“You know what’s so special about the bike tour. The jacket. You can’t buy this jacket. The only way to get it is to earn it!…”
We are at the top of a mountain in Austria in early October. The rain has been falling all day and the wind is up so that the raindrops fall almost vertically. The rider who has just spoken those words has just arrived at the lunch spot. He is soaked through to the skin and has spent the morning riding 90km through Czech forests and up and down Austrian mountains. It is the first day of riding and he is already in pain, but he is smiling. “I f****ing love the bike tour!” he grins.
By the end of today the bike ride will reach the River Danube and follow its course to the city of Linz. For those who have not trained as much as they should have the intense weather and aching muscles are proving difficult, but there is a gritted determination to carry on going.
Say the words ‘Medical Cannabis Bike Tour’ and what is the image that comes into your head? For most people it’s probably a lazy stereotype image of hippies on old bicycles smoking big joints on a slow ride to getting lost…. For people who know the bike tour however, for people who have followed it, for people who have ridden in it, the image is very different.
The bike tour is a sporting event, a 3 day sportive that takes place over 420km, approximately 140 km each day. It is rarely an easy ride. There are mountain climbs; like the Garaff mountain ascent from the third tour in Spain, a feature in La Vuelta bike race, or the 12km/800m steep climb from Kransjka Gora in Slovenia. There are perilous roads; some little more than animal tracks to truck heavy highways of northern Italy in tour 5. Even the flat riding isn’t easy; from the wind and beating sun of the Spanish plains to the strong headwinds on the canal paths of Holland in tour 4.
Look at the field of riders and the volunteers who make up the support team. Amongst them you will find people of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities. Yes, there are people involved in the cannabis industry, but also many who are not. Yes there are people who use cannabis, but also many that don’t. There are dispatch riders, law students, an anthropology professor, a teacher, a medical supplies provider, a tourist operator…
“This is the best week of my year,” says one of the German riders who is on his second tour. “I didn’t know what to expect when I first rode, but now I do. There is such a magical atmosphere, a real spirit of unity which I have not experienced on other bike tours. The cannabis element makes a difference – smokers are naturally friendly! – and the fact this tour is international brings a very special dimension. “
The riders and volunteers on MCBT 2017 are a mixed bunch of nationalities – Dutch, German, English, Canadian, French, Italian, Austrian, Czech, Thai – and although the predominant language of communication is English, pigeon Spanish, French and German also peppers conversations as the group mixes together in the hotel each night. By the end of the tour deep bonds of friendship have been formed and the sense of comradery one feels is impossible to really explain. You often hear participants talking about a ‘family’ vibe on tour and it’s why so many people return.
According to one of the Canadians, someone who rides a lot, “Normally when you have a bunch of riders at an event like this it tends to end up in a race. On the Medical Cannabis Bike Tour it is not like that. The victory is actually in the taking part and that is something that is very unique to this tour.”
This sentiment is echoed by other riders, from the best – some of who have competed before – to those who have only recently taken up cycling. Each year approximately 50 riders take part in the Medical Cannabis Bike Tour (it began with just 2 riders in 2012, and the highest number of participants has been 80). Each day, the ride tends to separate between groups, with a very fast peloton (averaging 35 – 40km p.h.) setting the pace and the rest going at their own pace. It is a tradition for the tour to end as one unified peloton for the ride to its final destination.
From a distance the tour is an impressive sight. The yellow jerseys carry the names of the companies that sponsor the tour which adds to the sense of occasion. When a pack of riders sweeps past they catch the eye and it is interesting to study the reactions of passers-by. At first sight they see only yellow jerseys and sports people on bikes… it’s only when they look closer that they see ‘cannabis’ in the logos.
“Sometimes you even catch people doing a double take,” says one of the English volunteers, as he waits at a junction to direct cyclists on a detour. “Seeing cannabis and sport together is a real mixed message. Hopefully they will go home and tell their family and friends what they have seen, do some research, have a rethink about cannabis.
It happened to me. I lost both my parents to cancer and was frustrated by the treatments they were given. I read stories about cannabis and cancer and did some more research. I am certain that cannabis can help with cancer, but stories on their own don’t carry as much weight as scientific evidence. When I read about the work of the Spanish scientists and the tour, I became enthused. My first tour was such an adventure I keep coming back!”
Over the past five years donations to the bike tour, mostly in the form of sponsorship, have raised 450,000€ in funds for a unique clinical trial that will treat glioma (brain cancer) patients with a combination of cannabinoids (THC and CBD) and anti-cancer drugs. The trial, expected to begin in 2018, will test the research of Dr Guillermo Velasco and Dr Manuel Guzman from the Complutense University, Madrid, which has achieved impressive results in laboratory conditions – shrinking and even killing cancer cells in mice.
At the lunch spot, volunteers from the support team are giving out sandwiches and bananas. One of them rolls a joint for a rider whose fingers are so cold he can’t roll his own! The lead group have already finished eating and are ready to continue their journey, but they hear some shouts and stop. Looking back down the mountain they see another group coming in to lunch, almost an hour behind the first, the strain of the gruelling ascent showing on their faces.
The lead group turn in their saddles and add their voices to the shouts of encouragement, clapping and cheering. The new riders reach the finish point and unclip their shoes from the pedals. The relief is evident and they grin and high five those around them. The rider who reached the top of the mountain at the beginning of this report, turns and tugs at his jacket. “What did I tell you?” he grins. “It’s all about earning this! It’s all about the people. It’s all about the Medical Cannabis Bike Tour!”
– MCBT 2017 – October 3 – 5th
– Frymburk (Czech Republic) – Vienna
– 3 days, 420km
– 50 riders /12 volunteers from Holland, Germany, Czech Republic, UK, Canada,
– Slovenia, Italy, Austria, France, Thailand.
– 95,000 Euros raised this year
– Clinical trial program set to begin in 2018
– MCBT website – Homepage – Medical Cannabis Bike Tour
– Videos from the tour can be viewed on the Medical Cannabis Bike Tour Youtube channel.
News Moderator: Ron Strider 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Press Release: TOUR – Medical Cannabis Bike Tour
Author: Tim Mac
Contact: CONTACT – Medical Cannabis Bike Tour
Photo Credit: Tim Mac
Website: Homepage – Medical Cannabis Bike Tour