The Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer (ERTCC) is a signature cycling event, and to put it together each year, it takes a truly skilled and mighty village of volunteers, participants and leadership teams. The two-day, 200-plus-kilometre charity ride — which has more than 1,900 participants — has taken place in Alberta every summer for a decade, and has raised more than $74 million for the Alberta Cancer Foundation since its inception.
The work that goes into bringing it all together is both rewarding and epic.
“It’s 365 days a year,” says Ryan Campbell, director of corporate relations at the Foundation.
Once a Ride wraps up in August, it’s full steam ahead into planning the next year’s event. Things kick off with a mass email survey sent out to all riders who participated in the just-past event, with the aim of gathering valuable feedback to shape the next Ride.
A series of “debrief” meetings takes place with key event leads, including Foundation staff, Ride Committee members, riders who participated and other stakeholders. Once again, these are held to gather feedback and develop a strategy for the next year.
“We want to [keep making] an event that is world-class, accessible and incredible,” says Julian Brown, director of event production for the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer.
A new Ride location is secured — one that can handle upward of 2,000 bikes, 500 spectators and all the sponsors, volunteers and infrastructure required.
“We always have safety as our top priority,” says Brown. “Number two is providing an experience. We want it to be an epic route, but riders still have to be able to complete it strongly.”
The Foundation hosts Rider Recognition Night as a thank-you to the previous Ride’s participants, including some of the top fundraising teams, both in Calgary and Edmonton.
Also around this time, The Foundation does a Team Up Challenge to get teams to re-register for the Ride together.
“The team aspect is really important,” says Campbell. “[On a team] people are much more likely to meet their fundraising minimum [$2,500] because you have that team supporting you.”
Teri Majer, Enbridge Leadership Committee member for the ERTCC, adds that many corporations, including Enbridge, want longevity for the teams they create. “We’re trying to build teams [that will last] three, four, five years down the road. We think very far into the future.”
Late October to December
Permits for the new Ride location are acquired. Brown’s team also coordinates with community representatives, government representatives and local businesses to invite them as partners in the Ride.
The work begins on recruiting crew members (those who volunteer over the entire Ride weekend) and other volunteers. “We rely on a phenomenal group of volunteers,” says Brown.
All vendors and services required for the event are also secured, including buses, portable toilets, tents, catering companies, hotels and much more.
To fire up the fundraising cycle in the winter, when a lull can happen since there are still many months until the Ride, the Foundation launches a Gear Up challenge where participants raising money can win swag as incentive for monetary benchmarks.
March through May
Riders begin to train more intensely — a typical, early-spring distance benchmark is 20-25 kilometres per ride.
June through August
Training kicks into high gear for riders; the typical training aim at this point is to reach 100 km per ride.
“It’s worth it. No matter how hard [the whole Ride] might seem, you don’t do it all in one day, it’s baby steps,” says Majer, who is a seven-time Ride participant.
Riders receive their event jerseys and continue training and fundraising.
One Week to Go
Ride infrastructure goes up, including the campground and dining centre, pit stops, bike racks, and various information and vendor tents.
A “check and double check” process takes place for every permit, vendor, medical team and crew team involved. Volunteers put up route markers 24 hours before the Ride begins.
Before the start, cyclists perform final checks on their gear, and all teams mobilize.
Route safety is managed by police and traffic management professionals, as well as the volunteer motorcycle crew who review the route, give encouragement, relay real-time updates and provide direction to riders. As soon as the last rider passes, streets are quickly turned back over to vehicles.
Foundation staff members fill in the gaps and maintain communication with the organizational teams, as well as interacting with riders and volunteers.
At the Finish Line
The finish line on the final day is buzzing with emotion and energy. Riders take photos in front the “I Conquered” wall alongside team members, friends and family.
The Day After
As soon as the last rider passes, signage is taken down, traces of the Ride are cleaned up and the streets are returned to normal within 24 hours.
“The Ride is an amazing challenge bolstered by an incredible community of people whose passion and dedication support a Foundation and a cause that is making a difference in people’s lives. That is an incredibly powerful thing to be a part of,” says Brown.
Insider tip: Throughout the year, those seeking funds for their ride can use the ERTCC template email to reach out to friends, family and co-workers.