On Saturday June 11 I was given the opportunity to photograph the 2016 Johnson MS Bike Tour - Leduc to Camrose event. The scenic ride through central Alberta is a two day, 180km trip from Leduc to Camrose that featured 2035 riders for the 2016 edition with a fundraising total of (as of June 13) $1,775,956.64 which will go towards funding programming for Albertans impacted by MS and to fund research with the ultimate goal of finding a cure.
The day started early for riders with many beginning to show up around 6:00am to get ready for the 7:30am start time at the Richie Bros. Auctioneers yard in Nisku. Riders had the opportunity to get some breakfast which was provided and served by a superb group of early rising volunteers or grab a free cup of coffee provided by Tim Hortons while they wait for the bike technicians from United Cycle to work their magic if a bike was not in suitable shape for the upcoming 90km ride.
It was great to see the participants interacting with each other prior to the start of the ride. While there were a lot of company teams with co-workers coming together to make the ride together as a team, there were also individuals who have developed great relationships with others through this event and their experiences with MS. One of the most powerful sights are the "I'm riding for _____" signs that individuals wore. Names of loved ones, friends and co-workers effected by MS were written and worn with pride. It was amazing to listen to individuals talk about the individuals they were riding for and how proud they were to be a part of an event like the Johnson MS Bike Leduc to Camrose.
While the weather was far from ideal, we are talking about temperature dips to 10 degrees with rain and wind for the entire 90km, it was awesome to see the determination of the riders. The event draws serious riders, recreational riders and riders who may have spent a couple of weeks on a bike prior to the event but the level of commitment and determination I got to witness from the riders was not impacted by riding experience. If an individual could not continue the ride at any point for any reason there was a volunteer team that would pick up your bike and give you a ride to a check point where you could take a bus to Camrose and enjoy the festivities there. Throughout the route United Cycle also had their bike technicians available to fine tune the bikes. Tire maintenance, lubricating, chain repair, seat repairs and the list goes on. It was really impressive to see how quickly and with precision the technicians could rip apart a bike, fix the issue and then put it all back together for the awaiting rider.
The lunch check point provided riders with some fantastic homestyle soups, wraps and other energizing food for the riders to finish off the second half of their first day. If a person wasn't impressed with the care that the volunteers had been giving the riders yet, at the lunch check point you couldn't stand back and admire the work of the volunteers. From serving the 2,000 riders food to making sure anyone that looked like there were going to shiver right out of their shoes had a blanket or knew that they could warm up in the church or just to say welcome to the checkpoint and asking how the ride has been so far.
Once riders got to Camrose they were greeted by a cheering crowd in the muddy driveway of the Camrose Regional Exhibition grounds, some great food and the music of Mourning Wood, a St Albert based band who kept everyone entertained through the afternoon with amazing covers. There was even a superb rock version of Backstreet's Back. Well done gentlemen, well done. If riders were sore, or as one gentleman put the condition of his back "stiffer than a 2x4", Blitz Conditioning provided riders with a stretching room complete with three of their staff providing coaching and assistance.
The experience I had throughout the entire day was nothing short of awesome! It was a miserable day weather wise but the people and the event itself made the 6am - 5pm day a great amount of fun in the rain. I would strongly encourage you to check out the event in 2017 and if you ever were interesting in volunteering for an incredible event, the Johnson MS Bike Leduc to Camrose is a great one to look into.
Click on the images below for an expanded view.