A group of 21 bikers stayed overnight in Rossland last Wednesday before heading off to Creston early Thursday morning.
The bike tour is called GearUp4CF (cystic fibrosis) and riders have the option of a one day, two day or nine day bike tour.
The tour begins in Crescent Beach, where all riders make their way to Chiliwack. Two and nine day cyclists continue on from Chiliwack to Manning Park. From Manning Park all the way through to Banff the nine day riders trek on.
“Our goal is of course to raise money, but more importantly it’s to bring awareness because it is an inherited disease,” said Tracy Lee who has volunteered for this event for five years.
“For Gear Up it’s sort of serving two purposes, fundraising which goes back to research but also making sure people know…what the disease is about,” said Lee.
About 70-75 per cent of all donations from this event will go back to research and programs.
This year the goal was $300,000 and that has already been exceeded.
The CF bike tour has been happening annually for the past nine years and is becoming very successful.
On opening day this year, 105 people showed up to cycle. Forty-three cyclists carried on until day two and 21 are continuing on to Banff.
The nine day tour stretches across 1,200km and the cyclists are averaging 140km per day with their longest leg being day three from Manning Park to Osoyoos for a total of 186km.
The shortest leg of the tour was day five from Grand Forks to Rossland for a total of 96km.
“Everywhere we go everybody is always curious…people telling us about family friends or people they know with CF, it’s actually quite a small community…and this is a disease that affects more people than we realize,” said Lee.
People looking to get involved are able to donate online on the Gear Up 4 CF website.
The Kin Club of Canada, an all-Canadian service organization that sponsors events and community service projects, hosts dinners for CF if people want to get involved that way.
“There are also local CF chapters across the province if you want more information on what to get involved with volunteering,” said Lee.
“We can’t do it without the volunteers – they place themselves so they can refill your water bottles; they feed you. The towns are so far apart that you couldn’t actually make some of these rides without their support, it’s a really good network,” said Emily Trant a nine day rider with a family history of CF.
Trant grew up in Vancouver but has been living in London, England and travelled back for the ride.
The organizing committee begins planning this bike tour in January and that’s usually when riders start training as well.
The riders are very committed explained Lee.
“It’s not just the nine days, it is every weekend going out and training,” said Lee.
People of all sorts of ages and abilities participated in this year’s Gear Up tour.
John Fettes celebrated his 73rd birthday in Rossland last Thursday becoming the oldest rider to ever take part in the nine day tour.
He did triathlons for 25 years but now sticks to social riding and touring.
His daughter helped motivate him for the ride but CF is his inspiration.
“The more I am around all these people and hear their stories…it’s really quite amazing,” said Fettes.
The youngest rider is Mike Hamilton at 26 years of age.
He is also one of the three riders on the tour who has CF.
Hamilton is cycling with his original set of lungs.
George Keulen also has CF and is cycling after having a double lung transplant.
Paul Underhill, who some people may recognize from Dragon’s Den for his protein drink Rumble, is also participating in the nine day tour after his double lung transplant.
His drink, Rumble, was the title sponsor for the Gear Up event last year.
Being a person with CF, Underhill wanted to create a drink full of nutrients that was healthier and tasted better than all the other protein drinks in the store.
The creation of his drink helped motivate him to move forward.
When it comes to this group of people there are so many stories to be told.
Janet Brine is on tour supporting her husband, Bill Markvoort who has been on the tour twice.
After their daughter’s lung transplant in 2007, Markvoort cycled in 2008.
Unfortunately their daughter passed away from complications of CF in 2010, but they continue to support CF efforts.
“It’s a good cause and it’s really great to see some amazing progress being made in research,” said Brine.
Her husband turned 65 this year and took on the challenge of not only biking 1,200km but also the goal of raising $65,000.
To date Markvoort has more than exceeded his goal and has raised almost $78,000.
Check out his blog and others linked to the online article.
Through rain or shine these cyclists continue to battle on physically for CF.
“It rained so hard in Greenwood I was cycling through a stream of water coming off the road that was 4 inches deep,” wrote Markvoort on his blog.
“What amazed me the most about that day of rain was, as I was driving along with you guys, I was expecting somebody to say ‘Let me in the car, give me a ride’ but nobody did,” said Brine.
Each cyclist on this journey has an individual story to be told but they all share one common goal; a cure for CF.