Even granite-grey skies that bombarded the earth with buckets of water over the weekend did nothing to dampen the spirits of North Islanders who got their first glimpse of the 2011 Canadian Cancer Society Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock riders.
The riders stopped and joined a packed house at the Port Alice Legion Saturday night to enjoy a seafood dinner/ fundraiser.
They were greeted warmly as as members — who were seated with Port Alice community members at different tables — were introduced.
This year’s team of 23 riders will make the approximately 1,000-km ride from the North Island to Victoria and includes RCMP, military police and some media.
One of the latter is Black Press’s Chris Bush, a reporter/photographer with the Nanaimo News Bulletin, who’s already dropped 25-lbs from his stocky frame.
“It’s been seven months of practice, we’ve been training since mid-March with a really great bunch of people,” he said, outside the Port Alice Legion.
“We laugh, we laugh all the time.”
There has been talk the ride itself isn’t as tough as the training that went into the event, but Bush said he’s holding back on that opinion for now.
“I think a lot of it will depend on the weather,” he said.
“Last year it was really grueling for the team for that reason and last year was the first time they had to cancel a portion of the ride outside Port Alberni for safety because of the heavy rain and high winds.”
Despite that, Bush — who’s already raised about $15,000 — said it’s been seven long months and he’s ready to get rolling.
Which is exactly what the team did when it left Port Alice Sunday and pedaled a hilly, winding, 35-km road to Highway 19 and then into Port Hardy, where they were welcomed at Carrot park by a boisterous crowd under — what can only be described as a Tour de Rock miracle — sunny skies.
The riders continued to the town’s Civic Centre where they met with members of the community and chowed down on food supplied by Malone’s restaurant, while the public ate salmon burgers and dogs being sold outdoors by donation.
Sandra Holman, a police officer with the Nanaimo RCMP detachment, said so far so good with the first day of riding.
“After sleeping in the gym last night, listening to the torrential downpour, we’re pretty lucky to have sunshine today and the community support we’re getting keeps us pumped up to keep riding,” she said, taking a break from talking with local kids.
The riders were scheduled to be in Port McNeill later Sunday, then down to Woss and Sayward Monday.
All monies raised during the ride goes to cancer research, and to Camp Goodtimes, an internationally acclaimed and accredited summer recreation program near Maple Ridge B.C. that provides a unique summer experience for children and teens — and their families — who must deal with cancer.