TOUR de ROCK: All pumped up

The Tour de Rock demands total commitment from its riders – both on and off their bikes

Island District RCMP Const. Sandi Swanson

Island District RCMP Const. Sandi Swanson

When the 22-person Tour de Rock cycling team rides across Vancouver Island this fall, they need to do more than just pump out 1,000 kilometres in two weeks.

After a grueling day in the saddle, they still have school children to talk to and fundraisers to attend.

“We need to get to the point where cycling 100 kilometres feels easy, so we don’t just want to go to bed after a ride,” said Island District RCMP Const. Manon Chouinard who, before qualifying for this year’s team, had never ridden a road bike.

Since March riders have spent about eight hours per week on their bike with three mandatory weekly training sessions focusing on hills, speed and distance. If anyone misses a ride, they have to make it up on their own.

“You don’t want to fall behind. Every week we’re building on what we did the week before,” Chouinard said.

A recent hill-training included powering up Mount Washington, a steep 20-kilometre climb.

When the training gets tough, West Shore RCMP Const. Rod Fraser said he just thinks about the reason he volunteered for the tour.

“It’s all for the kids with cancer. We’re doing this by choice, but they don’t get an option to be sick or not,” said Fraser, who as a teenager lost his father to cancer.

Money raised by the Canadian Cancer Society Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock goes to pediatric cancer research. Since it started in 1998, the annual ride has raised more then $15 million.

Riders set their own fundraising target and organize events to bring in donations. Island District RCMP Const. Sandi Swanson has fundraisers planned almost every weekend to meet her goal to raise $12,000.

“I’m either at a fundraiser or planning a fundraiser,” Swanson said.

Many of her fundraising ideas, from barbecues to garage sales, come from colleagues who did the ride in previous years. The ride has a roster of business sponsors who give in-kind donations to aid fundraisers.

“We get nothing but support at every turn,” Swanson said. “Being a cop, we work long hours and see a lot of hard things. Seeing the other side, the generosity, and being able to give back, it’s an amazing opportunity.”

Officers are only allowed to participate in Tour de Rock once in their career, which is extra incentive to give it their all. Fraser is hoping to raise $15,000 and Chouinard is aiming for $20,000.

In the next two months, there will be many fundraisers throughout the region with proceeds going to Tour de Rock.

Swanson is holding drop-in jazzercise at the Pacific Institute for Sports Excellence in Saanich,  Aug. 6 from 1 to 5 p.m.

Fraser has a pancake breakfast and garage sale at the West Shore RCMP station in Langford, Aug. 13 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Chouinard hopes to see 400 people attend her “Tank-top, Flip-flop Hop,” a beach-theme dance party for all ages, at the Bay Street Armoury in Victoria, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m.