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Cops for Cancer Tour de North riders preparing for Friday sendoff, bound for Prince Rupert

Fundraising ride to beat childhood cancer has raised $47.8 million since 1997
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Riders in the 2018 Cops for Cancer Tour de North give their thumbs-up approval as they pass by on Highway 16 heading for Prince Rupert. This year's ride starts Friday morning with a send-off event at 9:30 a.m. at Canadian Tire.

Clear skies, warm prevailing winds from the east and close to 600 vertical metres of downhill cycling.

There’s only one guarantee for Darren Woroshelo when he starts pedaling Friday morning in the Cops For Cancer Tour de North fundraising ride and weather conditions won’t be it.

He and 18 other riders will be at the mercy of Mother Nature when they begin their six-stage, 850-kilometre ride from Prince George to Prince Rupert. The hilly course goes up and over mountain ranges and that means some long and slow thigh-burners to get to the top, but Woroshelo, the Prince George North District RCMP inspector in charge of highway patrol, knows what he’s in for and is ready for the challenge, having ridden the same route on his bike 15 years ago.

“We start in Prince George and end in Prince Rupert for a reason, because we end at sea level, so although there are ups and downs along the way, it is a little downhill,” laughed Woroshelo.

“The road itself is good. The ministry has done lots of work over the years. But there’s a lot more traffic out there now with (construction of the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline), so we’ll be mindful of road safety.”

The riders will be escorted by an RCMP cruiser in front and a BCAS ambulance in the back to warn motorists of the two-wheel convoy.

The 52-year-old Woroshelo has had a full month of regular riding to get ready for the tour. He started that workout routine in June but was sidelined for most of July when he slipped on a wet dock and hurt his ankle while on holidays in his native Saskatchewan.

Woroshelo completed his other Cops For Cancer Tour de North ride in 2006 while he was an RCMP constable, based in Houston.

“That was very rewarding,” said Woroshelo. “My daughters were very young at the time, and now they’re both off at university, but one of my daughters actually shaved my head in Houston when we did the stop there.”

The ride to end childhood cancer is a cross-Canada event that started in 1997 when first responders got behind it and made it the largest national charitable funder of childhood cancer research. In its history, the Cops for Cancer ride has raised $47.8 million for the Canadian Cancer Society. Eighty per cent of the funds go to research and 20 per cent pays for programs such as Camp Goodtimes, a year-round medically-supervised recreational camp near Maple Ridge for children, teens affected by cancer and their families.

“It’s an unbelievably worthwhile cause,” he said. “This past November we lost a dear family friend to cancer at the age of 47 and she left behind two boys and one of the reasons it inspired me to get back on the bike after 15 years was a bit in memory of her.”

The route switches on alternating years and in 2022 the ride will start in Fort St. John and finish in Williams Lake. It’s followed that pattern since the inaugural Tour de North ride in 2002.

The 2020 Tour happened during the height of the pandemic and with travel restrictions in place, tour riders completed local rides in and around the city.

“It was a slower year because of COVID and lots of families were impacted financially in terms of off work and they had to make sure they kept a roof over their own family’s head and food on the table so that made people’s ability to give little more challenging last year,” said Woroshelo, who took over as chair of the Tour de North committee in 2017, the year he moved to Prince George.

“This year we’re super-happy to be back in full force.”

He’s already reached his initial fundraising goal of $3,000 and is hoping to collect $5,000 by the end of the calendar year. The collective goal for Tour de North is to raise $100,000 and they’ve already reached $86,000. Donations can be sent to tourdenorth.ca.

This year’s tour includes Prince George riders Bob Hillhouse and TJ Grewal. Hillhouse has finished the ride twice and plans to complete the full ride this year, while Grewal will be in it as far as the first stage to Vanderhoof.

From Vanderhoof, the riders head to Fort St. James and Fraser Lake on Saturday, then to Burns Lake on Sunday, Houston and Smithers on Monday, Morricetown and New Hazelton on Tuesday, Gitwangak and Terrace on Wednesday, finishing in Prince Rupert on Thursday.

Other riders and their hometowns are: Kayla Norris and Wahnese Antonioni-Stevens of Chetwynd; Harry Dhaliwal and Hank Lee of Houston; Thomas Peters of Tumbler Ridge; Elisabeth MacKay of Smithers; Karlee Vanhie and Matthew Yu of Dawson Creek; Kevin Wiebe of Williams Lake; Joshua Clark of Quesnel, and Prince Rupert riders Jessica Friesen, Taylor Reeve, Luke Knechtel, Michael Pleskina, Jordan Vendittelli and Megan McKellar.

Most of the riders are police officers, paramedics, firefighters or emergency health services medical professionals, but some are community riders.

The send-off event for the Tour de North riders starts at 9:30 a.m. Friday at Canadian Tire in the south end of the city at 5008 Domano Blvd.