Tour de Rock riders cycled into Port Alberni on Friday, Sept. 30, receiving many warm welcomes along the way.
“Typical Port Alberni. This place is just an awesome place,” Said RCMP Cpl. Brady Mathison, the Port Alberni detachment’s Tour de Rock rider. “We started off at the top of the hump and came down in the fog, but by the time we had done our first venue the fog had lifted at Boston Pizza and it was a gorgeous day.”
Each day is full, Mathison said, from when the riders wake up between 5 and 6 a.m. to when they go to bed around 10 p.m.
On Friday, the team made pit stops throughout the Valley including schools, businesses, the RCMP detachment and dinner courtesy of the Tseshaht First Nation.
“A big part are the people that come out and support. If they weren’t there we wouldn’t be riding,” Mathison said. “Tremendous support from the community.”
Community support has been a trend throughout the course of the team’s travels with even small communities making big contributions.
“When we were in Sayward, we have a town of 500 people of an outlying area of 1,000, they raised over $9,000 for Tour de Rock. That’s unheard of,” Mathison said. “You just realize how many people really do care about the children and the family that are going through cancer.”
Mathison said so far the trip has been “fantastic.”
“It’s more than you ever expected. You can’t appreciate it unless you do it…just to be involved in all aspects of it, it’s a mind blowing experience,” he said.
With more than seven months of training, Mathison said the riders have been well prepared for the journey.
He said with so much time spent preparing for the tour, families will often have to make sacrifices.
“A lot of the sacrifices the family has to make, the spouses have to make. They’re the ones that are not getting to experience this but they’re making the sacrifice while we’re away. They’re adjusting their family life during the training. We’re working our shifts and then coming home and doing a training ride for three hours,” Mathison said.
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Sgt. Donovan Tait, of the Nanaimo RCMP, who grew up in Port Alberni, agrees with his teammate that balancing family life and the demands of Tour training has been the most difficult part of the experience.
“I’ve got three kids and my wife’s a police officer so juggling that, I found that challenging,” Tait said. “Part of the tour is the commitment you have to it.”
“It consumes your summer for sure. RCMP basic training is six months long from start to finish and now we’re seven months and probably when everything is done… eight months commitment to a team.”
Keeping the team on their feet is a whole behind-the-scenes crew of mechanics, medics and volunteers to support the riders during the tour.
“We’re the window dressing, we’re what people see but there’s a whole machine of organizers and planners that are behind all of this that are just fantastic,” Tait said.
Understanding completely how the tour supports people affected by cancer, is special guest rider, Mena Westhaver whose son, Jack, was diagnosed with cancer before his sixth birthday.
“I’ve been involved in the tour for seven years because Jack’s been a junior rider, so I kind of got to see the tour unfold in front of me,” Westhaver said. “Jack would look at this group of people and it would give him hope, it would give him a feeling of being together as opposed to being isolated. He also knew that Tour de Rock fueled the Camp Good Times that he went to—another place where he could just put cancer aside.”
The riders continued west to Tofino and Ucluelet on Saturday and then began their trip back up Island on Sunday.