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Cyclists From The Wasatch Back Ride For Cancer Research Funding

Rob DiMartini

A handful of cyclists from Summit and Wasatch County are participating in the Pan Mass Challenge which is a 2-day, 192-mile bike-a-thon to raise money for cancer research. It starts in Sturbridge Massachusetts and ends in Provincetown at the end of Cape Cod.

Rob DeMartini plans to ride for his fourteenth year in the challenge. He lives in Park City, owns a local bike shop and is the CEO of US Cycling. He says 100 percent of the money raised goes to cancer research with the Dana Farber Institute. The goal this year is to raise $60 million.  DeMartini says this single event funds 60 percent of the Cancer Center’s operating budget. Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com has issued a challenge grant and will contribute $1 million if the goal is met.

“You know, I came to it, honestly, I would say as a rider first not as a cancer advocate.  But the more I’ve been around it over these 13-14 years, I’m convinced we’re going to ride our way towards the curing of a lot of cancers because of this research.”

The 192 mile, 2-day bike-a-thon is not a race and everyone participating must raise their own funds which can be designated to specific research. DeMartini’s personal goal is to raise $20,000.00 this year. 
He says it’s a remarkable undertaking that involves thousands of volunteers that support the more than 6000 riders. He says Massachusetts drivers are notoriously aggressive and impatient, but people line the streets as the riders come through the many towns along the route. He says some ride to memorialize a loved one and some are cancer survivors that are part of a team called Living Proof.

“What sticks in my mind is my first year I had rode it. I hadn’t ridden anything that long prior and I didn’t prepare properly. And, at the end of the first day, about 85 miles in, it was very hot  and I was feeling beat and we pulled into a rest stop where there were about 70 kids holding signs that said if you guys didn’t ride, I wouldn’t be here.”

Heber resident Bill Bechek is on a team of 12 who are riding in memory of two people.

“Sister-in-law’s first husband died of cancer and he actually got involved. And, also her best friend died of cancer and both her best friend’s husband and her, are our team captains.”

Bechek says his team is called Freemont Clayton, the two last names of those being memorialized. And they are traveling from all around the US to participate in the fund raiser.

Holly Ryker lives in the Salt Lake Valley and does a lot of training in Kamas. She ski-raced in college and one of her teammates was diagnosed with cancer right after graduating.

And he and I have done a lot of fund-raising rides for cancer. And, he’s been involved in the Pan-Mass Challenge, I think this is his 15th year now. And, this will be my third. And, the thing I like about the ride is all the money raised goes to research and it’s the largest sport’s-based fund-raising organization event in the country.”

Ryker will ride with ribbons on her back to celebrate those she knows who have been affected by cancer along with recognition of her donors.

“You have to raise a minimum of $5000.00 and I’ve raised over that including this year and the past three years. So, my total funds over the past three years are over $20,000.00. I designate my funds to bone marrow transplant research cause I used to work here at Huntsman in Salt Lake with Bone Marrow transplant patients.”

Every dollar raised goes directly to the Dana-Farber Institute. Last year they raised $56 million which brought the 39-year donation total to $654 million. There are five riders representing the Wasatch Back in this year’s Pan-Mass Bike-A-Thon August 3rd and 4th.