Having missed the playoffs two of the past three seasons, the Canucks were in need of sculpting and Gillis didn’t shy away from the daunting task of turning around a team that, at that point, he didn’t consider close to winning a Stanley Cup.
Compared to that undertaking, Gillis will barely break a sweat during his next endeavor.
The player agent turned GM will trade in his office attire for biking gear this coming weekend to take part in The Ride to Conquer Cancer, a two-day cycling event where riders trek from Vancouver to Seattle.
The 260-kilometre ride benefits the BC Cancer Foundation with all the money raised remaining in BC to facilitate comprehensive cancer research and care. According to the BC Cancer Agency, groundbreaking research and new approaches to care and treatment are happening every day.
With the possibilities of a cure for cancer increasing with each kilometre pedaled, Gillis is looking forward to getting the ride started on June 20.
“I know a bunch of people that were going to participate in this ride, it’s a great cause and it’s an opportunity to spend a couple days riding, so I thought it would be a good idea,” said Gillis, adding that he hasn’t had any personal battles with cancer, but most people are hurt by it in one way or another.
“Everyone is affected by it in some way, either directly or indirectly, and to me this seemed like a great opportunity to support cancer research and try to raise some money.”
Embarking on a physical, mental and emotional journey like this is not to be taken lightly. Even with a big heart, the average rider would struggle to complete this voyage.
Gillis shouldn’t have any problems, if he can keep his bike in one piece.
An avid rider of nine years, Gillis has been “doing rides of 100, 110K on the weekends and once or twice during the week we’ll go 60 or 70 or 100 kilometres” to prepare for what lies ahead.
He’s also experienced in longer rides having biked from Seattle to Portland last summer, roughly the same distance as The Ride to Conquer Cancer.
“We did it with some friends and had a bike crash in the middle of the ride, which wrecked my bike, but it was a great experience,” he laughed.
“I was behind another guy who I didn’t know and he moved out of the way and I hit this post and unfortunately my bike got wrecked, but I was fine.”
Gillis will be riding with Team Merckx, led by former Tour de France participant and Belgium National Champion Axel Merckx.
The bronze medal winner from the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens had close friends who have died from cancer and his mother-in-law has also fought the disease twice.
Understanding how important an event like this is to finding a cure for cancer, you’d expect Merckx and his fellow riders to be competing. That isn’t the case, although the spirit of competition will surely be alive and well. Times and positions couldn’t matter less.
“The goal is to have to fun,” said Gillis. “It isn’t a race, it’s riding your bike for five or six hours each day and trying to create awareness for cancer research and if we accomplish that, it’ll be terrific.” Click here
to support Gillis and Team Merckx.
More information on The Ride to Conquer Cancer is available here