Months of training prepared the 23 riders in the Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock for the physical challenge of cycling 1,000 kilometres down Vancouver Island.
But emotionally, every stop on the Canadian Cancer Society fundraiser has been a tough one.
The riders left Port Alice Sunday, making stops in Port Hardy and Port McNeill. Monday’s 140-kilometre ride, the longest of the tour, saw stops in Woss and Sayward. Tuesday, the team pulled into Campbell River and visited the Comox Valley on Wednesday.
And at every community, residents rolled out the welcome mat.
“It is amazing to see how much [the Tour de Rock] means to these people,” said Chris Bush, Nanaimo News Bulletin reporter/photographer, and one of three media riders on the team. “It’s been extremely emotional. I haven’t left one place without tears in my eyes … not one.”
Arriving cold and wet in Woss, the team was provided lunch by residents of the small community.
“Their school has six or eight kids and they raised $1,000 for us,” said Bush. “When we were, leaving these young mothers were crying while hugging us and waving goodbye.”
The push to Sayward saw heavy rain, strong winds and falling trees, but the riders persevered, and again the community came to the rescue.
“We arrived there absolutely beaten by the weather, but some kids had made signs with all the names of the riders and hammered them onto trees,” said Bush. “Seeing those signs really picked us up at the end of the day. ”
The storm caused a power outage in Sayward but residents still managed to host a dinner for the riders and raised nearly $12,000 for cancer research.
Arriving in Campbell River, the team had covered nearly one-quarter of the entire trek in three days. But Bush expects it to get tougher as they leave the Island’s wilderness and ride through towns.
“We have police motorcycles blocking traffic as we go through and I’m sure it’s only going to get busier,” he said. “But even stuck in traffic, the people seemed thrilled to see us go by. They honk, wave, yell thanks. There are so many touching moments.”
The ride continues through Qualicum and Parksville, Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino this week and makes its way to Nanaimo Sunday (Oct. 2).
It continues down Island next week, finishing in Victoria Oct. 7.
Follow the ride: Keep up with the 2011 Tour de Rock on Black Press’s special webpage (www.bclocalnews.com/tour-de-rock/), which includes fresh stories from each community the tour passes through, a public Flickr photo gallery, videos, links to other Tour de Rock pages, as well as Chris Bush’s blog and ways to donate. Bush is also on Twitter (@chrisbushtdr or follow #tourderock) and has been busy tweeting and blogging (http://blogs.bclocalnews.com/bushsblog/).
Schedule for Nanaimo
Tour de Rock riders arrive in Nanaimo Sunday (Oct. 2) just in time to clean up, catch their breath and take part in a community fundraising dinner.
The event takes place at Beban Park Social Centre with the doors open at 5 p.m. and dinner served at 7 p.m.
The evening includes entertainment from the Dover Bay Secondary School jazz band and a live auction with a number of items up for bid including a day on the shooting range with the RCMP Southern Vancouver Island Emergency Response Team.
Tickets are $50 and for more information, please call the Nanaimo unit of the Canadian Cancer Society at 250-741-8180.
The riders then make a series of stops in Nanaimo Monday (Oct. 3) starting at Coast Capital Credit Union on Aulds Road at 10 a.m. and Nanaimo North Town Centre shortly after.
North Town is hosting a Tour de Rock celebration from 10-11 a.m. The public can enjoy a continental breakfast, music by the Wellington Secondary School jazz band and enter to win prizes.
The tour continues with stops at Coastal Community Credit Union’s Bowen Road branch at 10:40 a.m. and the White Spot on Terminal Avenue at 11:15 a.m.
Downtown’s Diana Krall Plaza is the final destination for the riders in Nanaimo with food, music and entertainment available from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Following a welcome from Mayor John Ruttan, team introductions take place at 11:40 a.m. and then the riders join a flash mob dance with performers from the Vibrant Dance Studio and take part in head shaves and cheque presentations.
All proceeds from the Tour de Rock goes to children’s cancer research, and to Camp Goodtimes, a summer recreation program that provides a unique summer experience for children and teens – and their families – dealing with cancer.