Graeme Murray and Claudia Larouche are training hard to battle cancer on the back roads of South Muskoka in preparation for a two-day bike ride in Quebec this summer.
Gravenhurst sledge hockey player Graeme Murray and Claudia Larouche are training hard on the back roads of south Muskoka in preparation for the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer bike tour in Quebec, which takes place on July 7 and 8. Both Murray and Larouche say they will be riding in memory of their loved ones and friends affected by the disease. (Submitted photo)
The pair will be spending the weekend of July 7 and 8 pedalling 200 kilometres from Montreal to Quebec City as part of the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, a charity fundraiser for cancer research and care in Quebec.
Larouche and Murray will be cycling as part of a team called Gatineau Contre la Cancéro, but were individually driven to take on the challenge in order to support friends and loved ones affected by the debilitating disease.
Larouche lost her grandmother at a young age to cancer, while Murray, a professional sledge hockey player from Gravenhurst, has also seen a number of teammates affected by the disease. They share a mutual friend — former Canadian national sledge hockey team captain Jean Labonté, who suffered an amputation due to cancer.
“Part of the reason why we are doing this ride is to improve treatments and to show our support,” said Larouche. “We all lose so many people to cancer every year.”
Both Larouche and Murray have been training hard for the ride by cycling several times each week between Muskoka Beach Road in Gravenhurst to Highway 118 in Bracebridge, on top of a rigorous workout regimen at the gym.
The couple are no strangers to long-distance bike rides. Last summer, they cycled 190 kilometres around Lac Saint-Jean in a tour called Véloroute des Bleuets.
“The challenge for that was that we were by ourselves,” said Murray. “Between Montreal and Quebec, we will be pushed and pulled by other riders.”
The two cyclists are also no strangers to challenging adversity. Murray lost the use of both his legs at the age of three after contacting a virus that attacked the nerves in his lower spine. First introduced to sledge hockey at the age of 11, Murray became part of the Canadian team that won the country’s first gold medal in sledge hockey at the 2006 Torino Paralympic Winter Games.
Larouche, who was born deaf, went on to pursue a successful sports and media career that included jobs at various news outlets, and a stint as an Internet specialist during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. After working at the CBC’s sports website, she went on to become a communications coordinator at YMCA Ontario.
Murray and Larouche are each looking to raise $2,500 in pledges from the local community for the Ride to Conquer Cancer. Donations can be made by visiting Larouche’s and Murray’s individual web pages at the Ride to Conquer Cancer website at mo12.conquercancer.ca. Donors can find the pages by clicking on the donate button at the top of the main home page.