The ride is the easy part

  • Chris Peahl's Pedal Buddy, Ady Lavallee Courtesy photo—

  • Chris Peahl, left, and his son ready to ride for the Flames. Courtesy photo

  • Rick Weinhold and his Pedal Buddy, Emma.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, August 01, 2016 6:19PM

For the riders of the Pan-Mass Challenge, the hardest part of the nearly 200-mile bike ride isn’t the grueling hills, the oppressive heat or the torrential downpours they might experience. The hardest part, said Rick Weinhold of Rindge, is that mile-long stretch going into the final water stop, the side of the road lined with spectators.  

“It’s just poster after poster after poster of kids’ faces,” Weinhold said, “cancer patients. It reminds me why I ride.”

Weinhold is just one of the almost 6,000 riders expected to participate in the Pan-Mass Challenge this year on Aug. 6. The PMC is a bike ride from inland Massachusetts to Cape Cod, a fundraiser event for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. 

Weinhold has been riding since 2011 in support of his cousin’s daughter, Emma. Emma suffers from a form of brain cancer, which she’s had since she was just 2 years old. Now 14, she’s still facing a daily reality of hospital rooms, feeding tubes and surgeries.

“She’s never known anything different,” Weinhold said. “Cancer doesn’t take a day off.”

Weinhold’s team, Emma’s Enchantment, has raised over $1,000,000 since its creation in 2006, and Weinhold said he’s seen the medical advances that money has helped make first-hand.

“Emma has been fortunate to have benefited greatly from some of the advances,” Weinhold said.

Another local rider in the PMC is Chris Peahl of Rindge. Peahl lost close friends to cancer, which prompted him to start riding in the PMC in 2014. 

“I never really had a cause until I rode,” Peahl said. “Everybody’s affected by cancer one way or another.”

Peahl said that each year has been an emotional ride, and a tough one, physically.

“When you are 40 miles out, you’re like, “Why am I doing this?” Peahl said. “But then you see the people on the road cheering you on and you see pictures of loved ones who’ve passed ... The people who are struggling with cancer, they have a harder ride than I do. It’s grueling.”

Neither Weinhold nor Peahl were avid cyclists before riding in the PMC; now, both are year-round riders who get a health benefit of their own out of the bargain.

“If you ever told me, ‘Hey Chris — do you want to go for a 10-mile ride?’I’d say ‘Are you crazy?’” Peahl said. “Now, I’d say ‘Let’s go for 20 and have some fun.’”

Peahl and Weinhold will hit the road on Saturday for the PMC. To get involved or donate, visit www.pmc.org. To donate to a specific rider, search for their last name.