Riding for Tour de Rock, said Beth O’Connor, really connects a person to the cause and the people cancer affects.
O’Connor, a Port Alberni RCMP officer who lives in Qualicum Beach, is one of the 2017 Tour de Rock riders. Tour de Rock is a two-week, 1,000-kilometre bike ride to raise money for childhood cancer and Camp Goodtimes.
“Just being on the tour, people who I know will say, ‘Oh, my niece went to Camp Goodtimes.’ It’s one, two degrees of separation,” she said.
“I think sometimes when we donate money to the charities, you feel like you’re not connected and with the tour, you’re so connected to where these dollars go and how it’s affecting people you know and love.”
O’Connor said she been aware of the tour for a long time, watching it come through town before as a police office. For O’Connor, she said there was no doubt she would one day join the Tour de Rock.
“If I got into the RCMP, or any policing on the Island, I would join 100 per cent. I would be on the tour at some point.”
She said last year, an officer from her detachment joined the tour.
“It changed him. He’s a very empathetic, kind man, but it did something to him and I can’t quite put my finger on it and I don’t know if he could either,” O’Connor said.
Once she decided to join, O’Connor said it was just a matter of the organizers and her detachment assessing whether she would be able to follow through.
“Especially general duty police, our schedules don’t allow for leeway, so we have to sort of balance that commitment at our detachment level with management,” she said. “I really wanted to do it and make it work, and I know that I could.”
O’Connor said the north and mid-Island riders train together three times a week. Sundays are 100-plus km nights, Tuesdays are hill night — “my personal favourite,” O’Connor said, dryly — and Thursdays are meant for working on skills, such as being on a bike for several hours and communication between riders.
“I did cycle and I have cycled for years, but not at this level,” said O’Connor, who has a road bike for commuting. “This has definitely brought up my cycling skills and ability and knowledge.”
Juggling work and training, O’Connor said, can be tough some days.
“Everyone is committed,” she said. “They come out to the rides no matter what. You work a 12-hour shift, it doesn’t matter. You get off and drive an hour-and-a-half and you’re going to ride for another two or three hours.
“You just really look forward to it. You’re like, ‘I’m on no sleep and I just cannot wait to get on the ride and be with the team. Honestly, it’s a very positive thing.”
Asked if she’s ready for how emotional the welcoming can get, especially in small towns, O’Connor said she has been warned.
“I’ve heard it and I’ve seen it, and you’re like, ‘I’m not gonna cry,’ but it is overwhelming,” she said. “You feel the warmth. Even wearing your tour stuff and you’re just practising on a ride, people just come out and they want to talk to you and they want your story. It is very warm and I know the smaller communities are incredible. The amount of support they give and the welcoming.”
The reception the riders get, she said, can differ greatly from her day-to-day work as a police officer.
“It’s a nice positive thing, and coming out of policing sometimes, you do have a little bit of negativity — it’s just a part of the job,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor will be part of the upcoming Tour de Rathtrevor — which she said she’s excited for — at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park Aug. 2 and 5 starting at 10 a.m. There will be a bike parade activities, prizes, Tour de Rock riders and pizza by donation from Boston Pizza.
There will also be an ongoing challenge throughout the week to collectively ride 1,250 laps of the playground and raise $1,500 in donations.
“By putting out the challenge to try to ride as many laps as possible of the campground during this week, it provides an opportunity for children to feel as though they are making a difference in a struggle that is out of their control,” states a news release from RLC Park Services.