The elements could not stop military riders

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According to ride organizers, Captain Gary Levesque, Warrant Officer Duane Bailey and 2,087 other riders braved the most intense weather conditions this August in the Ride to Conquer Cancer’s seven-year history.

The two cycled from Cloverdale, B.C., to the outskirts of Seattle from Aug. 29 to 30, enduring record breaking headwinds and rainfall, while navigating around fallen trees and downed electrical wires.

“From the moment we set foot at the fairgrounds of the Cloverdale Agriplex for the opening pep rally, we experienced about 35 minutes of torrential downpour,” says Capt Levesque.

“We couldn’t even see the stage.”

By 8 a.m., riders present at the start line hopped on their bicycles to begin that day’s 125 kilometre ride to Washington State in wet gear, with Capt Levesque and WO Bailey wringing water from their gloves and pushing off in soaked shoes.

“It was a bittersweet beginning and challenging right off the bat,” says Capt Levesque.

“But we knew why we were there. We believe in the cause and what we were working towards.”

The two military members worked together at the MARPAC headquarters, and are friends of four years.

When WO Bailey was diagnosed with cancer in 2013, Capt Levesque couldn’t help but be affected.

He says it hit him, especially since five members of his extended family have had cancer diagnoses.

After getting the green light from doctors for being cancer free in 2014, WO Bailey decided he wanted do something to support the Canadian Cancer Foundation in Victoria, the agency that supported him after his surgery to remove a tumor in his colon, and who are direct recipients of funds raised through the ride.

When co-worker Petty Officer First Class Pat King mentioned to WO Bailey she would be completing the 2015 ride, he proposed completing it as a group to Capt Levesque.

“We looked at ourselves and we thought: ‘we’re pretty fit, healthy guys, so what can we do to help?’” says Capt Levesque. “If we can do something now, why not do it while we still can?”

The pair met up in mid-June to train, using the winding Galloping Goose and Lochside Trails to prepare themselves for the repetitive inclines and declines comprising the Vancouver to Seattle route.

Both members identify themselves as novice riders whose cycling experience was limited to daily commuting.

“We started off cycling about 25 kilometres in a day, and worked our way up to about 60 kilometres per ride on their weekend training sessions,” says WO Bailey.

“Once we got training together, we knew we could finish the ride – it was just a matter of how long it would take us.”

Despite their concerns, both members weren’t nervous the morning of day one.  

“After months of training, I think we both knew we were about as prepared and equipped as we could be,” says WO Bailey.

“The one thing we both didn’t expect was the level of intensity the weather brought us.”

After about 50 kilometres into the ride, the two, along with a number of other riders, were forced to walk their bicycles due to 80 kilometre an hour wind gusts.

“Even with two hands on my bike, the wind almost took it out of my hands,” says Capt Levesque.

“Duane was actually blown into a ditch at one point.”

Capt Levesque describes one moment along the route when the two ran into a teenage girl stopped along the roadside.

“She was in tears. The wind was so bad and the power lines were tangling and whistling above us, terrifying her. We grouped together and marched on.”

Both attribute the check points located every 25 to 40 kilometres to their safety and well-being during the ride.

At each check point they were supplied with water, first aid, food, and could make use of volunteer bicycle mechanics.

Back on the road, roving traffic controls protected cyclists from traffic, and requested cyclists to signal whether or not they were okay in the challenging conditions.

At one check point, the two reached the U.S border, passing through with a quick check of their passports to American customs officials as all riders had pre-cleared Customs with the assistance of Ride Organizers.

The duo was next bound for the overnight camp at the Skagit fairgrounds in Washington State.

“As we neared the halfway point of day one, we were stopped by a fallen tree; we navigated around the road hazard, and were again stopped by the hazards as we had to wait two hours for the way to be cleared,” says WO Bailey.

“Gary and I both got off our bikes and tried to help out in our cycling gear.”

They reached their destination at 4:30 p.m., after six hours of cycling.

The two had made it approximately 65 kilometres when the ride was postponed on day one due to the harsh weather.

“Our day two was supposed to be a ride of 115 kilometres total,” says WO Bailey.

“But there were multiple changes in the route due to fallen power lines and trees, and we ended up biking over 130 kilometres to the finish line in Redmond, outside of Seattle.”

As they had planned, when they all reached the final checkpoint, WO Bailey, Capt Levesque and PO1 King rode across the finish line together.

“At that point, our legs were tired, burning, and sore,” says WO Bailey.

“You could see hundreds of people in the distance, cyclists milling around and people cheering.”

“It’s funny,” adds Capt Levesque.

“We made that last corner and we had a speed burst. It was the energy of the crowd, the film crews and photographers. Our mission was accomplished.”

So far, the 2015 Ride to Conquer Cancer has raised $8.5 million.

WO Duane Bailey and Capt Gary Levesque are currently accepting donations for their 2015 ride until Dec. 31 at: www.conquercancer.ca.

 

 

Rachel Lallouz
Staff Writer

Filed Under: Top Stories

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