Rotary Club holding fundraising drive-thru dinner for Hawkesbury athlete on September 22

The Rotary Club of Hawkesbury is holding a drive-thru chicken dinner fundraiser for local Paralympian Joey Desjardins on Thursday, September 22, at La Cite Golf Club. The Hawkesbury athlete is coming off an amazing 2022 season, in which he won both his first World Cup medal and a gold at the Canadian Championships.

The September 22 event will help raise funds towards training and the 2023 season for Desjardins, who won the bronze medal in the Men’s H3 Handcycle Road Race at the World Paracycling Championships in Baie Comeau, Québec, on August 13.

The drive-thru dinner will include chicken, wedges, coleslaw, barbecue sauce, a bun and dessert for $20 per person or $60 per family. To reserve your dinner call 613-677-4722. The dinners can be picked up at La Cite Golf Course from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on September 22, where Desjardins will be on hand to greet supporters.

“I’m looking forward to catching up with everyone who supports me,” said the local athlete, who is back home in Hawkesbury after a camping vacation with his family in New Brunswick following the World Championships. “If anyone has any questions, or if they want to chat, just feel free and I’ll be happy to speak with them.”

Successful 2022 World Cup season

Desjardins is still digesting his rise in the World Cup rankings following a very successful 2022 season on the bike. The local athlete took home the gold medal in the Men’s H3 Road Race at the Canadian Road Cycling Championships, held in Edmonton. Alberta, last June. He then followed that up with his first World Cup medal, by racing to bronze in the World Championships in front of his family and friends just over a month later.

“It’s funny how early in the season you kind of have hopes and where you wish to go, but to actually make it happen at the biggest race of the season is kind of surreal,” Desjardins said. “It’s fun when things work out the way you hoped.”

At the World Championships, the Hawkesbury athlete and his teammate Charles Moreau stayed with the lead pack the entire race before Desjardins made his move on the final lap.

“Everything got decided on that last hill,” he recalls. “That’s where I passed a whole bunch and then chased down the top three guys.”

On the final straightaway, Desjardins sprinted past the third place rider and into the bronze medal position – nearly catching the top two before the finish line. He completed the race in two hours – two seconds behind second place finisher Paolo Cecchetto of Italy, whose time was an even two hours. Riadh Tarsim of France placed first with a time of one hour, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds.

Although he ran out of time, finishing just three seconds out of the gold medal position while reeling in the leaders during the final sprint has given Desjardins a vision of what is possible in 2023.

“I could see it in my sights,” he said, breaking into a wry laugh as he recalled his desperate charge to catch the leaders in the final few metres, only to run out of time. “I tried as hard as I could to chase them down.”

What also made the Baie Comeau race special was that Joey’s wife Vanessa and daughters Stella and Zayla were in attendance – standing right on the hill where Desjardins made his big move on the final lap.

“I always love racing with Vanessa and the kids there,” Desjardins said. “(Vanessa) pushes me to go beyond my limits and she definitely did that in Baie Comeau.”

“On the hill we’re not going so fast, so they could really experience that push and suffering up the hill. They really helped me get over it with some words of encouragement there.”

Desjardins credited teammate Moreau – who won silver in the time trials at the World Championships – with helping him take bronze in the road race.

“A lot of the road races are just survival, but there are some key moments that you can feed off each other as a teammate and get behind each other to try to pull a little more and move up front,” said the eventual bronze medalist. “That move was done on the last lap and helped me position myself well for the hill.”

Aiming for gold

As he looks towards racing for Canada again in 2023, Desjardins said he feels the road racing events have become his strength and believes he can regularly compete for a medal in World Cup competition.

“I really like road races, because it’s a story in itself,” he explained. “From the beginning to the end, it’s a two-hour journey and the story gets written along the way.”

“It’s fun to look back afterwards on how it all played out.”

With the goal of winning a World Cup medal 2022 accomplished, Desjardins was asked if he believes he could take home a gold medal in 2023.

“I know I could,” he said. “It’s right within my reach – it’s so close!”

Hawkesbury Athlete Joey Desjardins celebrates with his teammates and coach after winning the bronze medal at the World Championships on August 13. Left to right: Alex Hyndman, Seb Travers (Coach) , Joey Desjardins and Charles Moreau. Photo: Jean-Baptiste Benavent