With sweat dripping down their noses and the soft, rhythmic sound of dozens of cyclists breathing in unison, the Tour de Rock riders made a final push into CFB Esquimalt last week surrounded by fellow police officers.
Twenty-one riders completed the 14-day, 1,000-kilometre Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock beginning in Port Alice, running the length of Vancouver Island and finishing in Victoria’s Centennial Square Friday afternoon.
The tour raised funds for the Canadian Cancer Society, which uses the money to fund pediatrics cancer research and programs that help children with cancer and their families.
But the ride wasn’t easy. Participants started training in March, cycling three days a week and as much as 200 kilometres a week.
“It’s very physically demanding, you have to be fit to do the tour. I got sick and didn’t have a lot of energy (during the tour) but that’s when the team really pulled together and encouraged me,” said Hilary Eastmure, media rider with Vista Radio.
“We met so many many amazing people and they have such heart felt stories to tell you. It’s important to listen to it and take it all in and come away from it with positive motivation instead of getting down about all the people we’ve lost to cancer. It’s about staying focused and finding a cure.”
Riders also stopped in 27 communities, including 46 schools along the way.
Const. Matt Rutherford with the Victoria Police Department said meeting kids at schools has been the best part of the tour.
Hearing the stories of kids affected by cancer and lost their battle was the hardest. Some riders broke down and cried.
“I definitely welled up with some of those stories,” said Rutherford. “The families that have lost a child because of cancer are so resilient and so positive about life. It’s amazing to see.”
A number of schools also raised money for the cause, including Oaklands Elementary School.
The school of 443 students raised more than $18,000 in a month through raffles, door-to-door donations and a head shave.
The fundraiser was in honour of Rene Soto, a student who was a junior rider during last year’s Tour de Rock. He passed away from cancer in the summer.
“He had so much resilience. He had a love for life that you wouldn’t believe,” said Oaklands principal Holly Holt. “The last weekend of his life he was at Camp Goodtimes making friendship bracelets. I think that says it all. That’s who he was.”
She noted there are two other students — one in kindergarden and the other in Grade 1 — who are currently battling cancer.
“It is a cause that is very near and dear to this community,” Holt said.