By Kirsten Robbins
Two weeks prior to the start of the Tour of California, BMC rider Scott Nydam's father, Ron Nydam was diagnosed with acute leukemia, made worse due to a previous low white cell count disorder. Before stage three started Wednesday morning, Nydam was leading two jersey categories as the event's most aggressive rider and king of the mountain thanks to his courageous back-to-back breakaways in stages two and three. Nydam is using his lengthy breakaways as a form of tribute to cancer patients for the strength and survival they must display on a daily basis.
"My breakaway was a statement I was trying to make, [and] even though I didn't make it to the finish by myself, I was out there showing my Dad that I was fighting," said Nydam about his efforts during stage two during which he took over the leader's jersey in the king of the mountains and the most aggressive rider classifications.
"I realized that the most I could do for my Dad was not to go see him and sit next to him but to let him know that we are all fighting with him and for him. As cyclist we are willing to put our nose to the wind and go up the road and go against the odds. There were a couple of times yesterday when I went up the road and got choked up thinking about my Dad. I know he speaks about how weak he feels right now and I think as cyclists we can relate to that because sometimes we just don't have what we feel we need to get through and make it to the end. I think there is a strong correlation here, and that was on my mind going into my break away."
According to Nydam, cancer specialists have said that his father's cancer is in remission after completing a first round of chemo therapy. However, his previous low white blood cell counts are making his Dad's body unable to fight off infections that spread in stressful treatments and during illness. "We seem to have beaten the cancer for now but he will have to go through more chemo treatments," said Nydam. "Right now they are trying to get his white blood cell count up so that he can fight infections."
Before starting the Tour of California, Nydam had a heart to heart discussion with his director Gavin Chilcott about the option of sitting out the race in order to be with his father, but according to Nydam, starting the event seemed like the biggest way he could help his father. "There are still a lot more battles my Dad will have to go through ahead," said a realistic Nydam.
"Gavin and I spoke about cycling and how important it was in the whole grand scheme of life. As far as life and death it's not that important but as far as what cycling brings to my family, my friends and my Dad, it's a very important thing. The biggest thing with my family is that we started calling my Dad Lance because that is the mentality that he needs. He needs a Lance Armstrong mentality to think he can beat this," said Nydam, who then added humbly, "I'm really appreciative about being in this race."
Complimenting the Tour of California race sponsorship, Amgen developed the Break Away from Cancer initiative that will raise funds for the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, the oldest survivor-led cancer advocacy organization in America and the Wellness Community, which is dedicated to providing free support, education and hope for cancer patients. "I know that there is strong cancer foundation movement in California and in cycling in general right now," said Nydam.