Emotional moments on tour

They say there’s a point at which every Tour De Rock rider gets “it.”

CHRIS BUSH HAD plenty of emotional moments during the Tour de Rock.

CHRIS BUSH HAD plenty of emotional moments during the Tour de Rock.

They say there’s a point at which every Tour De Rock rider gets “it.”

I and a few other riders got our first hint of “it” in Port Hardy, on our first day on the road.

We were about to leave for Port McNeill when Janelle Canning, one of our tour support team, who also served as event MC and photographer, gathered us into a tight circle, arms around our shoulders. Then she told us to look up and visualize whatever or whomever was meaningful to us.

This was one those times I was reminded why I don’t join clubs and if this wasn’t uncomfortable enough, she then played Sarah McLachlan’s I Will Remember You — the whole song, which is unmercifully long under the best circumstances.

It was about the time we started swaying to the music and smirking as a way to get through this when I saw the hairdresser and her husband in the background, framed between the riders. He cradled her as she leaned on him, weeping.

She’s a breast cancer survivor.

I’d watched her earlier as young members of a Junior Canadian Ranger regiment had their heads shaved to raise money against cancer. During breaks when no one was in her chair she’d step out of sight of the crowd and cry, wipe her eyes, then come back for the next shave.

Watching the couple from within the circle of riders reminded me of times in the past few years I’d seen friends and relatives fighting cancer break down, grateful for another Christmas or birthday, another day with their children or a dinner out with friends. Crying with joy for being alive and from the fear of losing the fight.

Our awkward feeling little circle and the song provided this moment for this couple and Janelle Canning, who rode with the 2009 team, got “it.”

I was extremely fortunate to get on this year’s tour. It was only because of my job that I had a chance to get on at all. Police officers might apply for several years before getting on the team.

It started for me as a personal challenge to see if I could surmount the physical demands of the training and tour itself.

What the trainers — all former riders — can’t prepare you for is the emotional impact you’re hit with at each stop in every town and the realization of how much the tour means to cancer survivors, their families and those who lost loved ones to the disease.

They come to you and share their stories in simple statements — “I’ve survived cancer twice — colon and breast cancer.”

In Lake Cowichan a woman turned to me, “I lost my daughter 17 years ago. She was 14,” and the tears welled up in her eyes.

A woman in her 40s in Oak Bay walked up to me outside a grocery store with tears in her eyes and said, “I’m so grateful to all of you. I lost my auntie.”

Sharing their pain is their way of giving you strength and maybe that’s why as a team we felt so strong over the hills and through the long hours in the saddle.

Then there were the construction workers, road crews, hydro linemen, truckers and commuters everywhere, blowing their horns, cheering us on, snapping photos with cellphones and digital cameras. Some stopping our support team to hand them cash.

People rushed out of their homes to wave as we passed by. Crowds of children screamed and cheered at every school we visited. Whole towns took us in, sheltered and fed us.

As we rode down the Island, we were treated like heroes — a surreal feeling for a group of ordinary people riding bicycles, but the tour is like a travelling event that takes on a life of its own beyond any individual rider or the group.

“We’re like a circus,” one rider said to me on the road from Campbell River. Perhaps that’s what a group of perplexed tourists from Delaware thought when they were awakened by our morning warmup with music and sirens blaring in the motel parking lot in Port McNeill.

How would I describe the tour? Practically speaking, it’s an 1,100-kilometre high-output and, at times, physically gruelling bike ride that collects money to fight cancer and send children with cancer to Camp Goodtimes.

But anyone fortunate enough to ride with the tour knows it’s impossible to fully describe what it really is or means other than to say it’s the most rewarding two weeks they will likely ever experience.

One thing for certain, there’s nothing quite like the Tour de Rock anywhere else. It’s life, energy and response from the public comes from and, I believe, is unique to Vancouver Island.

And the tour changes everyone who takes part in it.

photos@nanaimobulletin.com

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Danita Bilozaze and her daughter Dani in Comox. Photo by Karen McKinnon
Valley woman makes historic name change for truth and reconciliation

First in Canada to be issued new passport under the TRC Calls to Action

For Leela Harrop, the recent death of her brother Raju Tiwari pushed her to sign up for the vaccine. Photo supplied
Comox woman on fence books vaccine due to brother’s death

Leela Harrop says she did have issues with signing up online this past week

Most categories of crime held steady from year to year in Cumberland. File photo
Cumberland crime numbers hold steady year to year

A few categories had notable changes but many were similar to 2019

The colourful Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly has been reintroduced on Hornby Island, BC. Photo courtesy the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project.
Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project releases more caterpillars on Hornby Island

Chris Junck Special to Black Press The number of Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies… Continue reading

Paper Excellence took over Catalyst Paper operations in B.C. in 2018. (Paper Excellence photo)
Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Most Read