By Hamish Gordon
It was with fear and trepidation that the 42 members of Team RACE packed their bags, Space Suits and heavy hearts on August 13th to partake in the 12th Annual Tour For Kids Epic Cycling adventure.
This year Team RACE truly blasted off into the great unknown.
For three weeks before the great annual tour, preparations were under way for an Outta this World journey led by our fearless Commander Freddy. Where we were going with this? WE, his crew, had no idea. And then one week before Blast OFF. Near disaster struck.
Two of our top fund raising members were viciously cut down by cars while training for this event.First Freddy, our intrepid leader was sidelined from a collision with a car on Lakeshore in late June and then Val Fletcher was fighting for her life with multiple broken bones and a head injury at T minus 5 days before T4K.
Witnessed by poor Eric, Val was thrown 25 meters into a ditch after a head on collision with a car on a country road. The greatest latest news is that both members will live to ride again. Fred is back on the bike, YEEEHAWW! And Val is out of the intensive care unit, pieced together again with titanium spare parts (from Derek’s shop) and has begun her long journey back to the bike some day soon we all hope and pray.
But that left the rest of us wondering how safe is Space Travel on Southern Ontario roads. It was on everybody’s mind. One can only be comforted by the fact that after many 100s of thousands of kilometers ridden by Team RACERs throughout this Galaxy in training for Tour for Kids we can only count these latest two serious incidents over 12 years.
Regardless we all zipped up our space suits and locked down our Space helmets and headed up to Barrie, Ontario to participate in the 12th Annual Tour For Kids ride across 300 to 600 kms of Ontario’s most scenic and alien roads. Most drove through the heavy traffic, while 4 brave souls criss-crossed the 130 kms of country side on bikes looking for quiet roads to Barrie where they would begin their epic weekend journey.
Team RACERs began 2015 with crazy, wild enthusiasm to break new fund raising records starting on January 1st with the Polar Bear Swim on the shores of Lake Ontario, and then back yard Keggers, a wild fund raising event with Pam Maguire’s Rock band and hosted by Lucie Cousineau and Ali King at the Crooked Cue in PC. More recently in June Ed Murphy hosted another wild fund raiser with his band. When we all woke up with a hang over it dawned on us that we actually have to train hard to complete this grueling adventure in the heat of August. And so we did!!
We cajoled, challenged and motivated each other all through the spring and summer to get up early to avoid traffic and log some mileage on our legs. On the morning of August 14th adorned with WE LOVE VAL stickers on our helmets and bikes we hugged and patted each other on the back and roared off across Southern Ontario toward the escarpment with the wind at our backs.
This year we were 400 riders strong at Tour for Kids. On day one the skies threatened to douse our spirits. But our spirits and legs flew across the country without any major incidents. So what motivates us to ride 100, 160 or 200 kms each day – three days in row? Just one week earlier I went out for a 100 km training ride on my own and felt completely drained even after 15 years of consistent riding experience.
This year Pascale Gordon, 25, who endured a 4 and half hour surgery on January 13th this year for jaw reconstruction, decided this was the year she would attempt her first 160 km day on a bike. WHY? 100 kms would have been ample accomplishment.
“Its those Kids” she said. “Their stories of survival and suffering are insane. And they are just kids!, So if they can endure that, I can pedal my ass off for a few more kilometers”
And suffer she did and we all did in the grueling heat of Day 3. After completing her first 160kms ever on Friday, she did it again on Saturday. Yes Back to back to 160kms days.
My own biggest accomplishment at the tour this year was MARSHALLING my daughter and her entourage of Tour for Kids veterans. It was humbling.
In the morning Pascale whined because I cajoled. In the afternoon I shut up and I drafted her group to complete another 100 kms .
But the real heros of this tour and every Tour for Kids are the Marshalls who do it THREE days in row at the slowest speeds.
One name that kept being praised over and over again was our very own Tim Peters who fueled his flock with laughter over all three days.
While we were not the Top Fund Raising Team for 2015 YET! We are sitting second last I heard with $104,000, this has been our best year to date for fund raising. So I would personally like to thank all those who supported me and a special Huge Thanks to Paul Devries who topped up the fund raising objectives of many Team RACE members the day before Blast OFF!. That was the fuel in our Booster Rockets during our three day orbit of Southern Ontario.
Finally who do you think got the last and biggest roar of laughter and an ovation from all the teams at the Saturday Night diner? It was of course our fearless Commander Freddy and his Crew of 20 Astronauts who floated weightlessly over tables, chairs and guests conducting social experiments on the aliens in our midst. We brought the house down yet again.
*No real Astronauts where used, hurt, injured or abused in this spectacle and all the costumes paid for by Team RACE members were all donated to OUR three Cancer Camps.