Chris Fernandes

Chris Fernandes

Fernandes eager to make tracks

Chris Fernandes is enthusiastic about riding this year's Tour de Rock, but public speaking poses an unexpected challenge.

The only thing Chris Fernandes is more excited about than the start of this year’s Tour de Rock, is the impending birth of his grandson.

The only problem is when it happens Fernandes will be on the first leg of the tour.

“I was kind of hoping he’d be born before I left,” Fernandes said. “I can’t believe how excited I am about my impending grandson. I can spoil him rotten.”

His other primary concerns include making sure his bike is ready. Wednesday it was in the shop being tuned up and having its brake blocks and handle bar tape replaced. He planned to wash and wax it Thursday and get the bike and his tour gear down to Saanich Friday.

Fernandes, 59, is one of the oldest riders on the tour. The RCMP reserve constable from Nanaimo, has trained hard over the past six months and, like most riders in that final week before the start of the tour, is eager to get out on the road.

“I’m pumped, I tell you. I can’t wait to get going,” Fernandes said. “I’ve been ready for a couple weeks. Hopefully the weather will hold.”

Fernandes is one of those naturally athletic people with seemingly inexhaustible energy. Through six hard months of training that sweats 20 to 25 pounds off of most riders, Fernandes hasn’t lost an ounce.

One thing he has not been immune to is time. Preparing for the Tour de Rock is a huge time commitment. Riders train three days a week and spend many more hours attending and organizing fundraising events. In the final days before the 2012 tour launches, he is simply out of time to attend to everything that needs to be done.

He has missed out on a lot this summer too. His normal summer activities that include hikes with friends to the tops of the Island’s mountains or spelunking their interiors has gone by the wayside this season.

“I haven’t been out hiking since April,” Fernandes said. “I have missed out on some stuff, but this is worth it.”

Fernandes has a two-year-old granddaughter in Ontario who was diagnosed with cancer in September 2011.

“My daughter is excited and my granddaughter knows what’s going on down here,” he said.

One of his biggest concerns about the tour is over any public speaking he might have to do. It’s not something he’s comfortable with and the nature tour involves talking about and meeting with children with cancer and their families. The emotional challenges are often overwhelming.

“This is going to sound really funny, but I’m not that much of a public speaker,” he said. “I put together a short little speech and I was practicing it for a family fun day in Courtenay and I found that I couldn’t get past a certain place without starting to cry. I didn’t realize I was so wimpy, but, oh, man.”

Fernandes set his fundraising goal at $20,000 and going into the start of the tour has $9,000 toward that goal. Riders fundraising efforts often pay off during the tour when supporters show up thousand of dollars in donations when they ride through their home towns, so prospects for hitting his target are good.

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