Tri-town takes on the Pan Mass Challenge

Jul 30, 2019

This Saturday and Sunday, when the Pan Mass Challenge comes through Rochester the roads may start to feel familiar to the thirteen tri-town riders that are participating.

The Aug. 3 and 4 ride is a statewide bicycle fundraiser that challenges participants to ride up to 192 miles and fundraise up to $8,000 for cancer research. Riders are assigned different amounts to fundraise  based on the distance that they ride.

Old Rochester Regional High School Athletic Director and track coach Bill Tilden said that the ride is impactful because “you get to ride with thousands of riders that all have a story. They’ve either lost a loved one, or fought cancer themselves.”

Tilden said that his biggest motivation is to honor his mother who passed away from cancer in 2013. He also said that he has found new motivation in his six-month-old granddaughter Evilyn, hoping that she won’t ever lose a loved one to cancer. 

Tilden also rides to honor the family of former ORR students Sarah and Chris Marchisio. The siblings’ mother Nancy passed away from cancer in 2010. Their father Richard died of a heart attack while training for the Pan Mass Challenge in 2012.

Tilden has been riding in the challenge since 2013. He said that this is the first year that he has incorporated a lot of indoor practice to his training. After attaching his Trek bicycle to an indoor rig, Tilden has been using the apps “The Sufferfest” and “Zwift” to prepare for the challenge. The Sufferfest uses video footage of races to place the user in the middle of world class events like the Tour de France. Tilden said Zwift is “almost like a video game.” Both apps help to track the users time, and progress. Tilden said that he feels like he is in better shape for the challenge than in previous years. 

Tilden will be riding in the two day route from Sturbridge to the Provincetown Monument. He said that narrow sections of the Cape Cod section of the route are particularly challenging. Riders of varying abilities are forced to ride in double, or single file with some going about 25 mph, and less experienced riders going 12 mph. He also said that the Cape Cod section of the route is much hillier than most would expect, adding to the difficulty level of the second day of riding.

Rochester’s James Forker rode for the first time last year as his wife was battling cancer. She passed away two months after the ride.

Forker said that “no matter where you are people are cheering you on,” but also said that the best part of the ride was “seeing my wife, friends and family cheering me on.”

The worst part for Forker was the heat going through the dunes on the second day.

“I ride as much as I can. I try to get out and ride. And I like to get out too. Finding the time is not easy, but I make time,” Forker said.

Despite losing his wife, Forker is determined to continue with the ride. “I did not want it to be a one and done thing,” he said, adding that, “I think about her every time I ride.” This year he will ride 192 miles.

Some tri-town riders participate as part of a team. Others start teams of their own.

Rochester’s Lazaro Rosa will ride this year as part of the Jeff’s Journey team, in honor of his father-in-law, who passed away because of cancer.

This year (his third year), he is the only rider for the team, but he said his 4 and 10 year old sons also ride under then team name when they do the Kids Ride.

Rosa originally joined the challenge because he lost a bet to Keith Riquinha (also from Rochester), who challenged him to do the 85 mile course and has since become his riding partner.

However, Rosa also has another reason why he likes the one day ride.

“You give up so much of your time to train, I can’t imagine giving up more time to ride two days,” he said.

Rosa and Riquinha ride 10 to 15 mile training rides during the week, then get up at 4:30 or 5 a.m. on weekends to ride 40 to 60 mile rides on weekends.

“We get back at the time when the little ones are getting up. They’re the first thing that I see when I get back from the ride, and they come running out to give you a hug,” Rosa said.

He says that the best part of riding is “seeing all the people on the way taking time out of their day” to cheer people on. “I don’t know that I’d be able to do it without them.”

The hardest part for him is the fundraising.

“I know how hard people work to make money for their families. Although you know it’s going to a great cause, it’s hard asking,” Rosa said.

For Rosa, training with Riquinha is a big part of the Pan Mass Challenge experience. For Marion rider Bob Holmes, now in his 20th year, training and riding alone is a big part of the challenge,

“The ride was like the struggles that people go through with treatment. I wanted to do that, rather then just writing a check,” Holmes said.

His sons also complete the ride, and he estimates that between the three of them, they have raised over $100,000.

“It’s a legacy for my Mom, who had ovarian cancer,” Holmes said.

This year, Holmes has been trying to finish a construction project on a house in Marion and hasn’t had time to train for the 192-mile ride. “I’m in trouble,” he said, “but it will hurt for a week no matter what,” he added.

For him, the best part of the ride is the “camaraderie and spirit. Everyone has their own story, and it is heartwarming to see.”

The worst part is the physical and emotional challenges of the ride. Holmes said that he always thinks the Provincetown tower is just around the next bend, when really it’s about seven miles off.

Another tough part is seeing the signs along the way that feature kids that have battled cancer, which is tougher emotionally.

Mattapoisett’s Kim DeLeo, Heather Hobler, and Lisa Winsor and Rochester’s Debora Bacchiocchi, Sarah Bernier, Thomas Kennedy, Sheila Kozlowski, Andrew Revell and Kyle Letendre are also participating in the Pan Mass Challenge this year.