ROLL MODELS: HOW TOUR DE GUELPH IS TAKING COMMUNITY BUILDING ON THE OPEN ROAD
by Chris Tiessen
When the English writer H.G. Wells remarked, ‘Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race,’ he could very well have been thinking about someone like Guelph resident Terry Manning who, at 69 years of age, made a herculean fifty-day cross-continent odyssey that raised $33,000 for Guelph General Hospital. Indeed it was Terry’s epic ride in 2013 that inspired David Parr to hatch the initial plan for an annual community-based cycling event that would raise money for the hospital and Rotary projects as well. And so Tour de Guelph was born.
Celebrating its fourth anniversary this June 25th, Tour de Guelph – an annual fundraiser supporting Guelph General Hospital as well as local and international Rotary projects through the Rotary Clubs of Guelph South and Guelph Trillium – has become a veritable exercise in community building. Indeed, in its first three years the ride has raised over $150,000, with a fundraising goal this year of an additional $80,000.
Based on the increasing numbers of registrants each year (last year’s ride attracted over 650 riders of all levels completing routes of 5k, 10k, 25k, 50k, 75km and 100k), this goal is perfectly attainable. Especially with this year’s introduction of a Community Team Challenge that encourages groups of riders – colleagues, friends, community groups – to come together to support hospital and Rotary projects. And to have fun too! (See sidebar for more.)
In fact, besides becoming one of Guelph’s premier fundraising events, Tour de Guelph highlights Guelph’s emergent cycling community, made up of locals and visiting tourists as well. It’s as if folks in the Royal City have adopted John F Kennedy’s dictum: ‘Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride.’
’Indeed, many of us have discovered that the scenic countryside and rolling hills that surround Guelph are ideal for cycling – with accessible and alluring destinations including Fergus, Elora, St. Jacobs, and more just a bike ride away. (My own favourite ride takes me from downtown Guelph straight to my parents’ dinner table in Kitchener’s Old Westmount neighbourhood – a 33km jaunt – in less than an hour and a half.
Bicycling inspired H.G. Wells to have faith in the human race. For others this wholesome diversion offers an amalgam of challenge and pleasure. Helen Keller, who loved to ride on her tandem bike, found it, she said, ‘splendid to feel the wind blowing in my face and the springy motion of my iron steed.’ Bikers of all ages and abilities might join her in declaring that ‘the rapid rush through the air’ gives me ‘a delicious sense of strength and buoyancy,’ and that ‘the exercise makes my pulse dance and my heart sing.’.