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  • Writer's pictureMartin Zeilig

Grizzly Challenge 2022

One could be forgiven for thinking that the Grizzly Challenge has something to do with locating those big brown bears found in Western Canada and parts of the north.

Grizzly Challenge. Photo Credit: Martin Zeilig, Voxair Photojournalist

But no, it has nothing to do with Ursus arctos horribilis.

It’s an annual memorial cycling ride to commemorate all the Canadian Forces members lost in Afghanistan, notes the GC website.

This year’s GC was a virtual event, noted Corporal Alexandra Grant, the GC’s OPI, during a telephone interview.

The GC ran from July 25-August 5 at Bird’s Hill Provincial Park.

It began as a 402 Squadron initiative in 2010 but has grown to include participants from many other units at 17 Wing Winnipeg. Riders pledge to ride a total distance of 158km (1km for each member lost).

Participants and interested parties are encouraged to donate towards Soldier On, a military charity that assists CAF members and the military community at large.

Sven Fritsch, who works at 17 OSS and is a former 38 year member of the CAF, is a founder of the Grizzly Challenge. Sergeant Rene Emond and Mr. John Erwin, who work as a civilian employee at 1 CAD, were the other founders of the CD.

“We were looking for something very inclusive and to commemorate the 158 people lost in Afghanistan,” Mr. Fritsch said during a telephone interview.

“It’s really grown in popularity. When we started out there were maybe ten riders.”

About 60 riders took part in this year’s GC, he added.

“It all goes for a good cause, whoever you want to donate to,” Mr. Fritsch said.

Riders had two weeks to complete the 158km distance.

They could ride either solo or as part of a team, Cpl Grant said.

“Usually, every year the Grizzly Challenge happens on one day in Bird’s Hill Provincial Park because there’s a loop there, and it meets all the criteria that the organizers were looking for,” she said.

“There’s easy access to refreshments, bike repair if needed, and there are usually also memorial signs placed around the loop for every member lost in Afghanistan.

“This year, because there was short notice in getting it up and running, I offered it as a virtual event. So, we opened it up to a weeklong event.

“But, it’s not a national event yet. We’re so lucky now with the technology available to us.”

Cpl Grant also paid tribute her late friend and colleague, Sergeant Mengesha, who died last year.

Sgt Mengesha organized the 2021 GC.

“I had the opportunity to work with him,” she said, noting that she took on the role of OPI in memory of Sgt Mengesha.

“He was my Sergeant and mentor. So this year I was given the honour to be the OPI.”

“My Master Warrant Officer Glen Emberly has done a lot of work on this ride too. It’s a wonderful event.”

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