Tour de Rock riders depart from the Best Western Plus Barclay Hotel on Saturday, Sept. 26. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Tour de Rock alumni ride through Port Alberni

Event was scaled down this year in response to COVID-19

COVID-19 did not stop the annual Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock ride in Port Alberni.

Six cyclists took part in the event, riding around Port Alberni before heading out to the West Coast by car. They stopped to visit several honourary team members—Ryder Rolston-Werner, Ryker Dodding and Kayla Aolick—and stopped by the Port Alberni RCMP detachment and Co-op gas station to pick up cheques.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the event looked very different this year.

“Typically it’s a team of 22,” explained coordinator Tiffany McFadyen. “This year we’ve had to split the riders into pods, riding in their home communities.”

The ride has become a sort of relay, with riders “passing the baton” between 10 pods in 10 different communities. Riders trained independently and made sure to physically distance throughout the event.

READ MORE: Vancouver Island Tour de Rock riders roll into Parksville Qualicum Beach

All the cyclists for 2020 are made up of alumni riders, said McFadyen, which makes this the first time in Tour de Rock’s 22-year history that alumni riders have been invited back to join the tour.

“It brings back a lot of emotions,” said rider Gaylene Thorogood. Thorogood was a member of the Ucluelet RCMP when she first took part in Tour de Rock in 2016, but she is now the City of Port Alberni’s Community Safety Manager. “It’s a little bit different now,” she added. “But it’s the same excitement, the same fears.”

One of the things she missed the most, she said, was visiting the local schools and children.

“We’re missing the crowds,” she said. “And we don’t have the kids, that’s always a big thing. But we still hear the honks and still see the waves. It still feels good. And it was nice to see some of the junior riders. It’s not the same for them, too.”

Kayla Aolick, for example, is a former junior rider and cancer survivor who has been supporting the Tour de Rock since 2003. Every year since she was a junior rider, she has weaved a handmade bracelet for each rider. Some of the alumni riders still carry them on their bikes.

This is the first year Aolick was not able to hand out bracelets.

The Tour de Rock raises funds for the Canadian Cancer Society in support of pediatric cancer research and support programs for children and their families. The event typically raises around $1.2 million a year, said McFadyen.

“This year’s not going to bring in that volume,” said McFadyen. “But we still want to fly the colours and bring that hope and inspiration the event usually does.”

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Honourary Tour de Rock team member Kayla Aolick greets Tour de Rock riders (from a distance!) at her home in Port Alberni. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Members of the Port Alberni RCMP detachment present a cheque to Tour de Rock riders. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Mike Gonzalez, media liaison for the Tour de Rock, takes a photo of the riders outside of the Best Western Plus Barclay Hotel in Port Alberni. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

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