With 200 police officers and a few dozen reserves, representing Saanich Police on the Canadian Cancer Society Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock team isn’t something you just walk into.
All four of this year’s Saanich Police Tour riders – Const. Paul Egli, Const. Nawid Akbar, reserve Staff Sgt. Steve Smith and reserve officer Nick Mandryk – have been waiting for their chance to participate in the 14-day, money-raising 1,000-kilometre trek from the top to the bottom of Vancouver Island on behalf of pediatric cancer research.
Akbar has wanted to do Tour de Rock since he spent four years as a Saanich reserve officer prior to his recent hiring.
“There’s no bigger cause than trying to fight childhood cancer, it affects everybody and it’s non-discriminatory. If we can try to help in any way, shape or form, it doesn’t matter that I haven’t really been on my bike since high school,” he said.
This year’s route kicks off on Sept. 20, as the riders head from Port Alice to Port Hardy and Port McNeil, a 97-kilometre day. It kicks into high gear with a 140-km route on Sept. 21 to Sayward, the longest stretch of the tour. It ends with stops in Esquimalt, Saanich and Victoria during a 40-km final day on Oct. 2.
Fundraising has already started, as the team was solidified back in May. The group is finding their legs with thrice-weekly group rides, including a team participation in last month’s Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria .
“Back on May 2 we did the Observatory Hill Climb time trial and mine was 11:15, the slowest time,” said Smith.
“The fastest was close to eight minutes. We’ll all do it again in September and hopefully I’ll knock off a couple of minutes, just as I think our fastest guy will knock off a minute too.”
For Smith, the reality of the Tour kicked in following a visit to Camp Goodtimes earlier this summer.
“That gave me a sense of why we’re doing this and how important this is,” he said.
For Egli, who’s part of Saanich’s school liaison section, he’s just happy to have the opportunity to be able to commit to Tour de Rock.
“I’m pretty much new to the bike thing, like [Akbar] I haven’t biked since high school, though that’s been a few more years for me than it has him,” Egli said.
“I’ve seen the way this brings the community together and I’m so glad to be part of it.”
For Mandryk, a Saanichite who volunteers with Saanich Police but also works in security at Royal Jubilee and Victoria General hospitals, he’s seen one too many family members fall to cancer in the last couple years.
“It’s a driving force for me,” Mandryk said. “I’ve also seen people I work with do the Tour de Rock and what they did made me want to do it too.”