By: Karin Olafson
On June 27, 2009, more than 1,700 cyclists rode 200 kilometres over two days in Alberta’s first Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer. Fifteen years later, this event, which was rebranded as the Enbridge Tour Alberta for Cancer in 2021, is still running strong. Yet its longevity isn’t the only reason the Tour has become a legendary summer event.
“If you can keep any event running for 15 years, it’s pretty incredible. But to keep an event going for that long when you are asking people to fundraise at least $2,500 and cycle up to 200 km over two days, neither one of those things are easy! But people continue to come back every year,” says Krystal Clements, manager of the Enbridge Tour Alberta for Cancer. “There isn’t another large fundraising event like this in Alberta.”
The Enbridge Tour Alberta for Cancer is an important annual event for Albertans and has reached legend status through the funds raised, which this year was more than $5,650,000. It’s also lauded for the community it creates: each year sees more riders, ambassadors, sponsors and volunteers, with top sponsors offering to pay registration fees, organizing team training rides and even matching donations.
But what truly makes this event legendary is how inclusive it has always been — and always will be. Everyone is welcome to participate, whether they’re cycling newbies, seasoned pros, cancer survivors or individuals in the midst of a cancer journey. Clements calls every single rider who signs up and welcomes them to the Tour, pairs them up with a supportive team, and offers them personalized fundraising and training support. From the onboarding to the fundraising to the pedalling, no one is ever alone.
Fifteen years after its launch, each and every rider is still challenged, cared for and making a big difference for Alberta cancer patients.
Riding with Courage: Leah Meier’s Story
In 2013, on a whim, Leah Meier decided to register to ride the 200-km Enbridge Tour Alberta for Cancer (then the Ride to Conquer Cancer). But life was busy and it was tricky to fit in any training, so she pulled out before the event day.
Fast-forward to June 2018, and Meier was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer that had spread to her liver. She started chemotherapy in July and had her first big surgery in November. “By early 2019, I felt like I was at the lowest point in the journey so far,” says Meier, who lives in Taber. “But details about this Ride to Conquer Cancer kept coming up on my Facebook feed. I felt this pull and knew it was something I wanted to do, even though I wasn’t slated to be done with chemo for another two months and was still recovering from surgery.”
She signed up to ride in the Tour in January 2019, and her friends and family were on board immediately. Meier became captain of Team Leah, which started out with seven riders and has since grown to 19. Meier and her team have ridden for five years, including during the pandemic, and raised between $50,000 and $72,000 each year.
“The Tour has done so much for me in every single way. There’s that saying about turning pain into purpose, and the Tour certainly checks that box for me. Prior to my diagnosis, I saw all these people riding for years and raising funds. Little did they know they were raising money for me personally. It was time for me to start giving back,” says Meier.
At the end of 2019, results from her checkup scans showed the cancer had returned in her lungs. Since 2020, Meier has had six lung surgeries. The upper lobes of both her lungs have been removed, but her cancer journey never stopped her riding.
“After my most recent surgery in February this year, recovery felt like a slog,” she says. “But the Tour gives me such a focus. I think it’s a huge reason why I’ve been able to recover as well as I do. If I didn’t have this goal of riding 200 km each year, I don’t think I would be as motivated.”
And Meier has no plans to stop leading Team Leah. “The Tour is a good reminder of what we’re all capable of doing.”
Rider Remembered: Tegan Carmichael
While Krystal Clements says everyone who participates in the Tour is an inspiration, Tegan Carmichael is “an extremely legendary rider.” In 2010, Carmichael was diagnosed with an oligodendroglioma brain tumour in her left temporal lobe. During treatment, which included many rounds of chemotherapy, two spinal surgeries and seven brain surgeries, Carmichael remained active — and participated in the Tour six times on teams that raised more than $60,000. Carmichael passed away on Feb. 19, 2019, at the age of 32, yet her dedication continues to inspire.
The Tour is full of legendary riders like Carmichael. And it’s riders like her that built this community of support for over 15 years.
“Big memorable moments have happened along the Tour course since 2009. We had a [marriage] proposal in 2018 and have seen people who rode pregnant. One of the province’s first immunotherapy patients participated in the ride. And there have been many moments of honouring riders who lost their battle with cancer.”
By the Numbers: 15 Years of Passionate Pedalling
18,000+ Total number of riders who have participated in the Tour.
$94 million The amount of money the Tour has raised for the Alberta Cancer Foundation since 2009.
54 million+ The total number of kilometres cycled.
83 The age of the oldest-ever Tour participant.
16 The age of the youngest-ever participant.
114 The number of Alberta cities and towns represented this year.
18 Number of riders who have participated in the Tour every year since 2009.