GOOD CAUSE - Co-Chairs of the Berry Architecture Community Wellness Ride Melissa Brilz and Angela Darbel are excited for next weekend’s event. The ride raises money for the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Central Alberta Brain Injury Society. Carlie Connolly/Red Deer Express

Annual Wellness Ride gets support from celebrity guest riders

Still time to register for Red Deer event which takes place next weekend

Cyclists will take to the streets this weekend, riding their bikes for a good cause.

The Berry Architecture Community Wellness Ride kicks off Aug. 19th for its ninth year, with funds raised going towards the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Central Alberta Region and the Central Alberta Brain Injury Society.

“The event raises funds for both organizations. This year we have four distances that people can choose from,” said Melissa Brilz, executive assistant of CMHA and co-chair of the Wellness Ride committee.

Berry Architecture is the title sponsor of the event, and Owner George Berry is looking forward to another year.

“It was just a ride that began as they were looking for some help in title sponsor capacity and as being an avid cyclist I jumped at the opportunity to do it,” he said.

Participants will be able to choose from a 100km or 50km ride which takes place between Red Deer and Delburne. There is also a 25km and a 10km ride that’s done within the City.

“Usually they’ve always been done on the highway,” said Brilz.

She said minimum donation requirements are fairly low.

“For the 50 and 100 kilometre rides it’s $200 and for the 25 and 10 kilometre it’s $100.”

To date, around $175,000 has been raised.

Berry said the cyclists do the ride with the attitude that if they can do it for one day and put themselves through something that they wouldn’t normally be accustomed to.

Berry said they are trying to work to break down the negative stigma that comes with mental health issues, and expect to have around 40 riders out this year.

Among those riders will be celebrity guest riders Tyler Hamilton and Alex Stieda.

Hamilton, a retired professional American cyclist who raced professionally for 14 years and competed in 11 grand tours including the Tour de France eight times, will be coming out from Montana. He was also a team member of Lance Armstrong’s and was instrumental in bringing out the reality of the drugs and professional cycling.

“Tyler’s been through some mental health issues and has written a very good book called The Secret Race about it and the struggles associated with being a professional athlete in today’s world,” said Berry.

Stieda, who is a long term supporter of the Wellness Ride, enjoys sharing his 40 years of cycling experience with the participants. He also has a number of career accomplishments, including being the first North American to win the Tour de France yellow leader’s jersey in 1986, attending the 1984 summer Olympics in Los Angeles, and winning a bronze medal for individual pursuit at the 1982 Commonwealth Games. He currently resides in Edmonton.

“He’s a great guy to ride with and is very involved with the community, and helping out both locally in Red Deer as well as back home in his Edmonton community in cycling events and bringing out the issues of mental health and brain injuries and physical fitness to the community as much as possible.”

Riders will meet at Berry Architecture, the 100km riders leaving from there and travelling to Delburne and then back to the starting location. The 50km riders will be shuttled out to Delburne to return to Berry Architecture, while the 25km route starts at Berry Architecture and loops around the McKenzie Trails coming back to the starting location, going through Bower Ponds and Heritage Ranch. The 10km riders will start at Berry Architecture and travel to McKenzie Trails and back.

All rides will finish at Berry Architecture between 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Registration is $25 and starts at 8 a.m., and riders must raise $100 or $200 depending on the ride they choose to do.

There will also be full rider support on all the distances, so staff and volunteers from Wipe Out Ski and Bike will be providing that to all riders, and will be set up to do bike inspections. They will also have a truck that follows the riders on the highway in case of any mechanical or medical issues.

Brilz said the community feedback over the years has been very positive.

“We have a number of riders that participate year in and year out and a lot of them are really excited for next year because it will be their 10th year participating,” she said.

There will be a barbecue afterwards at Berry Architecture to wrap things up.

People can still register online at wellnessride.ca.

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