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Tales from the Lardbutt Peloton, October 10, 2004

Team Lardbutt isn't the fastest team in the US, it isn't the best-equipped team, and we sometimes wonder if it exists at all outside the imaginings of Chief Lardbutt Greg Taylor. Here's some Lardbutt philosophy on a subject we've all pondered - life's contradictions and ...

Victory at 12 Miles Per Hour

(Washington, DC - October 9, 2004): Twelve miles per hour isn't terribly fast on a bicycle, especially on a lightweight racing bicycle. It's about one-quarter of the speed of a Petacchi or a McEwen sprint finish. It's about half the average speed for each one of Lance Armstrong's six Tour de France victories. Twelve miles per hour is hardly anything at all - you can't expect to win any sort of a race if you only ride twelve miles per hour.

And if you believe that then you are flat wrong, because twelve miles per hour is also the speed at which a rolling caravan containing Lance and about 900 committed cyclists pedaled into Washington, DC, this past Saturday to mark the completion of the 2004 Bristol-Myers Squibb Tour of Hope. And each one of those 900 riders rolling along at twelve miles per hour was helping to win the race to find a cure for cancer.

The Bristol-Myers Squibb Tour of Hope is the result of an inspired partnership between Lance Armstrong, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and Bristol-Myers Squibb. The event, a transcontinental ride across the United States by a select team of twenty cyclists, was intended to raise public awareness about the fight against cancer and the importance of clinical trials in cancer research. The Tour of Hope Team was put together from thousands of applicants, and the twenty who were chosen represent the many faces of the cancer community. They include cancer survivors, caregivers, advocates, healers, and researchers. The Tour of Hope Team, riding in relays, covered the distance from Los Angeles, California, to the nation's capitol in Washington, DC, in eight days.

The finale into Washington, DC, was something a bit special: a triumphant 27.3 mile ride from Bethesda, Maryland into the District of Columbia, finishing with a large celebration in front of the White House on the Ellipse. Lance, members of the U.S. Postal Service pro cycling team, and 900 riders who raised funds for cancer research joined the Tour of Hope Team for the final ride into the finish.

While the planned average speed set by the organizers for the caravan didn't break any records, the level of commitment from the 900-strong pack of riders was world-class. To earn his or her place in the peloton, each rider was required to raise more than $500 for the Tour of Hope. This sort of a challenge was hardly an impediment as all the allotted spaces were filled and, as Saturday morning dawned crisp and fair, there were 900 riders lined up in the parking lot of a local high school, eager to push off for their ride.

The ride itself can only be described as a celebration: a celebration of the Tour of Hope, a celebration of the good fight that is being waged against cancer, and a celebration of the power of steadfast perseverance to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. Each of the 900 riders had their own reasons for being there. Some were cancer survivors, some had loved ones touched by the disease, and others were there simply because it was a good and decent thing to do.

Bill Cusmano, a local Washington DC attorney, was one of those 900 riders. An amateur road racer (riding for the Squadra Coppi club), cancer has touched Bill's family. "My sister-in-law succumbed to cardiac and pulmonary failure two years ago at the age of forty-one, leaving my brother and their two little boys," Bill remembers. "The chemotherapy that Denise underwent through her two bouts with Hodgkin's many years before likely left her organs fatally weakened, until they finally wore out. She won the battles but lost the war, which is exactly what Lance Armstrong's "Livestrong" campaign is designed to overcome." Since Bill lost his sister-in-law, cancer has touched the lives of others around him, including "a cousin, friends, and my mother-in-law and father-in-law, both of whom are fighting their own cancer battles as we speak."

Bill was also one of the top ten fundraisers for the Tour of Hope, and Lance Armstrong personally recognized his efforts at the closing ceremony on the Ellipse.

But riding along Macarthur Boulevard on a sunny Saturday morning, the serious and sometimes sad business of fighting or surviving cancer was transformed into something different, something altogether joyful. As the riders slowly rolled along through the city with their police escort, the image of Bill and his fellow riders truly lived up to the name Tour of Hope. For the outside observer, it was a brilliantly endless parade of bicyclists, smiles, laughter, and the color yellow, in honor of Lance. For a few hours on a sunny Saturday afternoon, all of the hard work, dedication, hopes, and dreams of millions who have been touched by cancer found their expression and release in the simple joy of riding a bike.

A victory at 12 miles per hour.

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