Blustery winds during last year’s Ride to Conquer Cancer relentlessly tried to push Chris Vecchies off his bike.
The Willowbrook resident didn’t stop pedalling, despite a fierce wind storm that pushed through southern B.C. on Aug. 29, 2015.
He forged on, completing the more than 200-kilometre route with his uncle Gino Meneghetti in mind.
Meneghetti has long been a father figure for Vecchies, whose dad passed away when he was very young.
“He [Meneghetti] was the male influence who I looked up to. This is kind of my way to show my support to him,” Vecchies said. “So I joined the team [two years ago], didn’t know anything about the Ride to Conquer Cancer, or what to do. I went on the [initial] ride in 2014 and I fell in love with my teammates through training rides, fundraisers, and the event itself. It’s one of the best-run events that I’ve been a part of while cycling, and anything, charity-wise.”
Vecchies said his teammates are some of his best friends. “The ride has given me so much more than being able to help those who need it – it’s a big part of my life, now.”
Through treatment, Meneghetti is a prostate cancer survivor, and Vecchies in turn weathered last year’s somewhat harrowing ride.
“That was an experience,” Vecchies recalled. “The side winds were blowing some of my friends over. I did the challenge route which was a little bit further – it’s 160 kilometres on day one – and we’d be going up a hill at our standard pace, a little bit slower.”
But Vecchies said he was actually working harder going down hills, normally a cyclist’s recovery time, due to extremely intense headwinds.
“It was something else,” he added.
This Saturday and Sunday, Vecchies, 34, will once again cycle more than 200-kilometres during the Ride in B.C., benefiting the BC Cancer Foundation.
Nationally, with Ride to Conquer Cancer events across Canada, the event series is the country’s largest peer-to-peer fundraiser.
The Ride to Conquer Cancer benefiting the BC Cancer Foundation is a two-day ride through Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest, and is B.C.’s largest cycling fundraiser.
Funds raised enable the foundation to support research and enhancements to care at the BC Cancer Agency.
This year marks the eighth annual B.C. Ride, with similar rides scheduled throughout the summer in Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec.
To date, the B.C. ride has helped raise $70 million for the foundation.
In 2015, 2,087 riders collectively raised $8.4 million for the cause.
Vecchies is the co-captain of Team Riders for Ryders, a group founded by dedicated ride participant Jimi Brockett, a Vancouver resident who lost his four-and-a-half-year-old son Ryder to cancer.
The group has raised nearly $2.5 million for cancer research across Canada since they started participating.
Vecchies said being on Team Riders for Ryders has changed his life.
“The team has become my cycling family and in 2015 I was named a co-captain, an honour I wear proudly,” he said.
In 2013, Meneghetti was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which motivated Vecchies to sign up for the 2014 ride in B.C.
“The Ride to Conquer Cancer community is one of the greatest things a person can be a part of,” Vecchies said.
“The friends you make along the journey will last a lifetime. When you hear from the riders who have received treatment from the BC Cancer Agency, they tell you that they are here because of the funds we have raised. You cannot put that feeling into words. We are making a difference,” he said
Taking part in this kind of a fundraiser is a natural for Vecchies, an avid cyclist who, on average, goes on 100-plus kilometres rides every weekend. “It’s what I love to do,” he said. “It’s my passion.”
Riders will be supported by hundreds of volunteers and crew members, providing meals, water, and snack stops, gear transport, portable restrooms, safety on the course, medical services and an overnight campsite complete with tents, hot showers and entertainment.
Disease impacts many
One in three people in B.C. will develop cancer in their lifetime, and the disease continues to impact Vecchies’ family and friends.
In fact, he just completed the Alberta Ride to Conquer Cancer and upon his return found out a different relative underwent surgery for colon cancer.
“It’s everywhere,” he said. “I have some friends battling [cancer] so when I crossed the finish line in Alberta I think of all those people. It gets pretty emotional.”
Donate to Vecchies’ cause online by visiting: www.conquercancer.ca/goto/chrisvecchies2016bc.