Smiles all around during Tour de Rock stop in Comox Valley

This year's Canadian Cancer Society Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock stop in the Comox Valley brought smiles to supporters big and small.

2011 Tour rider James Matsuda shaves the head of Mike Mitchell of Courtenay at Thrifty Foods.

2011 Tour rider James Matsuda shaves the head of Mike Mitchell of Courtenay at Thrifty Foods.

The 14-day, 1,000-kilometre bike trip across Vancouver Island began Saturday in Port Alice, with the goal of raising money for pediatric cancer research and programs for children with a history of cancer.

This year’s team rolled into the Comox Valley shortly before 11 a.m., stopping at École Puntledge Park Elementary, where they were greeted by a student bike parade and cheering supporters.

They continued with a short ride to Courtenay Elementary, where students greeted the riders with a rousing rendition of O Canada and cheers.

Riders and their support team then stopped for lunch at White Spot, and continued their afternoon with school stops in Comox and Cumberland before ending their night at Crown Isle for a red surge fundraising dinner.

“This has absolutely exceeded anything that I could have imagined, anything we could have been prepared for,” said Kyle Slavin of Black Press, one of two media riders with the 2012 Tour.

“One of the things going through seven months of training, our trainers repeatedly say we’re training you so when it comes to Tour, you don’t have to worry about the biking, you can concentrate solely on the emotional side of it.”

Slavin admitted while the biking has biking has been tough, particularly on the North Island, he doesn’t remember a single minute of more than 400 kilometres biked so far.

“I remember that there’s been some hills, and I remember that there’s been some cold parts, but none of that matters. I remember stopping in communities and meeting kids and parents and getting cheered on like we’re celebrities and superheroes,” he explained. “It’s been so much more than I could have ever expected.”

Slavin added despite all of the physical training, there is no way to properly prepare emotionally for the ride.

“There is so much that happens on this Tour on the emotional side of things that is just so overwhelming out of happiness and sadness and love and generosity and appreciation that you just cry, because people on Vancouver Island are so amazing,” he noted.

“They truly are and we’re only four days into this. But these small communities who are writing big cheques … it’s unbelievable what people do when they truly believe in a cause.”

Since 1998, the Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock has raised more than $16.5 million for the Canadian Cancer Society, which uses the money to fund pediatric cancer research and programs that help children with cancer and their families.

Donations have been pouring in from schools, community fundraisers and events, as Wednesday’s stop in Cumberland raised more than $7,000 for the Tour.

Thursday morning, it was an early start for the team, with a sendoff breakfast at Thrifty Foods before they visited schools in Cumberland, Union Bay, Qualicum and finished off the day in Parksville.

The 2012 Tour de Rock ends Oct. 5 in Victoria. For more information, or to donate, visit www.tourderock.ca.

photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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