‘Crazy rides’ for a cause

Avid cyclist Jacob Koomen of Campbell River is riding in two upcoming events to support cancer research

With Kobi nipping at his toes

Campbell River’s Jacob Koomen knows he’s crazy.

But he’s also dedicated, passionate, committed and about to realize a life-long dream. The avid sportsman will ride with his sister in a cycling tour through his home country of the Netherlands this summer.

At 65, Koomen rides his bike every work day from his home in Willow Point to the Marine Harvest office at Discovery Harbour and puts in 100 kilometres of cycling every weekend – on a whim he’ll ride down to Parksville or Nanaimo for the day.

And he show no signs of slowing down.

In the next few months he’ll tackle the 360-kilometre IJsselmeerronde tour through Holland and the Ride2Survive cycle tour in support of the Canadian Cancer Society – a one-day 400-kilometre trek from Kelowna to Delta.

He’s also been talked into a shorter ride while he’s out of the country.

“When my brother found out, he said that now that I was riding with my sister, ‘you have to do a ride with me’. So he signed me up for a 100-kilometre ride in Amsterdam, three days later,” Koomen says with a laugh. “Yeah, I know I’m crazy.”

Koomen’s Holand tour takes place May 9 – the national holiday to mark Jesus’ ascension into heaven.

It took some deliberating, but Koomen will be the first resident outside of the Netherlands allowed entry in the 69-rider tour.

“For me to do it is fairly unique,” Koomen said. “Even my 93-year-old dad can’t wait to see us.”

Koomen’s younger sister, Mieke Kroon, took part two years ago. Koomen was able to follow online through a Dutch radio station which provides live updates from the tour. Koomen called in to request a song for his sister – Queen’s “Bicycle Race” – and the radio DJ was so impressed to get a call from Canada that he put Koomen through to his sister while the riders were taking a break at a rest stop.

“He asked me ‘do you ride yourself’ and I said ‘I do and my dream is to ride with my sister,’ ” Koomen said.

The rest, as they say, was history, and Koomen applied and was accepted.

To prepare, Koomen will ride in the the gruelling Ride2Survive on June 22 which takes riders through the scenic but hilly Coquihalla Highway on their journey from Kelowna to Delta in one day.

This will be Koomen’s second time in as many years riding in the tour, in which all donations raised by the riders goes to the Canadian Cancer Society for cancer research.

Koomen recalls last year’s challenges.

“Just before Mission we hit a thunderstorm,” Koomen said. “Branches were breaking off trees and the cops were clearing the street for us. It was windy and rainy and all you could do was think about who you were riding for.”

Koomen, who lost two co-workers to cancer within months of each other three years ago, as well as his wife Jannie’s brother in 2006, said it’s the people he’s lost which give him motivation.

Koomen needs to raise $2,500 to participate in the tour. He’s already on his way, with $1,500 already raised.

Anyone who would like to support Koomen and help him reach his fundraising goal can make a donation in his name through the event’s website, www.ride2survive.ca