Every Tour de Rock rider discovers his or her limits during training.
Nanaimo RCMP constable Ryan Blakey, 35, came up against his at 34C on the steep grade of the Strathcona Parkway on a training ride up Mount Washington.
“I heard someone yelling get back on the right side of the yellow line,” Blakey said. “I thought, ‘Who the heck is yelling?'”
That’s when Blakey realized he was riding on the far left side of the road with no idea how he got there.
Trainers coaxed him off his bike and into an air conditioned van to cool down and hydrate. He finished the climb, but made slow progress through heat which didn’t diminish with altitude. Blakey and another rider he describes as someone who normally “crushes” hills dismounted among the last five finishers at the Mount Washington lodge where the temperature was still 33C.
Preparing for the Tour de Rock doesn’t require superhuman ability, but physical demands and time requirements for training and fundraising from the first training rides in March until the tour finish in October are gruelling and mentally and physically exhausting. Most potential participants back off upon realizing the commitment needed and for 2014 the Nanaimo RCMP didn’t have a rider to represent the Island’s largest detachment.
“The final kicker, as bad as it sounds, is there was no one from the detachment who volunteered and it is way to good of a cause to not have a rider,” Blakey said. “I’ve toyed with the idea. I’ve served at the dinners. I’ve flipped burgers. I’ve done something tour-related every year.”
But Blakey got strong backing from his wife, a nurse who works around cancer patients, and from RCMP Cpl. Norm Smith, a long-time tour supporter, who is handling Blakey’s fundraising.
Blakey, by his own admission, is an introvert and expects the toughest part of the tour will be its public relations aspect.
“When I was doing my homework, I was still somewhat on the fence even though I said this is such a good cause,” Blakey said. “I don’t put myself out there… I talked to a lot of riders and a lot of riders who know me said, ‘You know, you’re going to have trouble on tour just being that shiny, happy person all the time and that’s going to be your hardest part.’ It’s worth it.”
The Canadian Cancer Society Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock raises money for pediatric cancer research and programs, including Camp Goodtimes, a summer camp for children with cancer and their families.
The Tour de Rock team cycles to communities across Vancouver Island to Victoria from Port Alice to Victoria, covering 1,100 kilometres over 14 days.
This year’s tour runs Saturday (Sept. 20) to Friday (Oct. 3).