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BY JAMES HARNEY
These cyclists are taking the ride of a lifetime — to save others’ lives!
More than 150 bicyclists from around the world will pedal their two-wheelers on a seven-day, 546-mile journey across New York State this month on a single mission: to deal a death blow to cancer.
Athletes in the fifth-annual Empire State Ride each raised a minimum of $3,500 to benefit cancer research in order to participate in the trek, which a rider from Brooklyn praised as a worthy tribute to patients battling the too-often-deadly disease.
“We all know someone who has been affected by cancer,” said Phil Zodda. “This last year I lost a niece at just 39 years of age, and I have a cousin and a niece who fight daily for their quality of life. I want to honor them all, and give of myself in a meaningful way to help find a cure for cancer.”
Cyclists from as far as California and the Virgin Islands will convene at Staten Island’s Wagner College on the morning of July 29, before hopping on a ferry to Manhattan to start the Ride.
The first leg — about 57 miles — will take riders up Manhattan’s Hudson River and Fort Washington Park greenways, across the George Washington Bridge, and up to a campground near Stony Point in Rockland County. From there, participants will pedal further north through the Hudson Valley to Duanesburg, where they’ll spend the night at another campground. After that, the cyclists will cut west into central New York State, stopping in Albany, Utica, Syracuse, and Rochester, before crossing the finish line in Niagara Falls on Aug. 4.
Zodda is one of the more than 32 residents of the New York metropolitan area who registered for this year’s event, each with their own personal reasons for supporting the cause.
A Manhattan cyclist who will be pedaling in his second Ride said watching his wife battle skin cancer — which she beat — and his friend’s father-in-law fight pancreatic cancer — which tragically killed him — inspired his journeys.
“I look forward to a week on the road supporting such a worthwhile cause, and to seeing my family at the dramatic finish in front of Niagara Falls again this year,” said Matthew Strong.
The Ride’s organizers arrange for rest stops and hydration stations, in addition to providing all of the participants’ meals, support and gear vehicles, camping accommodations, and a bike mechanic. Most cyclists will pedal for the full seven-day experience, but the hosts arranged custom routes for some who can’t roll for the entire week.
The Empire State Ride was founded by avid biker Terry Bourgeois as a personal challenge in 2014. A dozen riders joined him the following year, and by last year the Ride attracted 100 riders and raised $500,000 for cancer research, its founder said.
“Cancer affects us all in some way, and the Empire State Ride is an opportunity to make an impact while having an experience of a lifetime,” Bourgeois said. “We ride with the goal to end cancer, but this unique event also offers an amazing personal challenge to riders and the opportunity to create lifelong bonds with other cyclists, all while seeing some of the most scenic parts of New York State.”
Proceeds from the Ride will fund cancer research at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, one of the first centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center — and upstate New York’s only facility with the designation. The institute founded by Dr. Roswell Park in 1898 is staffed by more than 3,200 employees today.
You can get more information and follow the 2018 Empire State Ride at www.empirestateride.com.