The Tour de Rock rode through the Tri-Port on Sunday, Sept. 25, with local Port McNeill Const. Brent Shemilt leading the way for the team.
Shemilt has been training and fundraising for the event for months on end. He stated that he first became aware of cancer as a child when his grandfather lost his own battle to it, and he grew up always watching the Tour de Rock travel down Vancouver Island.
As a member of the RCMP, he now had the opportunity to take part in the 1,000-kilometre bike ride, and he thought it was “the chance of a lifetime to get involved.”
The Port McNeill RCMP “have been very supportive” of his decision to take part in the event, said Shemilt, adding that training for the event has been a “little bit of a unique challenge while being on the North Island, but the support from the community of Port McNeill really helped me out a lot.”
Shemilt trained for the bike ride around his work schedule, usually three days a week, while also going down island to Parksville to train with the rest of the team when he was able to.
The Tour de Rock riders stayed overnight in Port Alice on Saturday night, and the hospitality from the Port Alice community “was incredible,” said Shemilt, adding that it’s “amazing to see the community come together like that. We spent a night on the gym floor there, and it was a lot of fun. They were great hosts.”
The group had a delicious pancake and sausage breakfast at the Port Alice Community Centre and then hit the road just after 9 a.m. on Sunday morning.
The ride into Port Hardy “was awesome,” said Shemilt. “The weather cleared up for us. It was a little wet on the road, but we were dry. We had a great time, and we pushed through the hills as a team.”
The Tour de Rock riders constantly cycle who leads the team during the bike rides so that “We all take turns to get through it together,” said Shemilt. “They keep us on a pretty tight schedule. We keep our average pace of 25 km/hr, so if we’re slow they make us go faster, and if we’re going too fast we’ll take a break so we don’t miss our stops on time.”
The riders arrived in Port Hardy around 11:30 am with Port Hardy’s Myles Janse, a junior rider for the team, leading the way from inside of a cop car. “A Junior rider is someone who’s paired with us. It’s someone who’s gone through their cancer battle, currently battling cancer, or maybe they have a sibling battling cancer,” said Shemilt. “It gives them something positive and fun to be a part of, and it’s motivating for us. No matter how rainy it is or how steep a hill is, you can’t quit chemo so why should I quit peddling up that hill.”
Janse was having a great time cheering on the team, stating that what he liked best about being a junior rider was “getting to ride in the cop car and raising money for cancer research,” adding that he was most looking forward to “shaving Brent’s head.”
The riders were met by a large crowd of people outside of the Port Hardy Chamber of Commerce. Radio DJ Sam Boyd from Coast AM hosted the event, cheering on people who were volunteering to get their head shaved for Cops for Cancer.
Shemilt was all smiles when asked about the group’s next stop. “I’m excited to ride into Port McNeill. I can’t wait to see everyone.”
And a little after 3 p.m., he arrived back in Port McNeill. The team came down Campbell Way road and turned into the Subway restaurant parking lot, where another huge crowd of people were waiting to cheer on the riders.
Shemilt has lived in Port McNeill for over three years now, transferring there from Langley, and he immediately thanked the local community for supporting him all this time.
All told, Shemilt felt the whole day “Went awesome,” adding that the ride from Port Alice to Port Hardy and then into Port McNeill “Was incredible. We had a little headwind leaving Port Hardy, but the weather turned out great. We didn’t get rained on, and it’s just been a phenomenal day. I’m riding high, for sure.”
Shemilt stated that he’s raised around $43,000 so far and “I might get more than that.”
His favourite part of the ride through the North Island was “seeing my junior rider Myles ahead of us in the lead car, cheering us on with a big smile on his face. That was pretty cool.”
As for the rest of the trip? “I’m just looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s meant a lot to me to ride and lead the team through the Tri-Port, and to have such great local support was unreal. The whole journey is a once in a lifetime experience.”
The Tour de Rock riders left North Island Secondary School at 9:30 a.m. on Monday. They stopped in Woss for lunch and then continued on to Sayward where they rested up for the night.
Please follow the rest of their journey down island at www.tourderock.ca.