The Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock riders were announced on May 2 and two West Coasters were ecstatic to pull on their iconic jerseys alongside their teammates.
This will mark the 25th anniversary of the Island-wide bike ride that will see 20 first responders being cheered across Vancouver Island from Sept. 24 to Oct. 7 as they raise funds for paediatric cancer research and to send families affected by cancer to Camp Goodtimes.
A gym full of ecstatic fans cheered as the riders for the 25th annual event were announced, among them Ambulance Unit Chief Rachelle Cole and Ucluelet Fire Chief Rick Geddes.
“To actually run into Tillicum Elementary School on Friday with kids screaming with signs up, it really hit home then. It was a really good weekend,” Geddes told the Westerly News. “I’ve always been fascinated by Tour de Rock and hoping for a chance to take part in the ride…Over the years I’ve seen the tour roll into towns and the reactions of towns and how they’re supported for the efforts that they do. I just thought it would be great to be a part of that because I’m healthy and I’m thankful that I’m able to do this.”
Both Cole and Geddes have been training for over two months since putting their applications in to join the team and they both expressed that the emotions are just beginning.
“I feel honoured and blessed. There really aren’t even words honestly, there aren’t really words…It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Cole said. “It’s a really emotional experience and it’s only just begun. They tell you that it’s a gamechanger and you’ll be different and it’s only been two days and I already feel different so it’s exceeding my expectations already.”
Geddes is also preparing for a game changing experience.
“From listening to all the alumni riders and the coaches and the organizers, they say it really will change your life,” he said. “They say it’s an emotional rollercoaster like you’ll never experience between the team-building, living life on the road with 20 other first responders for two weeks and meeting the families. Some have good stories and some have not so happy stories where they’ve lost a child to paediatric cancer. They do train us really well for the emotional roller coaster, but they still say there’s nothing that can prepare you for some of the emotional reactions that we’re going to have.”
Cole, who is also a municipal councillor in Ucluelet, said she’s been hoping for an opportunity to participate in the ride ever since she and her sister raised $1,5000 by shaving their heads at a 2017 Cops for Cancer event in Ucluelet hosted by Const. Marcel Midlane who was representing the Ucluelet RCMP.
She said she recently retired from competitive bodybuilding and now has time to devote herself to the cause.
“October was my last competition. I’m turning 50 next month. I didn’t know my road to 50 was going to be paved with shammy butter and padded bike shorts but it sounds like as good a path as any,” she said. “All the stars seemed to align that I had the time and the drive to contribute.”
She added she’s excited to see a more fulsome ride this year after two years of the coronavirus pandemic.
“To be able to roll out of that and roll, literally pun intended, into something that has this much impact on other people and their lives, I feel really fortunate that all the stars aligned,” she said.
Both are going through gruelling training requirements to be able to accomplish the ride, including three team rides a week.
“Now it’s just grinding it out, to keep on riding and improving,” Cole said.
Geddes added that the training is diverse, including long endurance boosting rides as well as wind sprints and speed training.
“That’s important because when it actually comes time to do the ride, it’s laid out to the minute basically,” he said. “If we’re falling behind the pace, we need to be able to make up the pace.”
He added the team enjoyed its first group ride in Victoria on Sunday and enjoyed hearing the support they received from motorists and pedestrians who recognized their jerseys.
“They recognize the brand and they recognize what we’re doing,” he said. “It’s great. It’s nice to know people are behind us.”
He encourages local residents to keep their eyes out for fundraising events throughout the West Coast leading up to the September ride.
“We’re going to be out in the community trying to raise as much as we can,” he said. “The West Coast has always been very supportive of the tour, so we’re hoping for some good support again this year.”