Posted by Editoress on 06/20/12
When I arrived in the parking lot, which served as the start for the Ride for Ilija, it became abundantly clear to me why I ride/race my bike and why I am proud to be part of this vibrant community. As many of you know, Ilija sustained traumatic head injuries during a routine ride about half a year ago.
Combined efforts from Share the Road and close friends created an initiative to raise funds for Ilija and his family this past Saturday. The initiative attracted some 300 cyclists who took part in rides of various distances. I believe this effort was a huge success, not only due to the overwhelming number of participants but also because, 3 generous individuals separately offered to match the funds raised by the riders; something in the order of $140.000!
Hesitant to throw myself into the 100 km ride (I am nursing a broken hand from a mountain biking fall sustained 2 weeks ago), I was assured by Pete that this was a “ride” and it would not end up being a hammer fest. Surely the flow of hundreds of bodies would enable me to “sit in”.
Being a Saturday, when the usual Donut Rider would take place with the usual suspects, I should have listened to my inner apprehension. On the Donut Ride, I am challenged enough to tackle the hills on Keele St., opting to let the “A” types do battle on Jane St. This ride for Ilija proved that this was no ordinary ride, more like Jane St. on steroids!
The punishing pace splintered the group and fragments of the original pack limped into the rest stop in Zephyr. I was wrestling with feelings of ambivalence in Zephyr; unhappy by the fevered pace that was set and happy that I could stay as close as I did to the lead riders. In retrospect, I guess if Ilija had been there, this is the spirited type of ride he would prefer. My only real beef was that the code of courtesy of pointing out potholes was not followed (and my hand was complaining in a big way).
The ride home decisively split the group around “Ilija’s Hill”; heaven knows how I managed to hang on. It was that push that burnt one of my last matches and I was content to sit up and wait for others behind me to form a new group. Arriving back at Leslie Green (start of the ride) @ 12:00 on the nose, I realized that I rode the 100 km distance with a small break in under 3 hrs; not bad for a casual charity ride.
The ride was topped off with a BBQ at the finish where the spent riders were refueled with burgers and sweets. This was my opportunity to fittingly toast Ilija with a cupcake since it was his view that, “A good cup of coffee was wasted without a decent pastry”. There was also a silent auction and the quintessential draw prize event.
Probably the most meaningful and important part of the day was when Ilija’s wife, Jackie, emotionally thanked everyone for their support. I was so proud to be part of this moment with my Erace teammates, namely, Gavin, Bob, Steve C., Vito, Mike and hubby Pete.
This was the true meaning of charity; giving when it meant the most. At its most primal level, bike racing is the true embodiment of suffering, and those of us who embrace it, are more likely to dig deep when the call of help is sounded. Well, I think we made a difference and I guess this is what draws the “Eracers” together. It is not just cancer, it is reaching out to others in time of need, whatever that may be. I am proud to be part of such a noble group.
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