Cyclists and MS fund-raisers are saddling up to ride 222 km for West Kootenay Glacier Challenge this weekend as a fundraiser for multiple sclerosis.
Eighty-two cyclists and eight teams begin in New Denver and will ride south 105 km south the first day through the scenic Slocan Valley to Nelson.
On the second day riders will pedal north with a stop in Balfour before continuing on to Kaslo. Training is what will get the eager cyclists back to New Denver to their grand finish.
This MS Ride is unique in its length and difficulty.
Of the six MS rides in BC and 28 across Canada, this is one of the longest and one of the more difficult making it a draw for riders from Calgary, northern BC and Vancouver, as cyclists are looking for a two day ride. However, 70 per cent of the riders are from the Kootenay.
Nelson’s Dr. Jim Noiles has been the top fundraiser three years in a row and has raised $10,380 this year alone.
The main reason Noiles does the ride is to raise money for the local MS chapter. “It’s a great cause that I really believes in,” he said.
As a family doctor working for 33 years, he noted one in 500 people have MS so he has had many patients. His firsthand experience with them over the years is part of his driving force behind this cause.
“In the not-so-distant future we are actually going to find a cure. There is so much good research,” he said.
Last year’s ride raised $81,000 and this year’s goal is set at $86,000 with $55,000 raised to date.
As for the ride itself, he said, “It’s outstanding. I love it all but especially Cape Horn in the Slocan Valley and the Coffee Creek bluffs above Kootenay Lake are spectacular.”
Noiles said the toughest part of the two day ride is “not eating too much.”
The food provided on the ride has a reputation for being fabulous with Winlaw’s Sleep is for Sissies, Save-on-Foods in Nelson and the Bluebelle Bistro in Kaslo providing meals.
He said the hill climbs to Silverton, 49 Creek hill to Blewett, Coffee Creek, Woodbury Creek and the Kaslo hill are the challenges.
“It’s work,” he said, “but it’s a real sense of accomplishment.”
Noiles has been riding for decades. In the 1970s he cycled from Vancouver to Montreal before cycling was popular.
He said this route is right up there with the top rides, calling it “breathtaking, challenging and rewarding. And it’s a great incentive to train.”
He works full time but typically rides 150 to 200 km on the weekends for a couple of months to prepare for the two-day ride.
How does Noiles manage to raise so much money every year?
“I’m not afraid to ask a lot of people as I really believe in this cause,” he said. He also invites people to ride: “Consider joining it next year.”
Bike tour coordinator Leona Dimock echoed the reasons behind the ride.
“We have riders living with MS, so it’s so meaningful that they can still do this,” she said.
“We have riders who have family members who live with MS and they want to feel they can contribute. There is a close connection with the riders to MS.”
A dinner Saturday night at Lakeside Park is a good time to get together as the cyclists will have been riding all day and will continue to ride all of the next day too. As they cross the finish line, emotions tend to come out. Of course, there is the refreshing Slocan Lake to dip in to soothe tired muscles.
“We would like to thank all the donors, participants, sponsors and volunteers that make it as fabulous as it is,” said Dimock. “We couldn’t do this without them.”
According to the MS Society of Canada, multiple sclerosis is thought to be an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord).
The disease attacks myelin, the protective covering of the nerves, causing inflammation and often damaging the myelin.
Myelin is necessary for the transmission of nerve impulses through nerve fibres. MS can cause symptoms such as extreme fatigue, lack of coordination, weakness, tingling, im-paired sensation, vision problems, bladder problems, cognitive impairment and mood changes.
All money raised by this event goes to the MS Society, West Kootenay Chapter to fund local programs and services for people affected by MS, as well as to support critical research for improved treatments and to find a cure. To donate visit westkootenayglacierchallenge.ca.