Tour de Rock riders roll through town

Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

Tour de Rock riders roll out of CFB Esquimalt Fire and Rescue headquarters as they embark on the final leg of their cancer fundraiser. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

On the final day of their journey, a soggy and cold team of Tour de Rock riders warmed to a hero’s welcome while making a brief stop at CFB Esquimalt Fire and Rescue on Oct 5.

A Dixieland ensemble of Naden Band members struck up a rousing rendition of When the Saints Go Marchin’ In as a cheering crowd of approximately 150 well-wishers lined the inside of the Esquimalt Rd. fire hall. Then led by a police motorcycle escort, the team of 22 police and first responder cyclists rode out of the rain and through the giant front bay doors and into the fire hall.

Dressed in transparent plastic rain slickers, the men and women were in the final hours of a gruelling, 15-day, 1,200 km cycling tour of Vancouver Island which began in Port Alice on September 22. The annual event serves as a fundraiser for pediatric cancer research and support programs and has raised over $25-million since it began in 1998. This year’s campaign raised over $1.2-million in donations.

Esquimalt-based riders Matt Arnsdorf of CFB Esquimalt Fire and Rescue and Sub-Lieutenant Antoine LeBlanc of Military Police Unit Esquimalt were greeted with hugs, slaps on the back and high fives from friends, family members and co-workers after dismounting from their bikes. They then received an official welcome on behalf of the Base Commander’s Office by Commanding Officer, Base Information Services (BIS), Cdr Nick Manley and Fire Chief Steve Mullen.

SLt LeBlanc and Arnsdorf both agreed the journey was physically taxing on the body but was well worth it in the end.

“It’s been an unbelievable journey and really amazing to roll through all of these different communities on the island that have been touched by cancer,” said Arnsdorf. “It’s also been incredible to see the outpouring of support, not only through donations but also the cheering and [appreciative] honking from people on the side of the road or in their cars. This type of support helps you quickly forget about all the pain and exhaustion in your legs.”

SLt LeBlanc agreed and said the tour was emotionally uplifting despite the physically-grueling task.

“This is a bitter-sweet occasion for me,” said SLt LeBlanc. “That’s because my body will be happy when the tour ends because it will be getting a rest but the mind wants to keep going. It’s easy to see this year’s tour was a success and we have done a good job.”

Throughout their ride, the riders made dozens of stops at schools, fire halls, and community centres where they were greeted with praise and financial support in the form of donations from countless community organizations. In Esquimalt, The Chief and Petty Officers Mess, Junior Ranks Mess, and the Wardroom made a cheque presentation of $2,000 and local Branch 1009 of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Union presented $500. The spirit of giving was a two-way street as SLt LeBlance and Arndorf presented supporters in the defence community with commemorative plaques for their support of the tour.

Their stop at the fire hall lasted just 20 minutes. Then it was time for the riders to strap on their helmets, climb back on their bikes and head back into the rain. Later that day after making stops in Saanich and Victoria, the team of 22 riders concluded their ride at Centennial Square for the Tour de Rock Grand Finale.

For more information on the Tour de Rock and this year’s ride visit their website:

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