Riders rolled into Willway elementary Wednesday hailed as heroes, a familiar but always emotional theme for this year’s Tour de Rock.
Powering over the Malahat Drive from Duncan, 22 tough tour riders hit around the 900 kilometre mark as they pedalled to the West Shore and Sooke.
Willway kids handed over $1,350, adding to the $675,000 fundraising tally on Wednesday.
“People told us what it would be like, but experiencing the tour is a whole different ballpark,” said West Shore RCMP Const. Rod Fraser. “There are few words to express how we feel. It’s very emotional. There has been support from the get-go. It’s overwhelming how it all came together.”
Police and media riders kicked off their tour nearly two weeks ago, meeting gusting wind and driving rain on a 140-kilometre leg from Port McNeill, only two days into the tour.
The road was long and legs are tired, but riders say the outpouring of generosity from dozens of communities keeps them going day after day.
“I didn’t expect this much attention,” said Const. Sandi Swanson with Island District RCMP. “In every community people can’t wait to meet you or speak with you. It really feels like the people are there for you.”
In Courtenay, Fraser, and others, were brought to tears after a class made the team certificates bearing the phrase “You are my hero.”
Swanson was struck by the frequent kindness of strangers. At an event in Duncan, a couple walked up and handed over a $500 cheque. In Nanaimo, a golfer who saw the tour pass by, hit up his golfing buddies, tracked down the riders and handed over $1,000.
“Kids in a choir singing Lean on Me, the way it was presented, that was my moment,” Swanson said. “I couldn’t stop the tears. I can’t describe it, it’s so emotional. People tell you stories and it affects you.”
In Shawnigan Lake, Cpl. Manon Chouinard, with Island District RCMP, said private school kids raised money by selling a T-shirt bearing the word “Create.”
“The respect we felt from them was very moving,” Chouinard said. “It’s young people helping young people.
“There are uplifting moments in every community. The amount of people who shave their heads and want to talk to us is amazing,” Chouinard continued. “We are just a vehicle to give a voice to communities. It’s a life altering experience.”
By the time the riders hit Greater Victoria, their bodies could feel the impact of days of riding hard hills. Each morning you hop in the saddle, and after a few kilometres the aches melt away, they said.
“Physically, everyone is tired, but you just think about your junior rider and why you are doing this,” said Fraser, who is riding for Matt Williams and Lucas Savage. “Over that Port Alberni hump, we were all focused on why we’re here. It helps us persevere, it helps us get over that hill.
“For me, I ride for Matt and Lucas. They help push me over those hills.”