Linda Burrows, 64, always liked biking. At first, her parents wouldn’t let her have a bike but, she finally got one by age 11.
“It felt like I had a pair of wings,” said Linda.
Linda will now ride in the upcoming Massachusetts-based Pan Mass Challenge (PMC) Aug. 6. PMC is an annual bike-a-thon that started in 1980 to raise money for cancer research for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Dana-Farber). The event has 16 bike routes that range from 25 to 210 miles and every rider-raised dollar goes to Dana-Farber. This year, PMC’s goal is to top last year’s record-breaking gift and raise $66 million for cancer research and patient care at Dana-Farber.
Linda started biking PMC several years ago after being diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma that affects one in three million people and is even rarer in women. Linda was already a 17-year breast cancer survivor and said the new diagnosis was hard and had its own emotional experience. Since PMC offered a method of self care while using energy to help forward the cause of cancer research, Linda decided to give the race a go.
Her training for PMC is very casual. As someone who likes mountain biking, road biking and gravel biking, she will usually ride a casual 30 miles. In the upcoming challenge, she plans to bike the 50-mile Wellesley to Patriot Place route which she would like to complete in four hours. Being a social person, she usually talks to people along the ride but is also content with listening to the sound of her bike, body and breathing.
While Linda participated in the virtual PMC races during the pandemic, she is looking forward to returning to the in person setting and biking with the thousands of riders at the massive starting point.
Bike riding has become a lifestyle for Linda. As someone who said she would rather give up her bike rather than her car, Linda did just that for seven years when she moved to Maryland. After being out of state for 13 years, she moved back to Cranston and now works for East Bay Community Action.
While many of the riders are cancer survivors, many individuals ride in honor of a family member or friend fighting cancer. Cranston’s Sofia Mancini and Warwick’s Caroline Taylor are two individuals cycling in honor of loved ones who have passed.
Sofia, 21, is riding in PMC in memory of her nonno, Lucio Mancini.
“For me, the ride is just a small sacrifice to make compared to battling cancer like he did. My nonno was and always will be a role model in my life, so I ride for him,” said Sofia.
Lucio suffered from Stage IV Renal Cell Carcinoma and received treatment from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Mancini said their trials prolonged his life for four years.
While this will be her first time participating in PMC, Mancini has been riding her whole life.
“In my early teens, I set out one day to find the end of the bike path in Western Coventry. I had never ridden outside of the Cranston area before, but I was curious to see what I was capable of. After a few hours, I made my way across RI to the CT border and back. I was amazed how much ground I could cover on two wheels and how great it made me feel. Ever since then, riding bikes has been my thing,” Sofia said.
In 2020, she started working for Trek Bicycle and her coworkers taught her what it takes to ride as much as she does now.
“I bought my first road bike almost immediately, and I went from a causal hybrid rider to a full on roadie. Before long I got into mountain biking, which is a ton of fun as well,” Sofia said. “Riding has become a part of me, and I’m better for it.”
Sofia has participated in a few triathlons and duathlons. Her goal is to complete a 100-mile ride in seven hours; she is biking the Wellesley Century which is a loop that starts at Babson College, goes to Rehoboth and back to the college. The fundraising minimum for the Wellesley Century is $3,000 per rider. So far, she’s raised $6000, so her dad will ride as well; Sofia will continue her fundraising until the end of the summer.
Riding six days a week, Sofia said she takes a laid back approach to training.
“It’s all about having fun and feeling good. If I like what I’m doing, I’m very likely to keep it up,” Sofia said.
Sofia is most looking forward to the spirit surrounding the ride and said she’s heard that there’s great energy on the sidelines.
Sofia has lived in Cranston her whole life. She attended Cranston West, and is now a student at URI where she will graduate in spring of 2023 with a Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering. She will then continue onto a master’s degree in structural engineering.
Caroline, 19, participated in her first PMC five years ago with the team We Will. Her aunt, Alison Francassa, started the team after being diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. Alison passed away last year and Caroline and others will ride in her honor. The first year, there were four of them who biked, this year there will be over 20.
“It’s important for people to know that it’s an amazing experience and empowering to ride next to so many strong people,” said Caroline, adding that those they are riding next to have either had cancer or known someone was affected by it.
Her training consists of riding her bike around Narragansett and going to the Point Judith Lighthouse. This year, Caroline will participate in the 50 mile route from Babson College in Wellesley to Patriot Place and will raise $2,000 for her ride.
Rather than focusing on a time to complete the challenge in, Caroline is looking at crossing the finish line with the rest of her team and taking in the experience along the way. Additionally, she said she is most looking forward to being with the team and alongside survivors and fighters while also listening to individuals on the sidelines cheer them on.
Growing up near Governor Francis Farms, Caroline is currently living in Bonnet Shores and attends Fairfield University where she’s studying business.
The eight Cranston riders include Linda Burrows, Anthony Caldamone, Nikki Coppa, Natalina Earls, Liz Harvey, Sheila Hoogeboom, Sofia Mancini and Eugene Whalen. Warwick riders include Caroline Taylor and Erin Talyor.
According to the organization, the first PMC had 36 riders, 10 volunteers and raised $10,200 for Dana-Farber, where founder Billy Starr’s mother was treated. Billy was 25 years old when his mother, Betty Starr, died from melanoma at 49 years old. Today, thousands of riders and volunteers come from 43 states and 12 countries to participate in the annual event.
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