Riders Alan Neville-Rutherford

Riders Alan Neville-Rutherford

Tour de Rock is a life-changing experience

Tour de Rock didn't start off on my bucket list – but today it owns it, says writer

  • Oct. 8, 2013 7:00 a.m.

By Arnold Lim

I can’t believe it is over.

Eight months from info session to grand finale, with a lifetime of ups and downs in between and the most physically, mentally and emotionally challenging journey of my life has come to an end. I still can’t believe it and while the journey is only days old, I find myself reflecting on where it all began.

My personal march to they Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock team began in 2008 photographing and covering the tour shortly after graduating from a journalism school. I remember thinking it was a fun event, but didn’t really understand what it meant to the communities on Vancouver Island until the students of Oak Bay high school flipped the switch for me in 2011.

Having been a teacher’s assistant in photography at the school shortly after high school, I had always felt a connection to the school but that connection turned into something much more when the 2011 Tour de Rock team rolled into the gymnasium.

I remember watching a team of young high school students unveiling a cheque for $43,311 to a moment of silence, before being deafened by the volume of screaming, cheering and crying that almost brought me to my knees.

The raucous chorus, lead by young teenagers, many of them young girls who would be shaving their heads in prom years knowing they would not sport the flowing locks for their graduation they may have envisioned growing up, changed me forever.

Tears began streaming down my eyes as I struggled to compose myself and my camera to take photographs, I was so taken aback I almost forgot that I was working and needed something to run in the paper. It was at that moment I knew. It was that moment I began seriously thinking to myself about what it would take to be part of the Tour de Rock – not as a witness but as a rider.

What I didn’t know then was two years later I would have that opportunity.

As a young adult I grew up with a bucket list that included shooting the National Hockey League, the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the Olympics, and being a part of some of the biggest events, with tens of thousands of people in attendance and millions of people watching from around the world.

I have been fortunate to have had those opportunities, but what I didn’t realize then was those memories would be challenged by events taking place in local Legions and school gymnasiums, some in small communities with populations in the hundreds and events with spectators barely reaching the double digits.

At the expense of sounding trite, I say without hesitation this has been a life and perspective-changing two-week journey I will never be able fully express in words.

Tour de Rock didn’t start off on my bucket list – but today it owns it.