Canadian Charity Cycle Ride - by Mary Cook

Roy and I were fortunate enough to be visiting Toronto when the first ever “Ride to Conquer Cancer” ride took place in June. This was a 200 kilometre event from Toronto to Niagara Falls, over two days, with an overnight stop at Hamilton. Those fast men among us may scoff at such an event lasting two days. However, one must bear in mind that around 2,850 people participated, the vast majority of these being “Recreational cyclists” of all age groups and abilities, many of whom had never ridden such a distance before.

The event was organised by the Princess Margaret Hospital and there were a number of sponsors, such as restaurant chains and “The Globe and Mail” newspaper. There were numerous teams of people from all walks of life – commercial organisations, clubs, medical personnel (doctors, nurses) and the RCMP (the “Mounties”) and so on.

Every rider had to guarantee to raise a minimum of $2,500 (around £1,250) and even the army of volunteers paid for the privilege of helping.

A sea of marquees at Hamilton University campus housed many riders, whilst others stayed in hotels over night. There were “Pit stops” every 20/30 kilometres around the course, with plenty of food, drink, mechanics and rows of “Portaloos”. The organisation was superb – marshals controlling the event very efficiently.

There were many hills and a particularly cruel up-hill stretch on the Niagara Escarpment towards the end of the route. The finish was in Victoria Park at Niagara. Marathon event, with commentators and a huge, noisy welcoming crowd. The atmosphere was terrific and we were able to see our nephew, Matthew, (a novice, whose sport is baseball) – cross the finishing line.

A number of racing cyclists did participate, including Steve Bauer, the Olympic silver medallist and Tour de France rider. His tea – Bauer Zimmering Pacesetters rode a longer course. Some riders had yellow pennants attached to their cycles and these were survivors of cancer, which I found very humbling and moving. One lady had also undergone surgery four days earlier and still completed the course.

The event raised fourteen million dollars (around £7,000,000) and will be an annual event. Riders were encouraged to register for the 2009 ride, at the finish and many people did so (including Matthew), whilst they were still euphoric after completing their ride.
For more information, go to “conquer cancer ca”.


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