexandre Frappier—she feels she’s still developing as a mountain bike rider. “I’m trying to work on my mountain bike skills now,” she said. “It’s a big challenge. It’s good though, because you feel like you are improving even if you start at a lower level. I like to see the improvements when I start a new sport.”