A smaller but no less impactful Tour de Rock team rolled through Port Alberni last weekend.
For the second year in a row, the Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock held “community-based rides” in different towns and municipalities across Vancouver Island to keep things safe during COVID-19.
A smaller group of alumni riders will cycle in different communities without their usual police escort, riding 60 to 100 kilometres a day, explained coordinator Tiffany McFadyen. There are 55 riders this year, all made up of Tour de Rock alumni.
In Port Alberni, a team of five women cycled around town on Saturday, Sept. 25: Amanda McRae, Gaylene Thorogood, Deb Justice, Joanne Bickford and Kim Taylor. McFadyen said this is the first time there has been a female-only Tour de Rock team.
“We’ll have multiple stops to visit our honourary team members,” said McFadyen. “They’re the reason why we ride.”
The team also stopped to visit a couple of longstanding donors—Alberni Co-op and the Port Alberni RCMP detachment—before heading off to the West Coast.
Amanda McRae, a BC Ambulance paramedic in Port Alberni and a volunteer with the Beaver Creek Volunteer Fire Department, said she decided to take part in Tour de Rock after losing her father to cancer. Her first full ride was in 2018 and she also took part in the 2020 alumni tour.
“It’s a good cause and it affects so many kids,” she said.
Visiting with the kids is her favourite part about the tour.
“No matter what school, they’re always just so stoked to see us,” she said. “There are less kids this time around [due to COVID-19] but we still get to do drive-bys and waves.”
Gaylene Thorogood is a former Port Alberni rider who is now working with the RCMP in North Cowichan. She took part in the Tour de Rock for the first time in 2016, then again for the alumni tour in 2020.
“It’s completely different without the crowds,” she said. “This year we’re seeing more people out, more support. More barbecues, more bottle drives and more head shavings. It’s not quite the same, but we’re feeling the love and support from the community.”
The Tour de Rock raises funds every year for pediatric cancer research and support programs like Camp Goodtimes. This year, the tour’s goal is to raise more than $600,000.
Next year, 2022, will mark the tour’s 25th anniversary.
“If we’re easing out of the pandemic, it will be the perfect opportunity to celebrate,” said Thorogood.