The 16th annual Cops for Cancer Tour de North sped into Quesnel on Tuesday evening, stopping in at Canadian Tire for a barbecue with members of the community.
The group, made up of law enforcement officers and emergency services personnel, is cycling the 850 km from Williams Lake to Dawson Creek, stopping in communities along the way to raise awareness and funds in support of children living with cancer.
The tour has so far raised $155,576 for the cause. Donations are used to fund pediatric cancer research and to support Camp Goodtimes, an award-winning recreational experience for children and youth with cancer.
Quesnel was the first stop on the tour, after the group departed from Williams Lake Tuesday morning. Cheers rose up from the Canadian Tire parking lot as the 25 cyclists rolled into town, flanked by a police car and an ambulance with lights flashing to announce the tour’s arrival.
The riders gathered around the tent set up by Canadian Tire staff to tuck in to snacks provided by Quesnel’s Save-On-Foods, Safeway and Extra Foods.
Tristan Williams, an RCMP officer from Fort St. John, said he had been looking forward to getting some food and hopping in the shower after the day’s ride. Aside from that, he’s also looking forward to visiting all the communities along the route for the next six days.
“Cops for Cancer has such an awesome message. I’m looking forward to sharing that with all the communities as we go through.”
This year is Williams’ first time on the tour, and he said he had some first day jitters starting out, but overall had a good ride from Williams Lake to Quesnel.
“We leaned on the experienced riders to let us know what to do. We worked really well as a team. It’s hard work, but fun.”
Ryan Hobbs, an RCMP officer from Houston, B.C., is also a first-time rider in the Tour de North.
“I helped out with the barbecue we put on for the riders in Houston last year and found out about the event that way, so this year I wanted to get involved.
“I had a bike as a kid, but I hadn’t ridden a bike again until I started getting ready for this! Over the last four or five months I’ve been able to get to where I am now.”
Hobbs said his training had paid off and his legs weren’t too sore after day one.
“I’m surprised by how well I’m feeling. It might be a different story on day five or six though! But the adrenaline really gets pumping, and everyone was cheering as we came in, so that’s fun.”
Quesnel’s Les Nylen, who rode in the Tour de North in 2015 and 2016 as a community rider, was at the barbecue on Tuesday to welcome the cyclists to Quesnel. He wasn’t able to participate this year but said he hasn’t ruled out doing the tour again.
“The riders are great and the support team is awesome. But the real inspiration is the kids. It’s hard to put into words the feelings that are generated from being part of something like this. It brings tears to your eyes.”
He said his most memorable moment last year was on the road between Mackenzie and Prince George.
“It was pouring rain, we had blow out after blow out and were standing on the side of the road repairing the tires. I thought, ‘I could just give up and go ride in the truck…’ But then I thought about the kids, and they’re never able to give in, they have to just keep going. And that made me want to keep going too.”
Wednesday morning Integris Credit Union hosted a breakfast for the riders before they continued their trek north, stopping in Prince George Wednesday evening.
Follow their progress on the Tour de North blog: www.tourdenorthblog.wordpress.com.