When the 2022 Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock team rolls into the Alberni Valley in September, a familiar face will be among the riders.
Rick Geddes is fire chief and emergency program manager for the District of Ucluelet Fire Rescue, a position he has held for three years. Although he lives on the west coast now, Geddes was born and raised in Port Alberni and is a second-generation fire chief with numerous family members and friends still living in Alberni. He was the deputy chief with Sproat Lake Volunteer Fire Dept. and acting unit chief for B.C. Ambulance Service prior to joining Ucluelet Fire Rescue.
Geddes has always wanted to ride for the Tour de Rock. “It’s been a goal of mine for probably 10 years,” he said. “I was never in a position to do it.”
He tried out for the team in March 2020, but the ride was cancelled that year due to the emerging coronavirus pandemic. He was invited back this year as the team is back in action.
“A lot of people get involved in these causes because they have a direct relation to the disease, whereas I don’t,” he said. “I consider myself fortunate in that sense. I don’t have any family members or close friends who have lost kids (to pediatric cancer) or had to go through cancer treatment,” he explained.
A mentor of his, former Ucluelet fire Chief Ted Eeftink, is undergoing cancer treatment right now, and Geddes thinks about him and some of his past colleagues who have completed the ride.
“I’m physically able to do something like this and help out, raise money for the cause. It’s a good way to give back. It’s also a great physical challenge for myself, and mental too. A lot of the ride is mental.”
Geddes is one of two riders from Ucluelet this year: Rachelle Cole, who is unit chief for B.C. Ambulance in the west coast community, is a member of the 2022 team. Cole is a councillor with the District of Ucluelet and sits on the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District board.
The team was announced in May and has been training both individually and as regional groups. Every so often they assemble for a full team ride. They have a minimum of three practices per week: Tuesdays are for hill training, Thursdays are speed nights and Sundays are for long rides—they’re up over 100 kilometres at a crack now. “When we’re on tour everything is timed,” Geddes said. “Speed is an important component.”
Riders keep a strict log of their training. Because Geddes has to travel a long distance, he is allowed to do a certain amount of training on his own.
Now that the team has official practice uniforms, they are recognizable in their blue, yellow and white shirts. Geddes can often be seen riding the Hump—he often brings his training bicycle for a practice ride after his work meetings in Port Alberni.
“I think I’m good at distance,” he said when asked what part of riding he’s best at. He has run some half marathons and 10-kilometre foot races, which has helped him build stamina for the long haul.
“I’m middle of the pack on hills. We have some members that can just destroy the hills.”
This year, Geddes will have double the motivation to get over the Hump when the team turns onto Highway 4 toward Port Alberni. Although the Alberni Summit is only 400 or so metres high, past riders agree it is one of the toughest hills. Geddes will have a welcoming party of family and friends waiting for him on the other side.
“All the alumni tell us how emotional it is when your family is there,” he says. “I think about that every time we train: rolling into your hometown.”
Geddes and Tour de Rock teammates will be in Port Alberni on Sunday, June 26 for a practice ride. Supporters may see them out on their ride, or they can come and meet the riders that afternoon.
Port Alberni’s community policing manager, Dave Cusson, has organized a fundraising barbecue in front of the RCMP detachment, 4444 Morton St., from 12–3 p.m. on June 26. Port Alberni Fire Department and Alberni Valley Rescue Squad will have their trucks and equipment there as well. Members of the public will be able to meet Tour de Rock riders at 1 p.m., and ride souvenirs will be on sale too.
Geddes and Cole have a number of fundraisers planned for Ucluelet and Tofino, and Geddes hopes to be back in Port Alberni with a spaghetti dinner, possibly in September.
For more information on all the riders, go online to tourderock.ca.