Participants in this year’s Tour de Cure will ride hundreds of kilometres across the Victorian countryside – but the goal isn’t the end of the road. “It’s about the kids,” explained tour co-founder, Gary Bertwistle. “It’s about the stories you hear at dinner, the guest speakers, giving $5000 to a local charity every night.”
Raising money for cancer research, support and prevention programs, Tour de Cure has helped raise over $14 million since it kicked off in 2007. The initiative grew from a simple idea dreamed up by three mates, to a major charitable organisation that’s very literally changing lives. “We’ve funded well over 160 projects, some of which have resulted in world cancer breakthroughs,” said Gary. “We’ve funded some professors for four years, and they’ve actually had their discoveries printed in some of the most prestigious science journals in the world.”
While the Tour supports big-picture victories in the battle against cancer, it also helps individuals confront their own struggle with the disease. In 2010, Sean Cunial had moved to Tokyo with his wife and young family to take on the role Executive Corporate Officer and General Manager Coca-Cola West Japan when he was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
Road to Recovery
As he moved into his fourth year of recovery this year, Sean wanted to mark his progress. “Obviously you do a lot of reflecting. While having treatment I was looking online at support groups, and I saw the Tour de Cure, and I started to follow them,” he said. “This year, I’m in my fourth year of remission, so I’ve got a year to go before Doctors say I’m technically cured. So, I challenged myself to do a marathon, and to do this bike ride.”
Coming from rural NSW, Sean is excited about helping people in regional areas and to speak about prevention - and the possibility of a cure. “The whole idea of going to talk to kids and leave a message is important,” he said. “It’s about connecting with communities, about leaving a message, and having some fun along the way.”
Sean will be joined by mates Paul Fitzgerald, General Manager of Coca-Cola New Zealand, and Philip Roberts, Franchise and Commercial General Manager Coca-Cola Australia. It’s Paul’s second Tour, having first joined after losing his uncle to pancreatic cancer. “They’re a great bunch, and they’re disciplined,” said Paul of his fellow riders. “I’ve ridden with a lot of different people, but the way the Tour de Cure guys ride, it’s really, really tight, and it’s really enjoyable. I’m looking forward to getting back in the saddle.”
Philip is riding for his son, Nicholas, who was diagnosed with Hodgsons Lymphoma in 2011. Nicholas went through treatment and was in remission – he and his family got the terrible news the cancer had re-emerged in May of this year.
“He has almost completed his second round of chemo treatment and we are confident of a positive and enduring outcome,” Philip explained. “In addition my mum passed away from cancer in 2005 and my mother-in-law in 2014 – so I have a lot to ride for.”
Like his mates, Paul isn’t concentrating on the mechanics of the ride. “The only way we’re going to beat cancer is with research,” he said. “I’m never going to discover the cure to cancer, but I can help in some little way to make a difference.”
To donate, click on this link and search for Sean, Philip and Paul.