Four months ago, I barely knew a single rider or trainer on the Tour de Rock team.
Looking around at the faces gathered around a horseshoe-shaped table at the Saanich Police Department, I remember a sea of unfamiliar people chatting and laughing with each other – and feeling somewhat removed from a group comprised primarily of members of police and RCMP.
It was February, and I had just been selected by Black Press to represent them as a media rider on the Canadian Cancer Society’s Cops for Cancer, Tour de Rock.
After a month-long process involving internal selection and personal essays written to the president of Black Press and the Canadian Cancer Society on why I wanted to be part of tour, I had gotten as far as the first orientation meeting at SPD, and I was uneasy.
Having followed the tour for five years as a photojournalist for various media outlets across Vancouver Island, I was extremely excited for the opportunity, but had yet to be officially selected by the cancer society – but I knew I wanted to be.
In fact, I had wanted it for years, but for one reason or another the stars had not aligned. I hoped this was going to be my year.
I certainly didn’t feel like I was a lock. At 280 pounds, with limited biking experience and two decades removed from any athletic endeavours, a sense of self-consciousness was front and centre.
I wasn’t poised to break any land speed records on a bike and knew I had an uphill battle regardless of where the chips fell. The only certainty in my mind was I needed to do this.
Truth be known, I don’t think I truly understood what I was getting into when I first signed up. I didn’t fully grasp that I wasn’t just signing up to be a bike rider for the cancer society. I wasn’t just writing personal essays about how much I wanted to be a part of the tour so I could fundraise for a 1,000 kilometre bike ride down Vancouver Island.
What I didn’t fully understand then, was that I was signing up to be part of a team.
I was getting an opportunity to do my part in the battle against paediatric cancer, and although I signed up alone, I realize now Tour de Rock is experienced alongside 21 other riders, a fleet of trainers, Canadian Cancer Society staff and volunteers who make up a family. This wasn’t something I would experience just myself.
Every bike crash, fall or illness is shared equally by all riders, including trainers who put their bodies on the line biking into busy intersections to stop traffic. Every pedal stroke on tour is a pedal stroke fuelled not only by the riders, but by unsung volunteers and staff behind the scenes that may never get the recognition they deserve.
Four months ago I walked into a crowded room of unfamiliar faces.
Today those faces are teammates I couldn’t have hand-picked better if I tried. Anyone who tells you biking is an individual sport hasn’t ridden Tour de Rock.
Arnold Lim represents Black Press on the 2013 Tour de Rock team. To donate to his campaign, visit copsforcancerbc.ca/tourderock/arnoldlim.