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Getting ready to ride

Darren Ridgely
This year s Biking to the Viking runs Aug. 28-29, when over 800 cyclists will depart from Stonewall en route to Gimli and return the following day. FILE PHOTO.

This year s Biking to the Viking runs Aug. 28-29, when over 800 cyclists will depart from Stonewall en route to Gimli and return the following day. FILE PHOTO.

Over 800 cyclists will be leaving the starting line at the Veteran's Memorial Sports Complex (VMSC) in Stonewall, just a couple of weeks from now, to raise money to help

patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

The RONA MS Bike Tour "Biking to the Viking" will kick off early in the morning Aug. 28 as the cyclists leave the starting line at the VMSC at 8 a.m. following a brief ceremony to start things off. They'll take a zigzagging tour of the Interlake during their 160-kilometre ride to their destination in Gimli. The next morning, they'll turn around and make the trip back to Stonewall.

In its 21-year history- the last 10 of which has been sponsored by RONA- the tour has grown into an event which fills up quickly each year.

"We are seeing growth, though we do have another week until registration closes," says Brandy Schmidt, volunteer coordinator and program manager for the Manitoba Division of the MS Society of Canada. "We've basically reached capacity."

Chad Falk, MS Bike Tours manager, says the tour raises hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

"Last year raised just short of $600,000, so it's about $600,000 a year," Falk says.

Half of the total from the tour goes toward research into MS while the other half funds programs for patients in Manitoba with MS.

Falk says they need volunteers to help out during the weekend, doing general set-up work in Stonewall and Gimli, taking care of jobs like setting up tables and chairs and setting up signage and banners. They also need people to help out right on the tour route.

"We're always looking for route marshals for along the route. They help guide the cyclists," Falk says. "We kind of zig-zag through the Interlake, so they're at key corners throughout the route to make sure cyclists follow the correct path. They also help, for the safety of the cyclists, to stop them at major intersections, make sure the intersection's clear before the cyclists continue."

Among those 800 riders is Stonewall Mayor Ross Th ompson, who's been braving the summer heat to get in some training time on his bike. Speaking to the Argus Wednesday, he had just finished up a 15-mile ride that morning "before it got too hot".

"The longest training ride I've done so far is Winnipeg to Stonewall," he says.

Thompson began riding in the Biking to the Viking years ago, as part of a challenge with Gimli's mayor at the time.

"The mayor at the time... said he was going to challenge me to ride it, so I trained like the

dickens, rode it, and he never showed!"

Thompson says he's issued the challenge to Gimli's current mayor, Tammy Axelsson, but hasn't heard back yet. In the meantime, he's busy training and raising money toward the $1,000 fundraising goal he's set for himself.

"I look at (the ride) as a little bit of cleansing over the summer, to train for a goal for an excellent cause," he says.

He says that, as the event takes place year after year, Stonewall can still "put its best wheel forward and foot forward, in terms of we get tons of volunteers out," and that he thinks it sets a good example to ride in it himself.

He says that the experience of taking part in the ride brings "fun, fitness, and fulfilment" to its participants, and also encourages volunteer participation in the community.

"I know the MS Society appreciates all kinds of volunteering and contribution," he says. "It all puts out there what their cause is and what the need is."

Anyone wishing to volunteer can contact Schmidt at (204) 988-0919.

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