Prince George RCMP Cst. Paul Starr has learned to become a lot more familiar with his bike over the last four months.
Starr wasn't an avid cyclist before signing up to be one of the riders in the Cops For Cancer Tour de North, so the learning curve was steep since he began his training in May.
"The first ride was not a lot of fun," Starr said Thursday morning. "I think I went out for maybe 20 kilometres and I came back and my butt was pretty sore and I thought, 'how can I ever manage to ride that long?' "
While the thought of being able to ride his bike 850 kilometres over seven days once seemed impossible, Starr said the training helped him become physically and mentally ready.
He said the challenges he overcame were symbolic of what a cancer patient goes through when they first begin treatment. At first the patient might find the negative side effects overwhelming, but in time they find the strength to get through it.
Starr was joined on Thursday morning in the parking lot of Spruceland Centre by the other riders from the area as they loaded up the support vehicles for the drive to Dawson Creek where the first leg of the tour will begin on Friday morning. Among the group loading bikes and other gear were three other riders from Prince George: Sgt. Holly Lavin, civilian member Dustin Hudyma and community rider Dennis Schwab.
Lavin is riding in the event for a third time and Schwab is returning for a second straight year, but both Starr and Hudyma are Tour de North rookies.
The riders are taking part in the journey to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society and help fund Camp Goodtimes, a summer recreation program for children, teens and their families with cancer.
Starr said he decided to take part in the ride this year because cancer has hit close to home in his family and because his two daughters, eight-year-old Madeline and 13-year-old Emma, grew out their hair for a year so that it could be shaved off this past summer and donated.
"I thought if a 13- and an eight-year-old can make a difference, certainly I can do something to make a difference as well," he said.
Hudyma's two young children, three-year-old Dexter and 1 1/2 year old Kamea, were also in his thoughts when he decided to sign up. In addition to raising money for a great charity, Hudyma is hoping to promote the value of an active lifestyle.
"I can tell them stories and hopefully that will inspire them to be active and healthy as they grow up," he said.
Schwab said the nice weather this summer made training easier and he's thankful to everyone in the community who has stepped forward so far with pledges.
"This year it's been over the top," he said. "The replies and the support has been phenomenal, it has far exceeded my expectations."
Organizer Erin Reynolds said the $290,000 fundraising goal is well within reach as more than $200,000 has been pledged to Tour de North riders already.
Friday's first leg of the ride is from Dawson Creek to Fort St. John. After stops in Hudson Hope, Chetwynd, Powder King, Mackenzie and Bear Lake, the tour riders will arrive in Prince George on Tuesday afternoon. A welcome event is schduled for 4:30 p.m. along the 1400 block of Third Avenue.
Tickets are still available for the Tour de North Dinner of Courage on Tuesday evening at the Signature Sandman.