TOUR DE ROCK – Chris Fernandes finds love for new sport

Retired Nanaimo RCMP constable discovers love for cycling while fighting childhood cancer.

RCMP reserve Const. Chris Fernandes

RCMP reserve Const. Chris Fernandes

Chris Fernandes has a new love in his life, cycling.

Fernandes is one of two riders representing Nanaimo on the Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock 2012 team.

At 59, he is also one of the oldest riders to tackle the tour, but he’s motivated by a quest for a new athletic challenge and because his two-year-old granddaughter was diagnosed with leukemia in September.

Raising money to fight childhood cancer seemed like something he could do to fight back.

“You get this feeling of helplessness, where you’d like to help, but there’s nothing you can do, but hey, in my case there is something I can do,” Fernandes said.

Fernandes retired from the RCMP after 36 year’s of service, 30 of them in Nanaimo, after a scuba diving injury required him to have a hip replacement.

Retirement only prompted him to immediately sign up as a reserve constable and he continues to show up each day at the detachment.

Fernandes was always athletic, tackling sports he’s sure will test his ability and endurance. He’s a member of Nanaimo Search and Rescue and was one of the original members of the B.C. RCMP dive team, now known as the RCMP Dive Recovery Team.

For him, it’s no big deal to hike to the top of Mount Benson or hop on a bike and put 50 kilometres under his tires.

“I like challenging myself,” Fernandes said. “I’m not afraid to breathe hard. The way I see it is if I stay in shape well enough and I see something and I want to try it, I can still do it.”

His newfound love for cycling came as a surprise, but it was evident at the end of the first 20-kilometre training ride in March. Instead of catching a lift back to town from Parksville, Fernandes opted to pedal home.

“Other than riding to work, I hadn’t done a lot of biking,” Fernandes said. “This has been kind of a bonus because I’ve actually found another sport that I really enjoy doing.”

But even someone in Fernandes’s physical condition gets tested by Tour de Rock training, especially on ‘speed nights’, when riders train to produce high bursts of speed over a 36-kilometre course, much of it uphill, to build endurance and lung capacity.

“No doubt the speed nights,” Fernandes said. “I have to get my endurance up, I guess, although last night I did get a second wind after a bit. Just at the end there. It was good. The best practices that we’ve had are the last two speed nights. I loved them both.”

His speed and endurance will be sure to improve with the right equipment. The 2012 Tour de Rock team was announced Saturday at the Royal B.C. Museum when they were presented with training uniforms and the Trek bikes they will use for the rest of their training and the tour.

Fernandes has done some fundraising before for Vision Quest and for Nanaimo Search and Rescue, and hopes to raise at least $10,000 during this year’s Tour de Rock.

“As much as I can,” he said.