Ellen Freeman Roth                      

August 5, 2005

4,000 bicyclists, 4,000 stories

Nearly 4,000 people converging on Cape Cod this weekend aren't making the trip for a day at the beach. They're traveling up to 192 miles on bicycles in fair weather, downpour, or heat wave to fuel the effort to cure cancer. These riders in the 26th Pan-Massachusetts Challenge to benefit the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute seem quite the merry band of cyclists, but this is no party. This is a series of stories stretching from the starts in Sturbridge and Wellesley to the finishes in Bourne and Provincetown.

In past years, for instance, several friends cycled with slices of cake on their helmets in memory of their friend's mom, famous for her chocolate gateau; the sole rider on a tandem left the back saddle vacant for his 15-year-old cousin, lost to brain cancer; an 80-year-old cyclist, unhindered by his prosthetic leg, peddled alongside his son and grandson in honor of loved ones struck by cancer.

The 2,200 PMC volunteers who pour Gatorade and haul luggage have stories, too. So do people along the route - like Jack, practically a celebrity after cheering riders at the Brewster waterstop for the past six years.

''I'm 8 now, thanks to you,'' heralded last year's poster. As Jack testifies, research dollars save lives. He and many others stand as living proof of the advances in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

The PMC has given $122 million to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute over the past 25 years. The bike-a-thon began when PMC Executive Director Billy Starr rallied 35 buddies to cycle from Sturbridge to the Provincetown ferry. They raised $10,200.

This weekend, thousands of riders, volunteers, and donors aim to raise $21 million. So if your trip between Sturbridge, Wellesley, Bourne and Provincetown is slowed by PMCers, skip the horn. Instead, raise a cheer for everyone pedaling toward a cure.