CORNER BROOK — Tonya Skanes admits she’s a new recruit to the world of cycling, but this fall she’ll have plenty of time to fine-tune her skills.
© Jamie Bennett
Tonya Skanes of Corner Brook will travel from Alberta to Texas in the fall of 2010 as part of this year’s Cancervive Peloton Program.
The 35-year-old Corner Brook native and current Edmonton, Alta. resident, will join 30 other cyclists on a ride from Calgary to Austin, Texas as part of this year’s Cancervive Peloton Program.
The program is part of the Cancervive Foundation of Alberta and was started in 2005 by a group of friends looking to participate in Lance Armstrong’s LIVESTRONG event and to help raise money for cancer research and survivorship programs.
Participants commit to raise a minimum of $10,000 for the program and Wellspring cancer support houses. Each rider sponsors a cancer warrior, which is typically someone going through cancer treatment or someone who is still experiencing side effects as a result of treatment, and meets up with the warrior in time for Armstrong’s event, which varies in location each year.
Skanes’ group is working to open a Wellspring house in Calgary and expects to leave around Oct. 12 for the ride, one which is organized such that riders are divided into groups of seven.
“It’s a completely supported ride, so we have an ambulance that follows behind us and every 24 hours we’re basically doing 120 kilometres for each group,” Skanes said on a recent trip home. “So it’s a constant 24-hour relay which is either 120 kilometres or a maximum of six hours. It won’t take us that long every day. “Then, we jump back into the van and we scoot ahead as our pelaton while another pelaton is riding.”
She expects things to get tricky when proper facilities aren’t available at designated destinations along the way.
“The hard part is you might be sleeping in a van or whatnot,” she said with a laugh.
Any hardship along the way will pale in comparison to the daily battle waged by cancer survivors. For Skanes, the ride is close to her heart since her sister, Michelle, is herself a cancer survivor and, who along with their mother, Bobbi, will meet Skanes in Texas as her cancer warrior.
Skanes said initiatives such as this can give people much-needed inspiration as they battle the disease.
“I think it gives them their inspiration and a little bit of hope during some times when it can be difficult,” she said. “One of my co-riders is riding for a friend of mine who has stage four terminal colon cancer. We’ve got him on this ride because you know what, sometimes you need to grasp on to all the positive energy you can. When you’re getting beat up by all of this, it gives you a break.”
Now healthy and in remission, Michelle said she’s been lucky enough to have her families full support as she battled the disease. She believes Cancervive and the LIVESTRONG event are vital to those who haven’t been as fortunate.
“I’ve been really lucky because I’ve had a lot of strong support around me for a long time,” Skanes said. “Not everyone’s that lucky, but I think it’s what gives people the strength to be able to push forward when you don’t have the strength yourself. To have all those people come together, the powerful ... positive energy is going to be incredible.”
To prepare for the ride, Skanes has been pushing herself through training sessions and is now able to do back-to-back, 100-km sessions but knows she will need to up the ante to be able to handle the distance and speed of the ride.
“On regular flat terrain with no wind or anything going against you, we’re looking at 27 or 28 kilometres per hour,” she said. “Give us some downhill and the wind at the back, we’ll be up around 35 or 36 kilometres per hour.”
She is currently seeking donations for the ride and the public can pledge its support by visiting www.cancervive.ca and clicking on her name. With already over $12,000 raised, Skanes admits she’s been overwhelmed by the support she’s been getting.
“It’s amazing the support that is completely unexpected,” she said. “I’ll see the names and I’m like ‘I don’t even know these people,’ so it’s amazing. But at the end of the day, if you’re not affected (by cancer), you know someone who is.”
For her part, Michelle said she’s touched and honoured that her sister chose her as her warrior and said the feeling is mutual.
“I’m really excited for the trip and I’m super-proud of her,” she said. “She’s done a ton of hard work and raised a ton of money and if anything, I’d say she’s my warrior. She’s the champion these days, not me.”