Canadian star athlete Alex Stieda

Canadian star athlete Alex Stieda

Spinning for mental health

Two former cycling pros spun their wheels for hours at the Collicutt Centre in Red Deer on Saturday to raise funds for the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Central Alberta Brain Injury Society (CABIS).

Two former cycling pros spun their wheels for hours at the Collicutt Centre in Red Deer on Saturday to raise funds for the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Central Alberta Brain Injury Society (CABIS).

Olympic and Tour de France athlete Tyler Hamilton and Canadian Alex Stieda, who was the first North American to lead the Tour de France, hosted a series of spin bike clinics in honour of Berry Architecture’s first indoor cycling Wellness Day in Red Deer.

“It’s a cause close to my heart,” said Hamilton, the author of The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs.

Hamilton, who calls Montana home, has openly talked about his long-standing struggles with depression. “It’s my first cycling event for mental health and I’m honoured to be here. I hope it’s the first of many to come and that people leave the classes today with a better understanding of how to push themselves on the bike as well as be open about mental health issues.”

About 36 people made the $250 donation to the CMHA, guaranteeing themselves a spot in one of the classes lead by either Stieda or Hamilton throughout the day, with more dropping in.

Stieda, who runs spin classes of his own three times a week in Edmonton, read to participants from The Rules: The Way of the Cycling Disciple with his own soundtrack playing in the background and gave away copies of his favourite book The Rider by Tim Krabbé.

Seeing such a wide range of people come out to try spinning is one of Stieda’s favourite parts about public events, he said.

“It used to be just hard-core people, shaved legs and all that. Now there is such diversity and it’s great to see that come out at something like this because cycling really is a fitness vehicle you can use for the rest of your life; it doesn’t pound you to death like running,” he said. “And, on top of it all this is for a really great cause.

George Berry, owner of Berry Architecture, said the whole idea behind Wellness Day was to help erase the negative stigma associated with mental health issues.

“We need to really throw the negativity out the window. Someone having a depression issue is no worse than someone having cancer,” Berry, a self-proclaimed cyclist groupie, said.

Hamilton agreed, noting that mental health is something that affects everyone and no one should feel alone or ashamed because of it.

Chris Rickards, a Red Deer lawyer, was one of the first participants on the bikes, eager to pedal through Stieda’s first clinic.

“I came because Alex Stieda and Tyler Hamilton are here,” said Rickards, who has been cycling since 1996.

“I was one of the original people who rode in the Wellness Ride in the summer years ago so all the events since for the Mental Health Association and CABIS I’ve been here to support them because it’s just such a great cause.”

Berry Architecture is also the title sponsor for a Wellness Ride Red Deer to Delburne every August to raise money for CABIS and CMHA.

All cycling participants in Wellness Day also received tickets to the fundraising gala later Saturday evening at the Sheraton Hotel where Stieda and Hamilton gave speeches and, proceeds from a silent auction also went towards the two organizations.

Berry said he plans to make the winter event an annual cycling celebration and hope for higher registration numbers next year.

rfrancoeur@bprda.wpengine.com

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