After seven days or riding, one bad crash, some nasty bug bites and 860 kilometres of highway travel, the Cops For Cancer Tour de North wheeled into Prince Rupert to complete the journey, having raised more than $260,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society.
The money will fund pediatric cancer research and Camp Goodtimes, a summer resort for young cancer patients and their siblings. Twenty-one riders representing the RCMP, B.C. Ambulance Service and community businesses left Prince George on Sept. 14, and all but one finished the Tour de North in Prince Rupert on Sept. 20.
"It was absolutely a life-changing experience," said RCMP Cst. Coralie Wilkinson, who raised $3,136 for the cause.
"Everybody's been touched by cancer one way or another and we heard so many stories along the way and so much appreciation from the communities from Prince George all the way to Prince Rupert. Burns Lake had their mill disaster and their community doesn't have a lot of money right now but they just pulled together.
"It really takes your breath away to hear stories and understand how many people have cancer."
Warm dry weather made the ride all that much better for Wilkinson, who was inspired to join the ride by the memory of several family members who died from cancer. Having a competitive background as a marathoner and Death Race participant, as a cycling neophyte she had a few pre-Tour jitters, which soon disappeared with the help of her fellow riders.
"When you're riding as a group and your legs are burning and you think you can't make it up the hill, you draw strength from your team and before you know it you're at the top of the hill," Wilkinson said. "You think, 'my legs are burning and I can't make it,' and then you think , 'I don't have cancer, it doesn't hurt like that does,' and before you know it you're up the hill."
Sherry Pattie was enjoying her ride until Day 4, when she got caught in some loose gravel on the shoulder of the road climbing a hill just outside of Houston and wiped out.
"It was really good, up until I crashed," said Pattie. "I went to unhook my shoe [from the pedal] and got spit out of there like candy shooting out of a Pez dispenser. I was only doing about 10 kilometres an hour and I lost my momentum and landed really hard on my tailbone. It was like bone hitting bone when I hit."
Pattie has a lower back condition which was aggravated in the fall and she was forced to drop out of the Tour. Not finishing was a huge disappointment for the 52-year-old city employee but she accomplished her ultimate goal.
"The most important thing was raising the money for the kids and the families," said Pattie, who raised more than $10,000 for the ride, well beyond her $6,000 goal.
"It was incredible, just a super bunch of people and the road crew was fantastic -- the communities too. When we got to Burns Lake, a community that has been through so much, what they gave was unreal. They left a real lasting impression.
"The ride was not easy, I didn't put in the right kind of training. Having not been a bike rider, some of us were at a disadvantage because we'd never ridden in a peloton before. When you're six inches off the wheel of somebody in front of you, stuff can happen. That first day I learned how to change the gears properly."
The day before she left for the Tour, Pattie agreed to take part in the Canadian Cancer Society's Big Honkin' Head Shave promotion, which left her bald. Mirco Muntener of Cycle Logic in Prince George, was on hand to lend his mechanical expertise as far as Burns Lake and while working on the bikes in the parking lot he agreed to donate his thick curly hair to the cause if the Cops for Cancer could raise $500 over dinner. They exceeded that total and Muntener went home without his locks.
Dennis Schwab of IDL Projects in Prince George raised $29,130, tops on the Tour de North team.
The second leg of the ride from Fort St. James to Fraser Lake was the longest, 175 kilometres, which took 8 1/2 hours of riding and 11 1/2 hours in total to complete
Next year's 13th annual Tour de North will start in Fort St. John and finish at Williams Lake.
n On Saturday, Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid announced the provincial government was giving $2 million in one-time funding to the Michael Cuccione Foundation to support childhood cancer research and treatment at BC Children's Hospital in Vancouver.