Following the 2017 Vimy 100 Battlefield Bike Ride (BBR17) we are proud to announce that BBR18 will begin on the 100th Anniversary of the end WWI in the very place that sparked the war to end all wars — on the streets of Sarajevo.
Nearly 80 years later, Sarajevo, and the broader Balkan region, would once again descend into chaos. The breakdown of the former Yugoslavia, and war that ensued, required the service and sacrifice of over 40,000 Canadian soldiers who would deploy as part of multiple United Nations and NATO missions, defending the cause of peace during the decade of the 1990’s and the early 2000’s in the Balkans.
2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the battle of the Medak Pocket, which was the Canadian Army’s most intense combat since the Korean War. To commemorate this important part of our history, we will bring Canada back to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. The ride will take our cyclists to places of significance to Canadian Armed Forces members and their families who served in the Balkan theatre, culminating at the site of the battle of the Medak Pocket.
Through each leg of the journey we will honour the service and sacrifice of those brave Canadians who fought there; the 23 Canadians who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the Balkans; and the thousands whose service left them forever changed with the physical and mental scars of the conflict. Additionally, one of the unique and very special aspects of BBR18 is that the cyclists will have the privilege of riding with Veterans who served in these operations.
Canadian Armed Forces deployed in many places in the 1990’s beginning with 4,000 Service Personnel in the Gulf War on OP FRICTION. Along with a myriad of other lesser known monitoring, peacekeeping and peace support operations, Canada is well remembered for its deployments to Somalia and Rwanda. As significant and important as these operations were, Canada’s largest operational deployment in that decade was to the former Yugoslavia – beginning with the European Community Monitoring Mission in 1991-1992. Canada and other countries then deployed a large UN peacekeeping force known as the UNPROFOR to try to curb the violence in the region, particularly in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. This would represent the first of a series of UN (and later NATO) peace support operations in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Kosovo in the former Yugoslavia.
In September 1993, Canadian soldiers experienced their most intense firefight since the Korean War. The soldiers of 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry were subjected to heavy machine gun, artillery fire, and small arms fire in the Medak Pocket of Croatia. Canadian soldiers would remain in the Balkans until 2005 and would continue to experience the horrors of civil conflict. These ranged from being taken hostage, used as human shields to prevent NATO airstrikes, collecting evidence for war crimes, securing mass graves, and assisting patients in hospitals that had been abandoned. Despite the challenges, the Canadians acted with honour, courage, compassion and bravery.
Meet Todd McGowan – WWC BBR18 Ride Director
Todd McGowan is your Ride Director for BBR18. He is a retired Army Chief Warrant Officer with 27 years of Canadian Forces Service. He completed tours in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait/Iraq, Croatia, Bosnia, Germany, Afghanistan, Turkey and sailed with HMCS Ottawa and was skydiver with the SkyHawks parachute team.
Todd is also an avid cyclist with extensive experience of European bike touring. He is also a Wounded Warrior himself and a graduate of our sponsored Veterans Transition Program for PTSD veterans.
Meet Matt Barlee – Your Magic Places Tour Provider
Combining his loves for adventure, travel, and cycling, Matt is truly living his passion through his company, Magic Places Cycling Adventures. During his 24-year career as a Canadian Air Force officer, his varied roles included hunting submarines under the Arctic icepack, Oceanographer for Canada’s West Coast fleet, and the Canadian Forces Liaison for the 2010 Olympic Games. During this time, Matt always managed to find time for his pursuit of adventure, from climbing Himalayan peaks to racing bikes on Canada’s national team.
Upon retirement from the Forces, Matt dove headlong into entrepreneurship under the mentorship of business mogul Peter Thomas, developing business franchises and directing real estate developments, until the day that he went on his first bike tour with Magic Places. It was then that he found the perfect synthesis of business and passion, and over two years, he partnered with and then purchased the company. Now, he describes his job as “riding my bike in the world’s most beautiful spots with a bunch of really cool people.” As Magic Places’ logo states: What a way to see the world!