COVID-19 isn’t keeping Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock riders from hitting the road to battle childhood cancer, but this year’s tour of Vancouver Island will be very different.
The event starts Wednesday, Sept. 23, launching from Port Alice as in previous years and winding its way down the Island, finishing in Victoria on Oct. 2.
COVID-19 restrictions prevented the formation of a new team, so for the first time in the Tour de Rock’s 22-year history, alumni riders are pedalling segments of the route within their communities on consecutive days, like a relay of mini-tours.
The format might be different, but the mission of Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock remains the same: to raise money to battle pediatric cancer and to support programs for children and their families struggling with the disease. One of the beneficiaries is Camp Goodtimes, a summer camp operated by the Canadian Cancer Society for children fighting cancer.
In a normal year, riders would come into Chemainus on the Monday afternoon, stay overnight at the Best Western Plus Chemainus Inn and then start the next day with a breakfast at the Chemainus Legion Hall. There won’t be a breakfast this year, but the Chemainus Legion is still a focal point of the ride in town.
Steve Smith was a rider in the 2015 Tour while with Saanich Police and moved to Chemainus along with his wife in 2017.
“I’m one of the four riders that will be doing the ride on Monday, Sept. 28th from Chemainus to Ladysmith,” Smith noted. “We will be at the Chemainus Legion at 9 a.m. Monday for a send-off by staff and supporters. We will then make our way to Ladysmith Secondary School, Ladysmith Intermediate School, Tim Hortons and Fox and Hounds Pub. Due to COVID restrictions we will be doing cycling pasts only with no direct contact with supporters.”
Others on the alumni ride locally include: Stephanie McFarlane (Saanich Police); Pam Bolton (North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP); and Mark Sieben (Deputy Solicitor General for BC).
He added once the riders leave Ladysmith, they will drive to Lake Cowichan and cycle past schools there.
“I am very thankful for the support that local businesses and friends and neighbours have shown for Tour de Rock in the past and especially this year,” Smith indicated. “We know that donation dollars are tight and we appreciate everyone’s generosity.”
The Legion will open at 8 a.m. Monday for community residents to make donations before the riders meet there.
“We hope that people will honk or wave as they go by us,” Smith enthused. “We will not have a police escort this year so there won’t be any lights or sirens. All or any support is always greatly appreciated.”
Since its first tour in 1998, Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock has raised $26 million for pediatric cancer research and programs. This year’s goal is to raise $600,000.
Simon Douthwaite, who was one of the riders representing Nanaimo on the 2019 Tour de Rock team and the parent of a cancer survivor, understands the impact of a visit from a Tour de Rock team.
“I was actually planning on stepping away a little this year, but I think of those kids at home who are in treatment,” Douthwaite said. “I know we can’t stop and visit their families this year, but we can go and do a ride-by. It might not seem like much, just doing that, but I know how powerful it is. I can still remember the tour coming to us for the first time. You feel like you’re centre of the world when it happens.”
Tour alumnus Const. Cydney MacNeill, a Nanaimo RCMP Bike Patrol member, will swap her police mountain bike for her road bike for the 2020 tour. She said her motivations for riding remain the same as they did when she rode in 2019.
“We’re motivated to end childhood cancer or at least make it as livable as it can be for a child battling. To try and find treatments that are gentler on children. To try and give them beacons of light in the battle, like Camp Goodtimes,” she said.
This summer, Camp Goodtimes was held virtually online instead of at the actual camp at Loon Lake in Maple Ridge because of efforts to control the spread of COVID-19.
“That’s not going to happen this year, but the poor peanuts, they’re dealt such a horrible hand that we need to try and give them some hope, to know that there are people out there fighting for them and that we’re still going to be there for them,” MacNeill said.
For more information on tour events and dates, visit www.tourderock.ca.
– with a file from Chris Bush, Nanaimo News Bulletin.