Nanaimo RCMP corporal Mike Ramsey has waited his entire career to ride the Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock.
Ramsey has served with the RCMP for 20 years, 12 of those in Nanaimo, but his first eight years with the force were in Port Alberni, where he got his first exposure to the Tour de Rock.
The Tour de Rock is an annual cycling tour of Vancouver Island. Each year’s team is made up of first responders – from civilian and military police forces, firefighters, ambulance paramedics and other first responders plus guest riders from news media – who train for months to prepare for the 1,200-kilometre tour, all the while raising money for Canadian Cancer Society research and programs for for families dealing with childhood cancer.
This year’s ride, which happens in September, will be the 26th Tour de Rock.
“I’ve always been interested in the Tour de Rock,” Ramsey said. “In Port Alberni, one of the first things I was allowed to do on my own – because normally you go with a trainer – was the Tour de Rock that came in in 2003 into town and I was allowed to escort them around because I knew where the schools were and I had some friends on the team that year. I was always interested from that point on, but I was junior at that time and there were a lot more people in the service that were interested.”
Work and family obligation intervened, but this year Ramsey is finally able to train with a team and represent Nanaimo on the tour.
“This year when I saw the notice … for the information session, I said this is my year,” he said.
Ramsey, now 48, was a cyclist when he was a teenager, but riding fell off in adulthood. To prepare for his first team ride, he started training twice a week on his own because he “didn’t want to be the slow guy.” Team members now have their training uniforms and tour bikes, from sponsors Trek Bicycle Store Victoria and Applewood Auto Group and train three times a week to learn how to ride as a team and to build up endurance for the tour.
The training can’t prepare riders for the emotional challenges of the tour that involve interacting with child cancer patients and their families. Each rider is assigned a junior rider – a child who is either undergoing treatment for cancer or a survivor – who they represent on the tour.
“The riding part, I think, is going to be the easiest part of all of this,” Ramsey said. “Of course, there’s the fundraising that’s going to be difficult, but I think the emotions of the tour itself – I haven’t met my honorary rider yet; they haven’t been assigned – but those kind of things, I think that’s going to be the hardest part of all of this. They say everyone cries on tour.”
Ramsey has two children, a daughter, 16, and son, 12, both healthy. A number of his family members and a friend have been afflicted with cancer, though. One of the experiences he looks forward to is going to Camp Goodtimes, a summer camp in Maple Ridge for children with cancer, which Tour de Rock teams visit each year.
Being able to help those children, Ramsey said, is the motivator to get out and train, even when the conditions are wet, cold and miserable, and team members have to motivate each other to get out and train.
“These kids don’t have a choice whether they have cancer or not, so we’d better go ride,” Ramsey said. “ I want to do the best I can for them, so yeah, it is a motivator.”
His personal fundraising goal from the tour is $15,000, but he hopes to surpass that.
“That’s the anxiety part of this for me,” he said. “What kind of events can I plan and organize and get people involved in? … I’m only going to get to do the ride once. I can still help raise money, but because this is my year I want to make it worth it, raise as much as possible.”
People can make donations to Ramsey’s fundraising effort with this year’s Tour de Rock and follow his progress at Tour de Rock Ramsey on Facebook and on Instagram at @tourderock_ramsey.
To learn more about Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock, visit Cops for Cancer.