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Tragedy in Quebec: Saint Lambert Triathlon Club in Mourning

Three members of the Saint Lambert Triathlon Club were killed last May while riding.

Photos from top: 1. Lyn Duhamel with husband Marc Flageole. Photo Courtesy of Marc Flageole; 2. Christine Deschamps in the fall of 2009.  3. Sandra de la Garza Aguila in the fall of 2009. Photos Courtesy of the Saint-Lambert Triathlon Club

Three members of the Saint Lambert Triathlon Club were killed last May while riding to a training camp in Sherbrooke. A group of six riders were hit by a pick-up truck driven by a volunteer firefighter on his way home from an overnight shift.

Sandra de la Garza Aguilar, 36, from St. Bruno de Montarville, Christine Deschamps, 44 and Lyn Duhamel, 39, from Boucherville, were all killed in the crash. The group were riding single file along a straight stretch along Highway 112 in Rougemont, Quebec when they were struck from behind. They were 40 km into a 140 km ride. De la Garza Aguilar and Deschamps were training for Ford Ironman Lake Placid, while Duhamel was getting ready for Subaru Ironman Canada. The three other cyclists in the group were seriously injured but survived the crash.

“If there was a paved shoulder this wouldn’t have happened, that’s for sure,” Bruno Sevigny, a member of the St. Lambert Triathlon Club, told the Montreal Gazette after the accident. According to Transport Quebec work to pave the shoulder along that stretch of road was to begin just a few weeks after the accident. Coroner Andre Dandavino was critical of the road conditions in his initial statements after the accident.

“We’re asking people to do more exercises to be more environmental, but we need to give them the possibility to do things in a secure way,” Dandavino told Montreal’s CTV affiliate.

“This has caused a huge shockwave in the triathlon and cycling community here,” said Marc Flageole, Lyn Duhamel’s husband. Because he had to work he was unable to join the rest of the group on their long ride to Sherbrooke for the training camp – he was to follow a few hours later with all their gear in his car. Cyclists and triathletes swarmed to a cycling event a few days after the event to honour the lost triathletes.

“The “Ride in Silence” has been for about six years,” said Flageole. “Instead of a few hundred, there were at least two thousand at the ride. I’m hoping that we can build on the momentum of this to improve cycling safety.”

A painful return to Penticton

Marc Flageole will compete at Subaru Ironman Canada in August, but the race will hardly be a celebration for the team captain of the St. Lambert Triathlon Club. Rather than competing alongside his wife of six years, Lyn Duhamel, he’ll compete alone. He’ll also make the trip to the Ford Ironman World Championship in Hawaii regardless of whether or not he qualifies.

“Lyn loved Hawaii,” Flageole says. “I’ll be taking her urn there and spreading some of her ashes.”

Flageole proposed to Duhamel on the finish line in Kona in 2003. Duhamel did her first Ironman in 2001 after being inspired by one of her patients, Trish O’Keefe, who competed in Penticton after overcoming cancer. Duhamel had completed five Ironman races in France, Penticton, Wisconsin and Lake Placid. Ironically, she wasn’t confident riding her bike on the road.

“Lyn was an Ironman, but she hated cycling on highways,” says Flageole. “Often she was in the basement and she felt guilty about it. This year she joined our triathlon club and made a lot of friends. This was literally her first time on a major highway in a group.”

Originally from Sudbury, Ontario, Duhamel moved to Montreal to work as an oncology nurse.

“Lyn was a fiery, energetic, spirited soul who inspired many with her encouraging, uplifting, positive words,” her obituatry stated. “She loved and lived life to its fullest. She was a generous, giving and caring nurse who helped many deal with grief – an angel to all of her patients.”