The Cops for Cancer riders have swapped their training jerseys for official tour uniforms and are making final preparations for the 2016 Tour de Rock.
The riders saddle up in Port Alice Sunday (Sept. 25) for the 1,100-kilometre tour that will visit 27 Island communities to raise money that supports research and programs for children with cancer, including Camp Goodtimes, a summer camp near Maple Ridge for child cancer patients and their families.
Nanaimo is represented by two riders this year.
Sgt. Donovan Tait, with Nanaimo RCMP’s Street Crimes Unit, says after seven months of training – one month longer, he noted, than an RCMP officer’s basic training in Winnipeg – he’s ready to go.
Tait, 47, originally from Port Alberni, learned about the tour in its early years when he was working on the Lower Mainland.
“My mom wold send me newspaper clippings about these RCMP and city police members riding the Island … I thought, man, that would be a pretty neat thing to do,” Tait said.
Const. Alexa Blacklock, Tait’s wife who lost her mother to cancer, rode with the 2006 Tour de Rock. Witnessing her experience sealed the deal for Tait.
“I thought I’m going to do it next year, so we agreed, next year,” Tait said.
But it was another 10 years before Tait got his chance.
The time commitment and physical demands of training and fundraising is huge, especially for parents juggling three children and police careers.
“When you get home from work and you just feel like flaking out on the couch … I’ll tell you, a game-changer was Camp Goodtimes,” Tait said. “Man, all I have to do is ride a bike for an hour and a half or two hours. Like, these kids are in it for the long haul … When you’re having that tough day and you can’t make the ride, you’ve gotta make the ride.”
Tait said “being a proud Islander” he’s looking forward to experiencing riding to the north Island’s small communities, such as Port Alice, Woss and Sayward that prepare throughout the year for the Tour de Rock.
Daryl Major, 102.3 The Wave Radio announcer, is the 2016 Tour de Rock sole media rider.
He’s found plenty of inspiration to help keep his cadence up through the months of training.
Major, 50, lost his mother to cancer at 17, just six months after he graduated high school.
“That was a tough thing to get over, but I can’t imagine what it’s like for a parent to find out that their child in the first few or couple years of life is dealt that hand,” Major said.
The most inspiring event so far was the day spent at Camp Goodtimes and he said it’s humbling when parents come up and thank him for his effort.
“I know these kids are facing challenges, but to see them just being kids it was amazing. … It was just fun to watch them play and laugh and the support that they give each other because there’s so many different levels and recoveries,” he said.