There weren’t many dry eyes around the Ucluelet Co-op on Saturday afternoon and that wasn’t because of the rain.
The Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock team pedalled into town around 3 p.m. and was greeted by a huge crowd of supporters, many of whom held signs cheering on local Tour de Rock rider Gaylene Thorogood.
“It was overwhelming. It was so emotional. This is an amazing community greeting,” Thorogood told the Westerly News.
“My whole team was blown away. They can’t believe this. They’re just in awe of what they just saw. I’m proud to say this is where I’m from. This is who we are. For a small town, we’ve got a huge heart.”
The team began the day in Port Alberni and getting to Ucluelet meant riding over 100 kilometres and braving frigid rainfall over Highway 4’s steep Sutton Pass.
“When you’re cold and your shivering and you’re going up that hill and pushing as hard as you can up the 18 per cent grade, you just think of all those people you’re riding for and you keep pushing through,” Thorogood said. “They don’t have a choice to stop and we can’t either. You’ve got to keep going.”
She added that, despite the cold temperature, the team celebrated the annual Tour de Rock tradition of jumping in Larry Lake.
Ucluelet’s ceremony included the community’s annual head shaving event, where about 20 local kids lost their locks for the cause.
During the ceremony, Thorogood learned her fundraising efforts have brought in about $42,000 worth of West Coast donations so far.
“It floored me,” she said. “I want to get on my knees and thank everybody. Everybody who has contributed and everybody who has helped in any way.”
There was no rest for the riders as the Ucluelet stop was a quick one before heading roughly 42 kilometres to Tofino for a Saturday night event at Marina West.
The team will spend the night in Tofino and enjoy the annual pancake breakfast at the Tofino Legion Sunday morning before heading off to Nanaimo.
The Tour de Rock riders began their Island-wide fundraising ride in Port Alice on September 25 and will wrap up their effort in Victoria on Oct. 7.
The roughly 1,000-kilometre Tour de Rock bike ride has raised over $21 million for paediatric cancer research and Camp Goodtimes since its inception in 1998.