They say misery loves company...perhaps that was what Pro riders Ted King (l) and Ally Stacher had in mind as we gathered for the start of the Patrick Dempsey Challenge under a steady drizzle in the low-40s.
For the fourth consecutive year, riders from around the globe gathered in the small town of Lewiston, Maine to participate in the Patrick Dempsey Challenge. Patrick Dempsey
, you know the name right? Well, if you're one of those that abstains from all things televised, then you're probably not familiar with either Patrick Dempsey or the hit TV show that he stars in (Grey's Anatomy). Adding to the hysteria surrounding the ride, Patrick is not just a TV star, no, he is one of the select few that qualifies a few extra rungs above mere celebrity status. He is one of the beautiful ones.
More importantly, Patrick is also an avid cyclist and thanks to his celebrity appeal, he has brought hundreds of new cyclists to the sport with the annual bike ride he has sponsored which benefits the Patrick Dempsey Center For Cancer Hope & Healing
. Patrick, who's mother is a survivor of cancer, started the center from his early work with Amgen's Breakaway From Cancer group. As Patrick told me, "I was a fan of cycling and after working and riding with Breakaway group at the Tour of California a few years ago, I wondered, what else could I do. When I went home to Maine to be with my mom as she was recovering from her cancer treatment, with the help of my sister Mary, I decided to start the project."
On the day before the ride, I visited the beautiful new home of the PDC. Tastefully furnished with sweeping views of the city, the Center offers a casual, delicate and friendly atmosphere in an 11,000 square foot facility that replaced the previous 2,000 square foot facility thanks to the donations raised by the Challenge. Not only was I was amazed at the level of attention and detail the organization provides, but even more so to find out that all their services are provided FREE OF CHARGE to cancer patients and their families. There are no doctors at the facility as it is geared towards support and instruction in every aspect imaginable. As PDC's Mark Turcotte told me during the tour, "We're not here to treat the disease, we here to treat the person."
Later that night, the PDC held a gala awards ceremony where all the fundraisers were recognized for their hard work. It was an affair full of equal amounts celebration and sadness as many of those close to the organization who had passed on since last years event were remembered. As the festivities drew to a close, Patrick got up on stage to remind everyone that although the 2011 event was held under sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-80s, the following days ride would be both wet and cold. He was right.
HOWEVER, WHILE THE SUN WAS SHINING
On the day before the Challenge, Patrick, who was an avid skier in his youth, led a casual bike ride at the Lost Hills ski slope where he first learned to ski. Among the riders present in addition to Levi Leipheimer and Tom Danielson was U.S. Paralympic gold medalist Matt Updike
and he let Patrick take a spin on his bike. Seeing Matt passing cyclists in the rain on some of the climbs the following days was more than impressive.
Specialized has been a partner of both the Breakaway From Cancer
and Dempsey Challenge and they showed up with a fleet of demo bikes for people to ride.
Oh sure, after twenty years of being dragged to bike races and events of all kinds, I couldn't pay my daughter Xakota to spend time around more bikes, but mention then name Patrick Dempsey and suddenly she would love to attend a bike ride! This my friends is how to score eternal points with your daughter! When I told Patrick Dempsey to lose the sunglasses, he looked at Xakota and asked, "Was that his dad tone he just used on me?"
Although I was slated to ride one of the new Specialized Allez aluminum bikes, at the last minute my bike was switched to the new Crux Expert Carbon
. The $3800 Expert is one of two 'cross bikes spec'd with disc brakes. Knowing of the weather conditions to come, I was happy to make the switch knowing that I now had disc brakes for stopping in the wet.
The Crux Expert runs with Avid BB7 disc brakes (the $2100 Crux Elite runs with BB5 disc brakes) mounted on the seatstay with internal cable routing.
Patrick Dempsey is of course a big deal in Maine and many local businesses are eager to play a role in helping to fund the Dempsey Center.
AS FOR THE RIDE
The sun was barely up as a few thousand cyclists happily gathered under a steady drizzle to ride their choice of 10, 25, 50, 70 or 100 mile long courses of The Dempsey Challenge
. Thanks to all the fund raising, over one million dollars was raised for the second year in a row. Interestingly, the top fund raiser was a former resident of Lewiston who had moved to Switzerland years ago. Like Dempsey, he was another proud example of a local boy who made good and by tapping into his Swiss circle of friends, he was able to donate over $18,000!
Matt Skelton is the top guy from the Breakaway From Cancer team and he was stoked to have a 2013 Venge to call his own for the day.
One of the more entertaining aspects of every charity ride and/or Gran Fondo is to traipse through the bike valet checking out the wide variety of bikes that are ridden...everything from an old lugged steel Miyata city bike to a new aluminum Cannondale.
Speaking of old bikes, how about this creaky old 1991 Cannondale M100 mountain bike that showed up for the ride. The M100 featured the short-lived cantilevered rear dropout which was an attempt to save weight by shortening the seatstays.
Just because you don't have a contemporary carbon bike doesn't mean you can't come out and play...here's a rare Trek 5200 with USPS team graphics that's still hitting the pavement over a decade after it was first sold.
It was gratifying to see so much support for cancer patients and survivors throughout the day. That the bicycle continues to be such a fabulous vehicle for bettering society is something that we can, and should, all be proud of.
Apparently, for some people, a boiled lobster is the perfect post-ride meal. What, haven't these people ever experienced the sublime taste of a chorizo con huevo burrito after a good ride?!
While the locals all clamored for the fresh apres' ride Maine lobster, some of us were content to seek out the Tim Horton
trailer (where 100% of the proceeds were donated to the Challenge) for some pumpkin spice donuts and hot coffee.
Spotted in the pits...thanks Kim.
AT THE END OF THE DAY....
...everyone recognized that there was a single purpose to all the effort given by the participants and sponsors...helping people who are suffering and in need of a "Dempsey Hug".
For more information, or to contribute, the Dempsey Center