Hope resident Nichole Desjardins will be cycling in the third annual Ride to Conquer Cancer

Riding for Gerry

An invitation to take part in a two-day international bike ride may have ignited a new passion for a local sports enthusiast.

Nichole Desjardins says she heard about the Ride to Conquer Cancer from a childhood friend, Pam Fjeld.

“We grew up together, two houses apart in Saskatchewan,” said Desjardins on Sunday.” She signed up for the ride, as her father — who happened to be my godfather — was battling prostate cancer at the time but has since passed away.  She was looking for donations and after giving it some thought, I decided the best way I could support her would be to ride, hopefully, beside her.  She has participated in the Penticton Ironman, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep pace.  I’m thinking this is a time when my Irish, Scottish and French blood mix, which equals stubborn and determined, might come in very handy!”

Desjardins has lived in Hope for almost four years, though she spent many winters, starting in 1991, working at Manning Park. Now, she works as a massage therapist at the Harrison Hot Springs Hotel.

This is the third year of B.C.’s version of the nationally organized cancer fundraiser. The B.C. ride covers 236 kilometres over two days. It starts in Cloverdale on June 18 and ends in Redmond Washington on the 19th. It’s a longer distance than Desjardins has ever covered, so she wants to be well prepared for it.

The old Saskatchewan roots came in handy when another displaced Flatlander, Shelley Empey, heard about Desjardins’ entry in the big ride and offered to loan a road bike for a few months.

“The bike was given to Shelley by a good friend of hers who is into triathlons, so I have no doubt that it’s of good quality and has the experience on the road,” said Desjardins. “I know it will carry me through.

“I wanted to make sure I liked road cycling first before purchasing my own bike, as they start at around $800 and go up from there. The highest I’ve seen is around $8,000.

“I’m no Lance Armstongette, though, so a decent road bike I’d be looking at would be $1400.00 minimum — and that’s just the bike.  All the gear that goes along with it adds up in a hurry as well.”

Desjardins’ ride is a Kona Kapu, with high-pressure tires no wider than a bottle cap. Sharp rocks and glass are no friends of a road biker.

“I’m planning on carrying extra tubes for sure,” said Desjardins.  “I already learned that lesson a couple of weeks ago when I found myself walking my bike back from the old Nicomen Creek campsite, up the Hope Princeton.  I may have different tires put on before the ride, as these particular tires are made for racing and I haven’t graduated to that category  yet. I just want to finish!”

Somehow, Desjardins training runs have been able to work around the wettest days of this record-setting spring. She recently got in her longest ride yet… to Harrison Mills and back, without much of the wet stuff.

“It was 108 kilometres and it took me 4:45,” said Desjardins. “It was quite the kicker, going up Mount Woodside, standing on the pedals all the way. Quite a hoot on the way down, too. I love the rush of wind in my hair.”

You can tell that she’s really liking this new activity when she reveals that she’ll be taking part in the Bike to Work Week challenge, riding from Hope to Harrison Hot Springs and back on her work days. Monday was Desjardins’ first cycling commute.

“It will probably be just over two hours each way,” she predicted on Sunday.

Last year’s B.C. ride raised $9.2 million, from just 2,252 riders. It’s serious business — and each rider is required to bring in a minimum of $2,500, after an entry fee of $50.

“I thought I’d have trouble raising that much,” said Desjardins, “but people were very generous and I’ve already raised that much. I sent out e-mails to 90 or so family and friends and they were very supportive.

“I’ve known many people who have been affected by cancer in some way or another.  Currently, it really hits close to home with my brother-in-law back in Saskatchewan, who is battling lung cancer.  He experiences a lot of pain and receives chemo every two weeks for two days.  Through it all, he stays pretty positive and never complains.  He is a real inspiration.

“I’m doing the ride to honour my godfather, Gerry Fjeld and I don’t know how else to help my brother-in-law. I’m just hoping that enough money is raised for research that they can prevent others from going through it.  It’s my hope that one day cancer will merely be a word in the dictionary, instead of a life-claiming disease.  Also, I’m riding for all those who can’t.”

Desjardins is part of a three-rider team that includes Pam and her friend Margot. They’ve called themselves “Gerry’s Drive.”

Online donations can be made up until June 17 by logging onto the conquercacer.ca site.  A tax receipt is issued for donations of $10 or more.

“You can donate generally or if you wish to support me specifically you can click on the green donate tab on the top left and then it will allow you to find a participant. That’s me, Nichole Desjardins.”