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Ride Report 2023

Q. How do you get from a wedding in Tofino on a Friday evening to the start line of the Tour de Cure in Cloverdale at 8 a.m. the next morning?

A. You dont!

Hello everybody and thank you again for your donations to the Tour de Cure. A total of $7.1 million was raised for cancer research this year and your trusty (often rusty) Horny Goats accounted for a grand total of $483,000 of that. The Horny Goats have now raised over $7.5 million since the ride began thanks to all of you!

Every year I am truly humbled by your ongoing generosity. Really it is amazing and I cannot thank you enough.

Apologies for the long delay in sending the ride report this year. I was a zombie on Monday after the ride and then left on a fishing trip early Tuesday morning and got back last evening. It was a welcome break.

Right, lets get to it.

The Days Before

Aside from not having done enough training, I had an extra challenge this year. Our extremely close friends eldest son was getting married on the Friday before the ride. In Tofino. I have known him since he was four and lived across the street from us. He used to babysit the kids. I would have been shot by his mother had I not been there. But I was determined to get the Tour done too.

Plan A Intention: I booked a very small prop plane to fly me from Tofino on Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. to the Langley airport. It is about a ten minute drive from there to the Cloverdale Rodeo grounds where the ride starts.

Plan A Outcome: Im not sure what went wrong here. About a week before I got a reminder confirmation for my flight at 11:30 a.m. Well, that wasnt going to work at all, a lot of riders would have finished the ride by noon or so. They didnt have an alternative so on to Plan B.

Plan B Intention: I did a lot of phoning around for a couple of days there are a surprisingly large number of float plane companies in British Columbia. Or maybe it's not surprising, I think I am guilty of thinking Harbour Air has a lock on the business. An issue is that few planes are based in Tofino so they have to fly in first and then pick you up and I wanted to be out early. Tofino Air had nothing available at that time but somebody told me about another operation there that had a small 3 seat float plane. They were very nice. Right, booked them to leave at 7 Saturday morning (they said they couldnt leave earlier) and fly to the Fort Langley Airport (not to be confused with the Langley Airport, I was pleased with myself for noticing that) where they have some docks on the river.

Plan B Outcome: There are road closures on Highway 4, near Cameron Lake, which connects Tofino to the east side of Vancouver Island. We had intended to drive over on Thursday but it was then announced that the road would be closed all day on Thursday. (The issue relates to a forest fire that occurred months ago but weakened the root structures at the top of some bluffs with resulting landslides onto the Highway. While they remediate this, it has been single lane traffic alternating each direction every 15 minutes but that day it was going to be shut down.

You will see why I mention all this a little later but also because as we drove up Wednesday we got a request to pick up a couple of other wedding guests who were stranded in Nanaimo because their flight had been cancelled due to fog in Tofino. Fog. Hmmmm. We arrived quite late in Tofino, after midnight, and there was fog.

When I got up early on Thursday it was very foggy. Hmmmm. I phoned the plane company and they said that there had been fog in the forecast for Wednesday morning and Thursday morning but there was none forecast for Friday and Saturday. The fog burned off and indeed the weather seemed to have changed for the good. But. Still.

I fretted over this for a few hours and decided I couldnt take the chance, the outcomes were too binary. I would either make it or probably miss the first day, nothing in between. Apologizing profusely to the very nice float plane people, I cancelled. On to Plan C.

Plan C Intention: I booked a driver who had one of those airport shuttle vans to drive me from Tofino to Nanaimo where I would catch the last ferry to Horseshoe Bay at 10:40 p.m. I would stay at home and get a few hours sleep and then drive down to Cloverdale. Time consuming but doable.

Plan C Outcome: The wedding ceremony itself was at 3 p.m. so I would catch all of that. The reception started at 5 so I would be there for some of that before leaving at 6:45 p.m. All this with the wedding partys blessing, a lot of them have done the ride as well and know it's important to me.

We picked a 6:45 departure time to give us plenty of time to get that last ferry. As a foot passenger you just need to be there ten minutes beforehand, maybe less. Easy peasy. I was wearing the suit from the wedding, had a bag with my helmet and shoes and some spare tubes and tools and things, my kit for the first day and a briefcase that I would leave at home. A friend was taking my bike and an overnight bag to the start. Improvised and organized!

About 5 kilometres before the traffic normally backs up for the alternating lane changes the traffic was already backed up well before Cathedral Grove for those that know the area. I am less than an hour away from the ferry and weve still got well over two hours before the ferry. All good.

The westbound traffic is heavy, bumper to bumper. We wait for our turn. Fifteen minutes, should be our turn soon. Half an hour, still a constant westbound flow. The driver is irritated. We should have been underway. Finally, we start to move. But only for 10 minutes before we are stopped again. The westbound flow resumes. What? What?

We sat there for a full two hours while traffic flowed one way. This is amazing on a couple of levels that they didnt alternate traffic and where was it all coming from? It is now apparent I am going to miss the ferry.

Plan D Intention: I will find a hotel in Nanaimo and get a flight to somewhere early on Saturday, cab or Uber or something to the start. I am still hopeful.

Plan D outcome: Success! Sort of.

I eventually find a room at the Coast Hotel and check in well after midnight. I guess a lot of people in that lineup were stranded because many hotels were sold out. After a lot of digging around, my best option is to fly on Harbour Airs first scheduled flight to Richmond. Trouble is, while its only a 20-minute flight, the first one isnt until 7:50 a.m. and I am then a 35 minute drive away from Cloverdale. Still, better than flying into Vancouver Harbour and there is a seat so I take it, but I am going to be late. I have a Cliff bar for dinner, everything is closed at this time.

