My wife and I raised over $4,100 as part of the 2014 Ride the Rideau event supporting cancer research at The Ottawa Hospital. This is the 5th year for the event and we have been involved since it inception as participants and fundraisers. The event raised over $2.3M in 2014.
We signed up a few months ago to do the 100 km route (50 km and 160 km were the other options). It was a damp start to the ride but the weather looked promising. It wasn’t long into the ride before the rain started and stayed pretty much with us for the first 55 km to Kemptville. The rain then picked up for the next 15 km or so at which point it stopped raining. We passed the Swan (~75 km mark) on the way to the St. Brigid’s stop where colleagues were waiting for us. However, about 500 meters on River Road we were met with cyclists going the other way. They indicated the road was closed so we turned and followed them back the few hundred meters to the stop at the Swan just outside Manotick. Things then became clear very quickly. The road was closed due to an accident. Was it one of us? Seconds later we heard it was female cyclist and it was fatal. That is when time seemed to stop. All the kilometres, the pain, the rain, the potholes, it all gave way to sadness. My heart fell into my rain soaked bike shoes. We would only find out later that the incident occurred 10 minutes before we arrived.
I pulled out my iPhone and all I could find on Twitter was that it was a female cyclist. Our first thought was to notify our family and our kids that there was an accident but we were ok. We did not want them to worry about us, but more on that later.
Next was the overwhelming push to get to the end. Ride guides worked out a route and we were off on our detour. It was the hardest portion of the ride but not physically. As we pulled away, more emergency vehicles were arriving. There was now an urgency in getting to the end but I am not sure why.
We got to within 500 metres of the finish line, when my wife pulled up beside me for a photographer along the route. I knew that the hardest part was coming up. We turned the corner and dropped into the final curve before the finish line. Spectators were cheering. Anxious husbands, wives, friends, partners, children and parents looking to see if that rider was their rain soaked hero. All I could think was that they probably don’t know about the accident. What if the cyclist’s family was among the spectators? What if the view of my wife and I coming around the corner was providing hope that their fallen hero was coming next. I could not even manage a smile for all the spectators who were genuinely happy to see us. I was grateful they were there to welcome us back.
I crossed the line and had to stop. It hit me all at once. I was riding for cancer research but I was stopping for her. That unknown female cyclist who lost her life in an event that was so important to us all.
My wife dug out her iPhone only to realize that a number of her friends were texting and calling her wondering if she was ok. We then came across a friend and volunteer who knew what happened and gave us a huge hug. It was exactly what was needed. We stayed around the EY Centre for a short period of time. The organizers announced over the PA system that there was incident and the event was cancelled. Riders and their bikes were being brought back to the EY Centre.
My thanks to the organizers, ride guides and volunteers for doing what they do best. Thank you to all the 60+ people who donated to our ride. For those along the route, we saw your messages and they meant the world to us. For those spectators and supporters at the end, thank you, I am sorry but I could not smile.
My condolences go out to the friends, family and colleagues of Laurie Strano.
For more information, please follow the post title to the CBC story.