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Motivations get personal for cancer cyclists
The Enbridge Tour Alberta for Cancer ride holds far more meaning for Okotoks’ Delanie Cerkvenac this year than it did when she signed up for the first time two years ago.
Registering for that 2020 ride, which was ultimately cancelled due to the pandemic, was prompted by watching a good friend take part the year earlier but this time around she’s getting involved due to a more personal reason: She was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer last July.
“This ride’s a little more important to me this year than when I originally signed up,” said Cerkvenac, a non-smoker who said the "devastating diagnosis” came as a complete shock.
Cyclists will be riding in the annual Alberta Cancer Foundation event on July 23 and 24 from the Calgary Polo Club grounds in Foothills County.
Cerkvenac, who will be riding with the Enbridge team, has been training in preparation to tackle back-to-back 100-kilometre days, saying she’s more determined than ever to complete the ride.
“The way I look at it, I’ll be able to do it, no problem, but it will be harder than, say, two years ago,” she said. “My thought is, hey, if it takes me 10 hours, it takes me 10 hours. No matter what I'm going to do it, even if it takes me longer.”
After taking part in a fundraising walk for lung cancer earlier this year, Cerkvenac was concerned she might have trouble reaching the $2,500 minimum needed to take part in the Enbridge Tour Alberta for Cancer, but thanks to much support has raised in excess of $6,000 thus far.
“I have such an army behind me between my work at Okotoks Dental and staff there, my mom and dad and their friends and my support group,” she said.
A trainer at Motion Fitness in Okotoks, Maggie Nichol-Bowen will be taking part in the fundraiser, previously known as the Ride to Conquer Cancer, for the 11th time.
“This is my heart event that I do because it’s such a good cause,” said Nichol-Bowen, who will also be riding in a gran fondo in Edmonton in August.
A spin instructor who’s on the bike multiple times a week, she turned that into a spin-a-thon fundraiser for the ride that has pushed her total to $3,000.
"We have amazing members and amazing owners,” Nichol-Bowen said. “The owners allow me to take all the spin bikes outside and we set them up and do a four-hour marathon. It's literally a four-hour class, I don’t leave my bike for four hours.”
She registered for the first time more than a decade ago to honour her godfather who died of cancer and has continued to participate after learning the stories of fellow cyclists who are either battling the disease or riding on behalf of loved ones.
“When you see stuff like that, this is nothing compared to what people are going through,” she said of the grueling cycling weekend where she’ll once again be riding with the Tom Baker Cancer Centre team. “This is nothing, it’s the least I can do.”
Larry Clark, another member of the Tom Baker Cancer Centre team who will be riding for the sixth time, said a combination of family members having been touched by cancer and meeting so many inspiring people keeps him coming back.
“The first year I did it I was going to do one and that was it, that’s all I was going to do,” said the Okotoks resident. “And then I rode across the finish line and everyone was cheering and I rode over and signed up for the next year. They hooked me.”
Having raised $12,000 through earlier rides, Clark said he wants to do his part to fund cancer research, adding that 100 per cent of the money raised by the Tom Baker Cancer Conquerors goes directly to supporting clinical trial treatments and research at the centre.
Having not participated in an in-person event since 2019, Clark said he’s very much looking forward to seeing fellow riders and experiencing that feeling of kinship again.
Ryan Campbell, director of corporate relations at the Alberta Cancer Foundation, said 2022 will be the inaugural in-person Enbridge Tour Alberta for Cancer. From 2009 to 2020, the event was known as the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, and in 2021 transitioned to the Enbridge Tour Alberta brand as a virtual event.
Over the last 14 years, tens of thousands of Albertans have participated in the event, raising more than $84 million in support of Albertans facing cancer.
For more information or to donate to any of the riders, visit 2022.touralbertaforcancer.ca.