A new documentary that highlights the outstanding cycling career of Canadian Olympian Lyne Bessette, who is a strong advocate of clean sports, was released Thursday evening on RDS, a French-language channel owned by CTV Specialty Television in Canada – and it was a success.
The one-hour episode, split into five parts, also aired at the National Training Centre in Bromont, Quebec, where more than 70 people including Bessette’s close friends and family were there to watch. Bessette interacted with the audience and took the time to answer questions about her cycling career.
“It was really cool. People loved it,” Bessette told Cyclingnews. “I’m most proud of what came after the documentary because I’ve been getting so many nice messages from it. I realize that what I did and the hard work that I put in paid off. My goal was to touch the crowd, but it’s also for the kids. I hope that people can look up to the things that I have done, and say ‘hey, it’s possible to do it.”
The documentary tells the story of a dedicated and decorated cyclist, Bessette, who chose to compete in professional road cycling clean during her career of roughly 11 years from 1995 until 2006. During that time, her accomplishments included national titles in the road race and time trial, and victories on the US circuit at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, Women’s Challenge, Tour of Willamette, Tour de Toona, Nature Valley Grand Prix, Fitchburg Longsjo Classic and Sea Otter Classic.
But it was her international success that made her a high-profile figure in the sport of cycling, with overall wins at the Tour de l’Aude and Tour de Suisse Feminine, and podium finishes at Fleche Wallonne World Cup and the Montreal World Cup. She was also a two-time member of the Canadian Olympic team in Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004.
Bessette retired from professional road racing mid-2006 citing a fear of crashing, being uncomfortable in the peloton on the road, and not finding the right team atmosphere. “One day I sat on a bench and said, ‘I can’t keep going anymore.’ The stress and the fear were just too strong for me. I didn’t feel good on a team, it was not a good situation, and so I left,” Bessette said.
Following her road cycling career, she continued to make a name for herself in the cyclo-cross from 2006 until 2008. She went on to compete as an accomplished pilot for para-cyclist Robbie Weldon, and together they won gold medals at the 2010 UCI World Para-cycling Championships and 2012 Summer Paralympics Women's road race B. She made a brief return as a pilot for Weldon in 2014 where the pair competed at the Nationals and World Championships.
The RDS documentary of Bessette includes interviews with her father, mother and brother, and her long-time friends Rachel Lauziere and Denis Boulanger along with former cyclists Melanie Nadeau and Manon Jutras, and Louis Barbeau, who is the Director General of Quebec's Cycling Federation. They also speak with her long-time coach Eric van den Eynde, who is also an advocate of clean cycling and discusses unethical behaviors in sport.
“Eric has always been the type of guy who would never take drugs, doesn’t drink alcohol, he pays for things in cash, saves his money, works hard… that kind of person,” Bessette said. “He looks like a really tough guy but he is a very understandable and emotional person, and in the documentary he explains that there is a consciousness to life [and sport] that are attached. He is the guru of this documentary.”
The documentary touches on the history between Bessette and Genevieve Jeanson, also from Quebec, who admitted in 2007 to doping during most of her career, beginning when she was a teenager in 1998 through her early 20s until she returned a positive test for EPO in 2005. Following her confession, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) conducted a 12-month investigation. In the end, Jeanson received a lifetime ban for repeatedly using EPO during her cycling career, which was then reduced to ten years for providing CCES with assistance in establishing anti-doping rule violations against her coach Andre Aubut and physician Maurice Duquette, who both received lifetime bans.
Jeanson was not stripped of the majority of her racing results and during many of those victories Bessette placed second. “I’m getting lots of good messages that it was a good way to explain my career and what happened,” Bessette said. “There were things that a lot of people didn’t know about Genevieve and I, and why people thought she was the best and why I would place behind her.
“The good thing [about the documentary] is that in the interviews, they ask people who were in my surroundings at the time; my best friend, my mom, parents and coach. There was a journalist along the way, Luc Bellemare, who has always been there, he was the one answering the questions about the doping.”
Bessette acknowledged some of the highlights of the documentary including footage of her victory at the 1998 Commonwealth Games.
“People knew that I won that race, but they didn’t know how it happened, and we had footage of that race,” Bessette said. “The documentary shows part of it, and it was a little bit more explained. I had made a DVD of that race, and I wanted my parents to keep it, and every time they see it they are still nervous that I’m not going to win. It was a sprint finish between Anna Wilson, Susy Pryde and me.”
She reminisced over her accomplishments as a pilot for Weldon in para-cycling, something she regards as the best moments of her career.
“Every time I was at the Olympics something happened,” Bessette said. “I didn’t have a lot of luck at the Olympics. We talked about Olympic Para-cycling at the end of the documentary. When I won with Robbie, it closed out my career on a good note.
Bessette, 40, is still a competitive athlete; a runner who competed in the World Run in May and the New York Marathon in November, completing the distance in 3:02. She also organizes a gravel road cycling event, 100b7.com, along with ski mountaineering races, skimoeast.com, on the US and Canadian east coast.
“We host two races in the US and eight in Quebec,” Bessette said. “Ski mountaineering is where the athletes train on skis. Runners often use it for training over the winter months. You put skins on the bottom of your skis, go uphill as fast as you can and when you get to the top, you take the skins underneath your skis off and ski downhill-style on trails, the you put your skins back on a go back up. It gives runners a break from running and works the whole body, an awesome sport for any endurance athlete.”
Bessette said that when people watch her documentary, she hopes they realize how important it is for kids in sports to be involved in a healthy environment.
“The environment that young athletes should have," Bessette said. "That is what made my career, what allowed me to keep going through adversity and come out positive about it. If you don’t have the support of your parents, your family, your friends, coach; you need people who support and believe in you.”
Part 1 of Bessette's documentary can be found on RDS, along with part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5. And you can view the trailer below. To subscribe to the Cyclingnews video channel, please click here.