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Driver came to rider’s aid to help her evade charging animal

A cyclist in Canada  says she put in a "once-in-a-lifetime sprint" after she was chased by a grizzly bear.

Sierra Van Der Meer was out riding on Sunday on the South Klondike Highway between Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon territory in the northwest of the country, and Carcross.

She spotted the animal on the hard shoulder a few metres ahead of her, and since she was riding uphill, decided the best course of action was to turn around.

"To my surprise, it decided to stop munching its grass and sort of walk up onto the highway," she told CBC.

She assumed the bear might be wary of her and make off, but said: "Instead, it decided to sort of chase me down the hill."

The animal chased after her for between five and ten seconds until a minivan came into view, with the driver realising what was happening.

Ms Van Der Meer said that the driver, a woman from Alaska, “sort of sped up behind me, and the bear went then into the ditch again. And after it kind of had gone into the ditch, [the driver] pulled onto the shoulder and followed me another maybe 200 or 300 metres, at which point I finally felt safe.

"She obviously knew what she was doing, and did exactly what I needed in that time," Van Der Meer says.

"I'm super-grateful that she was there, because I don't know if it would have kept chasing me if she hadn't been there. But she certainly de-escalated the situation very quickly."

Two years ago we reported how a pick-up truck driver in Alberta, Canada, had come to the aid of cyclist, riding slowly uphill with a full touring load, who was being stalked by a grizzly bear.

The motorist, Robbie Flemming, said: “All of a sudden, I see a young grizzly jump over the Banff-bound guardrail in front of a tour bus and go loping across the highway.

“As he gets into my lane … he stands up on his back feet, and I’m sure he can smell that cyclist coming for a bit, and I’m sure he had visions of supper.

“It was very surreal. My first concern was that I was going to hit the bear. And then I realized I wasn’t going to hit the bear and then, OK, ‘He’s after that cyclist.’”

He beeped his horn to attract the cyclist’s attention. “Finally he looked over at me and I said, ‘You’ve got a grizzly bear about 25 feet behind you’,” he said.

“He looked back and went, ‘Oh!’ and started to pound on the pedals.”

He placed his truck between the cyclist and the grizzly, with another pick-up truck driver doing likewise until the rider was out of the bear’s line of sight.

Last year in the Yukon, 37-year-old Valérie Théorêt and her 10-month-old daughter Adele Roesholt were killed by a grizzly bear outside the family’s cabin in a remote area some 400 kilometres from Whitehorse, where she worked as a French teacher.

The Guardian reported that she and her partner, Gjermund Roesholt, were spending time during her maternity leave at the cabin on their trap line – land rented from the government to trap animals for fur.

Roesholt was returning from checking their traps when the bear charged him, 100 metres from the cabin. He shot and killed the animal, but afterwards discovered the bodies of his partner and daughter.

The Yukon has a population of some 7,000 grizzly bears but fatal attacks on humans are rare, the previous one there happening in 2006.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.