What began as a small fundraising event born out of a love for active lifestyles and a desire to combat cancer has become one of the nation's foremost sports fundraisers, drawing cyclists from 36 states and eight countries to Massachusetts each year.
Since 1980, the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge has combined the efforts of those who have been touched by cancer, as well as those seeking to push themselves in a vigorous test of endurance. In most, if not all cases, the two invariably overlap.
This year, 5000 riders from all over the nation— and world— will cross the finish line in Provincetown, including nine men and women from Marlborough.
“Cancer touches everyone,” noted Mike Ravesi, a Marlborough resident who will be riding for the 14th time this year, and, like many other riders, has lost loved ones to cancer.
Ravesi said that although he initially started riding for the physical challenge, when he started out on the first day of the race, “it wasn't about the challenge anymore, just the cause.”
There are a variety of routes for different skill levels; the longest- a trek from Sturbridge to Provincetown- is 192 miles, and a feat of endurance that can be accomplished, in large part, by the sense of community and purpose forged out on the road.
“The ride becomes its own little traveling world” said Dana Cosby, another rider from Marlborough, referring to the mass of riders, volunteers, spectators and supporters- some of whom are cancer survivors themselves- who cheer on the riders every step of the way.
“It's such a bonding experience, knowing that everyone is working toward the same goal,” Ravesi said.
Volunteers are integral to the success of the ride, since the riders' fundraising efforts do no go towards overhead. 100 percent of the funds raised by riders goes directly to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's Jimmy Fund, making the Pan-Mass Challenge a truly unparalleled fundraising event.
“When you donate, your dollar goes to the cause more than any other event that I know of,” said Ravesi. “So many people give not only money, but their time and effort.”
“The volunteer aspect is overwhelming— it's extremely well-organized. Their energy and support are so essential, especially on the second day,” Cosby said. “It's a great route, a great ride, and it's amazing to see people lining the streets who are so thankful for the help.”
“It's a wonderful event, and I'm psyched to do it.”