More than three  thousand cyclists kicked off a two day, 200 kilometre ride today that will take them from Vancouver to Seattle to raise money for cancer research.

B.C. Cancer Foundation President Doug Nelson says the 6th annual Ride to Conquer Cancer has already raised more than $9 million and with today's ride, nearly $60 million since it began.

Nelson says the event is a personal one for almost all the riders.

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The ride's organizers say nearly every participant has a cancer-related story. (CBC)

"For every person involved in this event there's a story related to cancer and people are riding to celebrate, to remember and to do something about a disease that touches far too many people. We come together as a community. We ride as a group and it makes a huge difference for cancer patients in B.C.

Cyclists, who left the Cloverdale Rodeo grounds at 7 a.m. PT, had a choice of routes.

  • The "Classic Route" —  a scenic ride along the Pacific Northwest coastline.
  • The "Challenge Route" — along the coastline on rural country roads through the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.   

Each route also has a turnaround course mapped out for riders who want to make the return trip.

The trip was marred by tragedy last year when a 16-year-old cyclist, riding with his uncle, was hit and killed on the ride's second day near Arlington, about 80 kilometres north of Seattle.

The B.C. Cancer Foundation says an estimated two out of every five Canadians will develop cancer during their lifetimes.

In B.C alone, approximately 9,500 will die from cancer this year alone and 24, 000 new cancer cases will be diagnosed.

Nelson say funds raised from the ride are put to immediate use supporting research, as well as enhancements to treatment and care.

With files from Deborah Goble