Gordie Simonds

Gordie Simonds

Team Rupert tackling 200K trip to battle cancer

Team Prince Rupert is training to ride 200km this summer in the Ride to Conquer Cancer.

There can be positive distractions.

Training and raising funds to ride 200 kilometres on a bike from Vancouver to Seattle this summer may be Francis Wolfe’s distraction from his battle with bladder cancer and his pending surgery in April.

The Ride to Conquer Cancer is a two-day cycling event to raise money for cancer research, education and care. Events are held in four provinces, including B.C. where funds are directed toward the BC Cancer Foundation.

“Back in 2007, I was diagnosed with bladder cancer. In 2009, I happened to be watching TV and they were talking about the first Ride for Cancer and I thought, ‘I used to ride a bike when I was a kid, I can do that’,”  Wolfe said.

The 66-year-old has been in the ride every year since 2010, even in his fourth diagnosis with bladder cancer. He also rides for his son, who had lymphoma and was declared cancer-free six months ago, and he rides for his brother, who survived colon cancer, and father, who had skin cancer.

Wolfe convinced his friend, Gordie Simonds, to join him in that first ride in 2010 only six months after his friend’s esophagus was replaced due to cancer.  With that partnership, Team Prince Rupert was born, and it has been growing annually.

This year, the team hopes to include at least 10 or more riders. Keith Lambourne will be joining his brother-in-law Simonds, along with his wife Susan, for the first time. The couple usually support Simonds through donations, but they wanted to do more this time around.

“Susie said, ‘Well, why don’t we ride with him?’ Once that sentence was in the universe, try backing off of it. We’re in our early 50s and Gordie’s going to be 70 this year. If he can do it, we can bloody do it,” Lambourne said.

The training has begun. For the other seasoned members of the team, training goes all-year-round. The Lambournes are starting off with indoor training.

“I can hardly walk,” he said.

In March, the ride promotes the Team Up Challenge, to increase riders on the team. The Prince Rupert Team is currently recruiting rides and anyone can sign up — even with little or no experience — just look at the rookie Lambournes for inspiration.

The ride starts in Vancouver on Aug. 27 and ends in Seattle the next day. Each ride has seen approximately 2,500 to 3,000 riders in the past when Wolfe and the Prince Rupert team have participated.

The halfway point is Mount Vernon, where 1,500 two-man tents are set up for riders. Cancer survivors have a flag on their bike and they receive shouts of support along their journey.

“The biggest thing is going over the finish line. It’s emotional. A lot of people that we’ve all lost and we’re still cancer survivors,” Wolfe said.

Not everyone on the team has been personally diagnosed with cancer. Steve Weir will be riding for his third year in a row. He joined in honour of his brother and father, both of whom died of cancer, and for his son who survived cancer.

“I’ve seen the benefits of the research dollars. He wouldn’t have survived 20 years ago and he is cured,” Weir said. “That’s why I’m here. To raise money for research and education. If there was better education his cancer wouldn’t have progressed as far.”

Each member has to raise at minimum of $2,500 to participate in the ride. They are asking for $250 from community businesses to place a logo on their shirts. They are also collecting bottles to help offset some of the travel costs.

For more information on Team Prince Rupert contact Francis Wolfe at 250-627-1838.

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