This year's Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer has been cancelled due to poor air quality in Alberta.
Nearly 1,900 riders started the two-day event Saturday morning, however deteriorating air quality due to smoke from wildfires in B.C. forced organizers to call it off.
"It was a bittersweet day for us," said George Andrews, president and CEO of the Alberta Cancer Foundation.
"We were watching the environment and air quality quite closely and consulting with medical experts … We were hopeful that when the wind came through things would clear right out and then about an hour into the race the wind shifted and our medical team advised us the campground we were planning to use at Sundre was unsafe for people to spend the night and that … it was unsafe for people exerting themselves."
Riders were supposed to pedal more than 100 kilometres to Sundre Saturday, where they would have spent the night before riding back to Calgary Sunday.
Instead, riders were asked to wait at one of six rest stops set up along the route where buses were sent to ferry them back to COP. Cube vans were also used to transport bikes back to the city.
Clothing, food and camping equipment left in Sundre was also brought back to Calgary by event organizers.
"My expectation is we'll have a bit of a gathering this afternoon, we'll talk and reminisce," said Andrews.
"There's a real sense of community because they meet each other every year."
Olivier Bonne made it to the second rest area when he was stopped.
"Surprisingly I was somehow OK, I could feel it in my throat, but I was fine," he said. "You could hear a lot of people coughing and some people were wearing masks, which was a little bit scary. It was a good decision to cancel. A lot of people are disappointed for sure but it's still a good cause at the end of the day, and I'm still happy to be here."
Andrews says this year's event drew a record number of participants, who raised more than $8 million.
Now in its 10th year, the annual event in support of the Alberta Cancer Foundation, and has raised about $74 million overall.
"I have to admit I have been so pleasantly surprised by the conversations I've had with people, they're disappointed because they're keen [to do the ride] but they all agree it was the right decision to make," he said.
"No one has asked for money back and all of them have said, 'can we come back next year?' And I certainly hope so. Every one of these people have either been touched directly or indirectly by cancer and it's important to them and helps them feel empowered. They're just amazing people."
Crash sends 3 to hospital
Three riders were also sent to hospital near the start of the race Saturday morning after a collision between bikes.
EMS spokesman Stuart Brideaux said two bikes collided on 83rd Street between Bowfort Road and 33rd Avenue N.W. and the riders fell, causing a second collision between two other bikes.
The three were taken to hospital in stable condition.
- MORE ALBERTA NEWS | Alberta's new normal could be a 'constant state' of drought: expert
- MORE ALBERTA NEWS | Bison destroyed after wandering out of Banff National Park
- Read more articles by CBC Calgary, like us on Facebook for updates and subscribe to our CBC Calgary newsletter for the day's news at a glance.