Toronto cyclists racing to raise $150K, ‘crush COVID’ during 24-hour virtual ride

A group of Toronto cyclists are staring down what will be a very long night (and day) of virtual riding in support of local health-care workers.

The Crush Covid cycling fundraiser begins at 6 p.m. Friday and runs a full 24 hours.

The ride will be hosted on the online cycling platform Zwift, which allows cyclists to hook up their bikes to stationary trainers and ride through virtual worlds projected onto a screen.

Due to physical distancing measures, Toronto’s usual springtime cycling fundraisers such as the Ride for Heart are being held online, while prestigious international events like the Tour de France have been delayed.

Crush Covid organizers have so far raised around $115,000 in support of frontline workers at Michael Garron Hospital. They are hoping to reach $150,000 by the time riders set off.

While some participants are taking on the endurance race as part of relay teams, others like Toronto city Coun. Brad Bradford have vowed to stay on their bikes for the full 24 hours.

“It’s going to be a long day in the saddle,” Bradford told CBC Toronto. “But looking at the bigger picture, it’s a small undertaking in comparison to the work our frontline health-care professionals are doing every day.”

‘Need is critical’ at Michael Garron

Michael Garron Hospital was designated as the city’s first COVID-19 assessment centre when the pandemic arrived in Toronto, but the hospital has since struggled to secure equipment while voicing concerns about keeping its staff protected from the coronavirus.

Money raised by the Crush Covid ride will go toward the hospital’s emergency response fund, a new program designed to support workers and keep them safe while on the job.

“I will be thinking about the workers who didn’t hesitate, but immediately stepped up to help out. The work that’s going on there right now is unprecedented and the need is critical,” Bradford said.

Toronto mayor John Tory is scheduled to greet cyclists at the virtual start line and offer words of encouragement before they set off on the marathon ride.

The cyclists will then begin making their laps on Zwift’s “Tempus Fugit” course, a mostly flat 17.3-km loop featuring a variety of desert scenery.

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