2021 Team: Rob Montgomery, Timo Itkonen, Mike Woodard, Gabe McReynolds and Richard Blaschek
Rob started running while in high school and enjoyed the sport until he developed a chronic hip injury in his early forties. He took up cycling as a fitness alternative. His passion for cycling is confirmed by the fact that he has now cycled over 200,000 km.
Riding across Canada had been a dream of his for decades. He got to live that dream in 2014. Now he’s doing it again with a more ambitious plan, sea to sea to sea in partnership with GAiN‘s “Water for Life” initiative and his fellow cyclists.
Why is this important to Rob? In 1981 he travelled to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and spent 5 weeks in Goma working with churches. While there, he had a chance to live in a rural
village. Seeing the women and children go off to fetch water early each morning so that they would be able to provide for their families made a lasting impression on him. This experience helped him appreciate how fortunate we really are to have ready access to clean, safe water.
Rob is gripped with the fact that close to 1 billion people do not have this privilege! The need is overwhelming! But the thought that this ride could help bring awareness and raising funds for wells that will provide a source of water in 65 rural African communities motivates Rod.
Rob grew up in Buffalo, NY. After finishing his biology degree at Cornell, he moved to Edmonton, Alberta in January 1977 to work with a university ministry. After a move to Ontario, he met and married Anne-Marie in 1986. They live in Gatineau, QC and are the proud parents of three adult daughters and added their first grandchild to the family in December 2019.
Rod is no longer taking a salary but still works as a volunteer with the Christian Embassy in Ottawa, a Christian non-profit organisation that he served with for more than 20 years.
Over the years, Timo (far left) had often seen long distance cyclists pedaling along the highway near his home in Mission, BC and thought that he would like to do just that someday.
Sometimes with his wife Marjatta, and sometimes with other riders, he has packed some gear, and done multi-day rides. One summer, Marjatta and Timo spent a most memorable four weeks cycling in Finland. For the last dozen years or so, he has also participated in the B.C. Lung Association’s Bicycle Trek, and also recently with the Ride for Refuge.
Timo arrived in Canada in 1956 at the age of 5 when his family emigrated from Finland to Ontario. When he turned twenty, he returned to Finland and attended a bible school where he met Marjatta. They now have four grown children, and six grandchildren.
His resume includes time as a commercial fisherman and seven years with the Canadian Coast Guard. In the early 80’s, he attended what is now called Summit Pacific College, and became involved in youth ministry at the Finnish Bethel Church in Vancouver. After further education at SFU and UBC, he obtained a teaching degree, and taught high school for twenty years in Mission B.C.
Timo had the opportunity to visit a long‐time friend in Uganda. Africa left a deep impression on him. He saw the needs of the people, especially their hardships in obtaining clean water, and wanted to help them with something meaningful. When he heard about a couple of fellows around his age planning a ride across Canada to raise funds for wells in Africa, he was eager to find out if they needed another rider. His curiosity led to joining the 2014 Cycling 4 Water ride from Victoria, BC to St. John’s NL and now Sea 2 Sea 2 Sea!
Mike would describe himself as a novice cyclist even though he cycled across Canada in 2014 from Victoria to St. Johns. His cycling really only started in 2010 while training for a sprint triathlon. Before that, running and backpacking were more his preoccupations until he experienced knee problems.
This journey across Canada is a way to celebrate 67 years of life and give a gift to those in profound need. Mike will never forget the first time he walked through a slum in Mexico. He wept over what he saw. This ride is a way to do more than weep for those in need.
He’s a small town boy who grew up on a hobby farm in Michigan. After finishing a science degree at Central Michigan University in 1977, he moved to Canada to begin working in university student ministry. He married Karen in 1978, after years of friendship that started in high school.
Edmonton was their home for 11 years. Their son and three daughters were born in rapid succession. Home base moved to Ottawa and then to their current home in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Since then, two grandsons and a grand daughter have been added to the family. His work has given him the opportunity to visit 40 countries. Mike currently serve with FamilyLife Canada.
A thrill seeker at heart — bungee-jumping, sky-diving, hang-gliding, and competing in a marathon and triathlon — have all been checked off his bucket list. His motto is, “Life is an adventure!” He has two books on the topic of relationships, Love That Lasts and Relationship Under Construction, both of which are a collection of insights for couples.
Gabe is the newest member of the team. He took up cycling for fitness several years ago and enjoys how it always reminds him of happy boyhood days cycling around Ottawa, where he lives today. Gabe has now logged over 12,000 kms and can regularly be seen cycling around the east end of Ottawa. He enjoys riding along the Ottawa River and in the rural areas and, occasionally, meets his friend Rob Montgomery across the river to venture into the Gatineau hills.
Gabe works with Power to Change – Students and has traveled to many different countries and met people with a variety of needs. He and his family lived in North Africa for twelve years. He is excited how through Cycling 4 Water, he can combine his enthusiasm for cycling with helping a great cause: providing clean water for villages in need.
Gabe met his wife Linda while they were students at Carleton University. They have six children. Thanks to their oldest son and daughter-in-law, they are now thrilled to be grandparents! This cycling trek will be the longest he has ever been separated from his family. His motivation to make this commitment springs from his concern for other families who suffer simply because they do not have access to safe water.
Richard and his wife, Jacquie are school teachers in Mission, BC. In 2014 they were approached to be a part of the Cycling 4 Water team as support crew. Although not a cyclist at the time, Richard’s immediate response was that if he was going to cross the country that it would also be on a bike. A friend gave him an old steel framed road bike and he immediately started training and completed the trip in 2014 with the team. Jacquie drove the support vehicle and did a stellar job as the one person support crew! A big change since 2014 is that Richard’s steel framed bike finally snapped in two. He now has a new bike for this trip. He is very excited to be with the C4W team for the first leg from Tuktoyaktuk to Prince Rupert.
Richard and Jacquie have always shared a keen sense of adventure. They met on a snowshoe hike in Manning Park in 2005. They have been climbing mountains and backpacking together ever since, and were married in 2011. Since then, they have had a son who will be turning six this summer.
Jacquie has spent time in Uganda and Haiti and has witnessed first-hand the devastation of dirty drinking water. As Canadians who are blessed with an abundance of clean and safe drinking water, they feel they owe it to those in need to raise awareness of the issues related to accessing clean drinking water in other parts of the world that shockingly still exist in 2021. Richard is dedicated to being a part of the solution to this global problem.