Riders prevail despite soggy weather

Riders prevail despite soggy weather

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

Steady rain and cold temperatures forced a brief suspension of the Wounded Warriors Highway of Heroes Bike Ride B.C., but in the end didn’t thwart the cyclists from achieving their goal.

Approximately 35 riders took part in the two-day, 240-kilometre journey from Langley to Victoria on Aug. 25 and 26. Their goal was to raise funds in support of injured or ill veterans and first responders living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or operational stress injuries.

Organized by non-profit Wounded Warriors Canada, the opening portion of the ride was along a stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway between Langley and Abbotsford, named in honour of the 158 Canadians who were killed during military operations in Afghanistan.

A mixture of veterans, currently serving military, first responders and civilians took part in the ride. Participants were greeted by steady rain when first setting out from Langley. The soaking rain lasted much of the day and after approximately five hours or about 60 kilometres into their journey, safety concerns forced race organizers to suspend the ride for the day near Burnaby.

Ride Director, Captain Jacqueline Zweng, a Cadet Instructor with Esquimalt’s Regional Cadet Support Unit, said the safety of the riders and possible hypothermia was the main concern when the decision was made to suspend the first day of cycling.

“Our riders didn’t bring winter gear or rain gear with them because nobody was expecting weather conditions like this in the days leading up to the race,” she said. “It was a remarkable parallel with what the charity is trying to accomplish and the adversity we had to deal with. In the end, all those participating realized the ride is not just about cycling, but moreover it’s a vessel to raise awareness, and not something that requires participants
to become injured.”

After putting on dry clothes and warming up, the riders were shuttled to their final Day 1 destination: welcome ceremony in Vancouver at the Naval Reserve Unit HMCS Discovery. They were met by Reservists members of the Vancouver Police Department, and OS (Retired) Karen Hough, formerly of the Naden Band, who played The Last Post on her French horn. Later in the evening Canadian recording artist Trevor Guthrie, who cycled in the ride, serenaded the group with a few of his songs to boost spirits. 

Improved conditions greeted the riders on Day 2 as they set off from Vancouver and then boarded a ferry in Tsawwassen with a police escort bound for Vancouver Island. Riders completed the last leg of their journey between Sidney and the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, which included a stop at the B.C. Afghanistan Memorial.

The gloomy weather and clouds also provided a silver lining. One of the riders made a surprise address to the group at a rest step when they divulged they were suffering from PTSD. Capt Zweng said the experience of the ride and peer support from the group had pushed them to come forward and seek help.

“The whole group reacted, and everyone was moved by the courage of this person, and it brought the whole experience home for us, that we are here to save people and support one and another. If we helped just one person we are happy in knowing we did our job, but I am certain this event helped more than just one person because all of the people who heard our message will create a ripple effect.”

After the ride was complete Capt Zweng announced to participants the inaugural event in B.C. raised over $50,000, adding to the $200,000 raised in Ontario. She also said the B.C. event will return next year, bolstering Wounded Warriors goal to spread the event to cities across Canada.

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