Tri-Town cyclists prepare for a radically altered Pan Mass Challenge

Jul 26, 2020

Coronavirus has hit the Pan Mass Challenge hard, forcing riders to tackle the routes on their own and to hold virtual celebrations to avoid congregating. But a dozen Tri-Town riders are still taking on the challenge. 

The long-standing bike-a-thon offers riders the option to ride anywhere from 25 to 192 miles over a day or both days of the first weekend in August. Riders are also asked to raise between $600 and $9,000 for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute for cancer research and treatment. 

Debora Bacchiocchi, a Kindergarten teacher at Rochester Memorial School, will ride for her 13th year this year. She participates again and again “because I can,” and “trying to keep a little girl’s [her former student’s] wish alive.”

Mattapoisett’s Kim DeLeo started riding after her dad was diagnosed with brain cancer, and has had several other family members succumb to cancer. She usually rides with her sister, but will do her fourth year this year alone. 

Kyle Letendre lives in Rochester and teaches at Old Hammondtown School. He has ridden for four years as a way to “challenge myself and set a great example for my students. It’s something that I can tell them about. And everyone has been touched by cancer in some way.” 

Since the course is not set this year, all three will take different approaches to the ride. DeLeo will map out a 192 mile route and complete it on the race weekend. 

Bacchiocchi will complete her 192 mile course in four loops around her house on the race weekend. She will use her Rochester home as a place to refuel after each leg, but end at Massachusetts Maritime Academy because she has 12 photos there and wants another triumphant photo, even with a non-traditional race. 

Letendre will approach the race a little differently, riding his 50 mile course on Aug. 9, since that date is what works best for him. 

It’s not just the event weekend that the virus has changed. It’s altered fundraising since many riders had to cancel their usual fundraising events. 

DeLeo says her goal “will be more difficult to achieve because we can’t have fundraising events.” She holds a different fundraiser each year, but in the past ideas have included entertainment, raffles, food and drinks. 

Bacchiocchi usually holds a “Dinner Dance for the Cause” event at Redmen Hall in Wareham with food, a DJ, raffles and silent auction prizes.

She feels lucky to have developed a strong network of supporters who have helped her this year, even without the fundraisers. 

The Kindergarten teacher and cyclist that not seeing people “will be the hardest part this year.” She usually hosts a party at her house every year for her supporters.  

But, “it’s a mind game on the road anyway,” Bachiocchi said, adding that she has a repertoire of songs to sing, and the thought of teaching kindergarteners at Rochester Memorial School either remotely or in a socially-distanced classroom will keep her thoughts occupied.

She’s had friends who live along her route ask her to let them know approximately what time she will go by so they can cheer her on, but it won’t be anywhere near the camaraderie and festive atmosphere that she gets from the ride. 

Still, the most important part is “to keep everyone safe,” Bacchiocchi said. 

DeLeo has been able to maintain a bit of the social aspect of the event by training with a group of socially-distanced riders. She also upgraded her bike this year. 

Letendre said for him training has “been different. My work has been intense,” while he was serving as assistant principal at Sippican School, “so I haven’t been out there as much.” 

Bacchiocchi said that training “was, and is, my stress relief,”  and that teaching from home “helped both areas. When I felt stressed I just took my bike out and rode,” and she connected with her students by riding to their houses to check on activities they had done too.

Marion Pan Mass Challenge participants include Jeffrey Dickerson, Bob Holmes, Eugene Lonergan and Bill Tilden. Heather Hobler will ride from Mattaposiett. Other Rochester participants include James Forker, Sheila Kozlowski, Calib LaRue, Andrew Revell, Keith Riquinha and Lazaro N. Rosa.