Under normal circumstances, I quite like flying into Richmond where the float planes land. Its near the South Terminal on the river and the Flying Beaver Bar and Grill (try it! Live music on the weekends!)) doubles as the float plane terminal. I have pre-booked a cab from Richmond Taxi and pray that its there.

I have stuffed my suit pants and shirts and tie into my briefcase but there is no room for the suit jacket. So I wear it.

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I think the people on the plane thought I was crazy. One guy finally had to know and asked and the whole plane listened in and had a good laugh.

The cab is there! The driver definitely thinks Im nuts But "reads the room properly" and pushes the limit. Big tip.

Day 1

I arrive at the start and my co-captains Andrew Sweeney and Dave Young, both very strong riders, are waiting for me with my bike. Aww. Thats so nice! Its what co-captains do. I switch from dress shoes to bike shoes, get the lid on and ditch everything else with the ride coordinator who has also concluded Im nuts but will take my stuff. Ten minutes later were rolling and doing our Tour de France thing when they bring a rider back to the peloton. Ha! Like were that calibre, but still, its sort of fun. Weve left about 45 minutes behind the group.

We have a good laugh five minutes in when Dave says Well now that youre on your bike, you can finally relax!

Now as grateful as I am to these guys for waiting, Im out of my league here and barely hanging on. Theyre sympathetic but its difficult for them to ease up too much and I dont want to whine too many times. Im happy to have a wheel but Im working hard with probably not enough sleep and definitely not enough fuel. I find a bit of a groove eventually and hang on to the first rest stop, about 25 km in.

Surprisingly to us there are people there. It feels good to have connected with the back of the group but we basically just top up our bottles and go. To make my self esteem even lower, I learn that Dave, who is pedalling seemingly effortlessly, is just getting over Covid! His plan is to ride to the second stop, then circle back to Cloverdale and get his car and go to the camp in Chilliwack and do the full day on Sunday.

We nose into the second stop to see if we have caught up to any Goats but we have not and leave quickly, just two of us now. Sweeney is a bit like a lead sled dog. If he sees a group ahead of us we must catch them! Fortunately its very flat and we cook along pretty quickly.

The lunch stop is next and here we meet up with some other Horny Goats who are a little surprised to see us. I point at Sweeney and say Hes on a mission. I have a bar and a banana theres no way I can eat a full-on boxed lunch. We all roll out together and soon are flying along again. The first day is about 110 kilometres long and I really struggle in the last 25km or so but hang on and I am very happy to cross the finish line in Chilliwack.

There had been a lot of anxiety in the days leading up to the ride about what the air quality would be like given the wildfires around (When did we stop calling them forest fires and start calling them wildfires?) and in fact, the final go / no go decision was only made at 6 a.m. on Saturday. The smoke worsened throughout the day. It didn't bother me much (everything else did that!) but it really affected a lot of people. There is a thing called the air quality index that is on a scale of 1 to 10, ten being the worst. The idea was at 1-3 the ride would go as planned, at 4-6 there might be route changes and at 7 or above the ride would be cancelled.

When we got to Chilliwack, it was at 10! An hour or so later the rest of Saturdays ride was cancelled and any riders still out on the course (and there were lots the real heroes in this event are the people who are out on their bikes for 8 or 9 hours, its truly inspiring)were encouraged to stop and get in one of the sweep vehicles. A decision about the Day 2 start would be made again at 6 a.m. They have a very effective system whereby they can text all the riders.

Nice little presentations and speeches at the camp after the early dinner. A nasty part of me was slightly amused to note that Sweeney looked absolutely shattered. No wonder! He did a lot of work and pulled many of us along. We averaged 26.9 kilometres an hour which is relatively fast for amateurs like us. My Garmin said I burned 2,459 calories. Accordingly, another Goat, Doug, and I found a great Italian restaurant and had two pasta courses each!

Day 2

The Ride is on! The smoke forecast is fairly benign (and proves to be completely wrong later) and the riders are happy and excited to go. This is the fourth time we have attempted to finish in Hope and have only succeeded once so far due to smoke or weather.

On Day 2 of these events the Horny Goats ride together or try to. On Day 1 people do what they like, some do the challenge course which is 160 km instead of 110 and some start late! But on Day 2 we try to stick together as a team. It was a night and day difference for me. I have had food and sleep which no doubt made a difference but we have our own mini-peloton group with Beast Damon (who I wrote about last year) on the front and some other very strong riders who do most of the work. When you are in a group like this you just get pulled along with much less effort than when there are just two of you. We averaged 28.4 km/hr with far less effort its a beautiful thing.

Far, far less effort. For example, my heart rate:

Day 1 average 154, maximum 171 (not for long though!)

Day 2 average 132, maximum 150.

It was a very pleasant ride, lots of chatting and laughing despite some horrendous roads for long stretches. But the smoke got worse. And worse.

The lunch stop was at the 66 km mark and the 2023 Tour de Cure came to an end. The air quality index in Hope, 40 kilometres away, was in excess of 10. There were reports that the smoke was so bad it was hard to see some of the very fast riders who had already passed the lunch stop. The buses and bike transport trucks that were in Hope and intended to take people and bikes back to Cloverdale had to be brought to the lunch place (Seabird Island) which meant a lot of waiting around. An amazing thing about this event is the lack of complaining. We have had rain, hurricane winds, hail, and smoke and everyone is very understanding and in good spirits. Special. Or maybe gluttons for punishment!

(My step son Nathanial had intended to pick me up in Hope and came there instead so it was easy for me.)

The organizers are going to have to decide next year whether we attempt this route again. As noted earlier, we are now one for four in attempting to do it. Regardless of what the route is, I will be there!

Thanks so much for your donations, these dollars have made and will make a huge difference.

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