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Six-time Olympic medalist set to bike across Canada for good cause

Clara Hughes

CALGARY, CANADA - NOVEMBER 09: Multiple medalist in cycling and speed skating, olympian Clara Hughs poses for a photograph after being inducted into the Olympic Oval wall of fame during the ISU World Cup Speed Skating event November 9, 2013 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Todd Korol/Getty Images)

Todd Korol

Clara Hughes is the only athlete to win multiple medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. The retired cyclist and speed skater is taking on a new challenge starting Friday, biking across Canada for mental health awareness.

“Clara’s Big Ride” is a 110-day, 7,000-mile national tour visiting every province and territory in Canada to grow awareness and action in mental health and help end the stigma around mental illness.

It starts in Toronto on Friday. She will cross Canada counter-clockwise with the ride concluding in Ottawa on July 1, Canada Day. More information is available here.

Hughes will travel by bush plane or train in areas where cycling is not an option or unsafe, according to the National Post.

“What we’re going to go through on the bike, that’s where things are going to go wrong,” Hughes, 41 and a two-time 1996 Olympic cycling bronze medalist, told the newspaper. “We’re going to suffer. We’re going to be cold; we’re going to be wet; we’re going to be tired. And that’s what’s going to give the grit to this whole ride.”

Hughes is an athlete ambassador for Right To Play, the organization founded by Olympic speed skating champion Johann Olav Koss earmarked to use sport in helping children in disadvantaged areas. She has also been open about her history of depression.

“I’m not doing this ride to paint this happy picture everywhere, either,” she told the National Post. “This is to give the message to our government and to our society in general that this is real [mental illness], and it affects everyone in a different way. So let’s stop pretending that it doesn’t exist.”

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