Heat and smoke may have cut the Tour De Cure short, but Graeme and Laura Carlson say it was still a success in terms of personal achievement and donations raised.
The co-owners of the Grand Forks Pharmasave were among 1,500 riders in the cycling fundraiser for cancer research Aug. 26 and 27. Unfortunately, the tour had to be cut short due to high temperatures and wildfire smoke, but the Carlsons are still calling it a win for themselves, their team and the initiative.
“It was a health issue, but otherwise, it was completely successful,” said Graeme. “Between Laura and myself, we raised about $3,500 each this time and despite the challenges, it was enjoyable.”
The tour was supposed to cover 200 kilometres, starting in Cloverdale with riders going to Chilliwack on the first day. The next day, riders headed to Hope through the rural secondary roads. Along the way, there were three aid stations at 25-kilometre intervals.
Riders were told the tour was being cut off when they arrived at the 75-kilometre station.
“It was 35 degrees (Celsius) both days and the first day, air quality was poor,” Graeme said. “The first day we were fine to ride. But the second day, the air quality was worse. We started off, but they said we may modify the race. You could smell the smoke and you could taste the smoke.”
Cutting off the race was a health decision, he said, adding prior to the race being shut down riders were told they could decide for themselves if they wanted to continue.
To participate in the race, each rider had to raise around $4,000 to participate, Graeme said. In total, the 1,500 riders raised $7.1 million. Over the five years the Carlsons have been in the tour, Graeme said he estimates they have personally raised around $15,000 to $20,000.
The extreme conditions didn’t deter anyone, said Graeme. The feeling among all the riders was they were all working to help people battling or have been lost to cancer and wanted to finish. Some were not pleased the tour was cut short, but understood Tour De Cure organizers didn’t want to risk anyone’s safety.
He added this didn’t affect the fundraising, as that was complete by the time the tour started. The tour was to be seen, make noise and rally public support.
And they got that.
“Vehicles were passing us, honking their horns and they knew what was going on, so it’s well received,” he said.
Plans are already in the works to be in the next Tour De Cure. Both Carlsons have been riding in this since 2019, back when it was the Ride to Conquer Cancer. It was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, but the BC Cancer Foundation took it over, localized it and renamed it Tour De Cure. Both were with Team CTV this year as Pharmasave is a sponsor of the team, Graeme explained.
Being in the tour is a personal one for Laura as she lost her oldest brother to cancer and rides in his memory. Graeme said he and Laura were married long before he died and he came to know her brother well and that motivated both to be a part of this.
A large part of their fundraising success comes from their Pharmasave staff, said Laura, who handles a lot of the donations from customers coming into the store.
“They did a lot of the work for us, so we thank them for helping us with this,” she said.