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Squamish man has sights set on podium at Tour de France

Pro cyclist Jack Burke heading to Europe for race tour
Jack Burke, making his way up Highway 99.

If you spot a man on a road bike barrelling up or down the Sea to Sky highway, rain — or snow —  hitting him sideways, his feet spinning the pedals in a rhythm, his head focused forward, and a smile on his face — that is likely Squamish's Jack Burke.

He is the same fellow you may also see curled up in the fetal position, in an ice-cold lake.

Burke, 23, is a professional cyclist who trains about five hours daily by riding up and down Highway 99 from Squamish to either Mount Seymour or Cypress Mountain.

He does several circuits up and down the mountain then rides home.

Other times, he can be seen swimming or sitting in a cold lake or river.

That is Burke's cold-water immersion training, which follows the Wim Hof method.  It is a strategy used by athletes and some regular folk around the world, but not seen as commonly here. Burke described one November day when a local stumbled upon him mid-icy-soak.

"Sitting there motionless, meditating, water up to my neck, black swim shorts, black ball cap, black stopwatch, I see headlights pull into the parking lot," Burke wrote in one of the stories of his experiences he shared with The Chief.

"It was a hunter who had taken his black lab a little further down shore and was training him to fetch ducks.... He never did come over but I'm sure it freaked him out that I never moved and he came and left before I did."

Though he is nonchalant about his accomplishments, Burke is one of the best road cyclists in North America.

His goal is to compete in his first Olympic games at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.  His long-term dream, though, is to be the first Canadian to win the Tour de France.

He explained to The Chief that for cyclists, making the Olympics compared to the Tour is like getting into the Olympics in hockey versus winning the Stanley Cup.

The Tour de France is the Stanley Cup of racing, he said.

But while most spectators know of the July France race, there are actually three Grand Tours. The Giro d'Italia is in May, in Italy. In September is the Vuelta a España — tour of Spain.

"In Europe, they go berserk for all of them," he said.

Burke, a former Quest University student, is about to embark on a world tour with his European racing team Leopard Pro Cycling, a Luxembourg-based team.

"That is hopefully the last step before the major leagues in cycling," Burke said. "They are a feeder team for a bunch of the world tour team.”

Burke leaves Jan. 24 for overseas and will be living in Germany for about a year while he does the European race tour.

The first race of the season is in Turkey in February.

"It is super exciting, but at the same time [Squamish] is my favourite place in the whole world to live," he said, with a laugh. "Squamish will always be home, but for sure this is going to be a really exciting chapter."

The Chief will continue to follow Burke's success throughout the year.

Source: David Buzzard