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A Little Something Different

Preride Dempsey-challenge

Ted King (Cervélo TestTeam) on Saturday’s VIP ride at Dempsey Challenge.

Week in and week out from February through October, we saddle up and race our bikes. It’s our job, it’s our life, and it’s our passion. Whether it’s a one day classic or a month long stage tour, we’re constantly racing our bikes in order to tally the standard 60 to 100 race-days per year.

Which is why it was an exciting change of pace to be asked to participate in the first annual Dempsey Challenge this past weekend in Lewiston-Auburn, Maine. As the crow flies, L-A (as opposed to “LA” in California) isn’t very far from where my parents live and where I grew up in New Haaaampha’. And since I would be visiting Mom and Dad during the exact same time, it was a worthwhile coincidence for me to participate.

However, it’s no coincidence that the Dempsey Challenge takes place in L-A, because this is where Patrick Dempsey was born and raised. I’ll be perfectly honest here: I knew Patrick Dempsey is an actor, I knew he is on the show Gray’s Anatomy, and I knew his nickname is “Mc”-something (but I had to be reminded that the full moniker is McDreamy). Hanging out with Patrick for the majority of the weekend, I can say he is a genuinely nice guy. I like to say that New Englanders are a great bunch of people, and Patrick definitely maintains this characteristic – despite living in California nowadays.

The Dempsey Challenge has come to be as a result of his mother having bravely survived four bouts of cancer. Among a whole slew of other people, I had the privilege of meeting Mrs. Demspey who is still full of energy and sharp as a tack! Given Patrick’s resources he has therefore started the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing at the Central Maine Medical Center in L-A. This is a outstanding program that will bring together the resources for cancer patients, caregivers, family, and survivors. This is a noteworthy movement for the CMMC that avoids each patient/caregiver/family member/survivor having to personally search out each element of the tough road through the cancer fight.

I was brought on-board to this event by the folks at Medalist Sports among three other cycling VIPs: George Hincapie, Dave Zabriskie, and Stephen Roche. The entire weekend was full of events, speeches, and appearances including a smaller ride for the biggest fundraisers, sponsors, and VIPs on Saturday. Saturday it was pouring rain, a bit chilly in central Maine, and just damp and dreary, but we all definitely had a great day. After a few more events Saturday, we wisely hit the sack in order to wake up at the tender hour of 6am for Sunday’s big Dempsey Challenge ride.

Consisting of 10, 25, 50, and 100 mile distances as well as a 5k walk and festival and lobster bake afterward, there was something for everyone on Sunday. George and I rode with Patrick for the entire 50 mile outing, while Dave Z somehow got lost among the 3,500 other participants and wasn’t seen by us again until the lobster bake! The skies were threatening most of the morning, but I didn’t see a single drop of rain. Moreover, the sun came out casting a cheery veil of optimism as people returned from the rides.

The Dempsey Challenge raised more than one million dollars, which is a remarkable outcome for its inaugural year. As I said, I met a ton of people, all of whom shared brave and incredibly moving stories of how cancer has touched their lives. It really gave me a new perspective as I saddle up my bike those roughly-80 days per year. Life is a blessing and every day is an adventure not to be taken for granted. These sorts of charity events are definitely something I’ll look to participate in when I have the time away from racing the long and arduous season.

I encourage you to check out this site for a brief story, a moving sub-three minute video, as well as a bunch of pictures that are much better than mine.

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